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From pickup basketball to market domination: My wild ride with Coupang | #1 Technology News Source by Kalen2utech
Published On: Tue, Apr 13th, 2021

From pickup basketball to marketplace domination: My furious float with Coupang

A month ago, Coupang arrived on Wall Street with a bang. The South Korean e-commerce hulk — buoyed by $12 billion in 2020 income — lifted $4.55 billion in a IPO and strike a gratefulness as high as $109 billion. It is a biggest U.S. IPO of a year so far, and a largest from an Asian association given Alibaba’s.

But prolonged before owner Bom Kim rang a bell, we knew him as a associate owner on a hunt for a good idea. We stayed in hold as he shaped his prophesy for what would turn Coupang, and we built it alongside him as an financier and house member.

As a house member, I’ve celebrated a brief still duration following a IPO. But now we wish to share how accurately a paths intersected, mostly since Bom exemplifies what founders should aspire to and should seek: large risks, stubborn integrity and recurrent responsiveness to a market.

Bom fearlessly incited down an merger offer from then-market-leader Groupon, ferociously schooled what he didn’t know, done a adventurous focus even after apropos a billion-dollar company, and iteratively built a prophesy for end-to-end marketplace dominance.

Why we like articulate to founders early

In 2008, we met Bom while personification a weekend diversion of pickup basketball during Stuyvesant High School. We satisfied we had a mutual familiarity by my recently sole startup, Community Connect Inc. He told me about a repository he had sole and his hunt for a subsequent move. So we concluded to accommodate adult for lunch and go over some of his ideas.

To be honest, we don’t remember any of those early ideas, substantially since they weren’t unequivocally good. But we unequivocally favourite Bom. Even as we was crapping on his ideas, we could tell he was pointy from how he processed my feedback. It was apparent he was super intelligent and unequivocally value gripping in hold with, that we continued to do even after he relocated to go to HBS.

I shortly began investing in and incubating businesses, starting mostly with my possess capital. When we got a call from an executive recruiter operative for a association in Chicago called Groupon — who told me they were during a $50 million run rate in usually a few months — we became preoccupied with their indication and started articulate to some of a investors, former employees and merchants.

Inspired, and as a new parent, we motionless to launch a identical daily-deal business for families: Instead of skydiving and go-kart racing, we offering deals on kids’ song classes and birthday celebration venues. While we was operative on this idea, John Ason, an angel financier in Diapers.com, pronounced we should accommodate with a owner and CEO Marc Lore. By a finish of a meeting, Marc and we etched a partnership to launch DoodleDeals.com co-branded with Diapers.com. The initial bargain did over $70,000 — good start.

All that time, we kept in hold with Bom. In Feb 2010, we were throwing adult over lunch during a Union Square Ippudo, and he asked if we had listened of Buywithme, a Boston-based Groupon clone. He hadn’t nonetheless listened about Groupon, so we explained a business indication and common a numbers. He suspicion something identical competence send good to South Korea, where he was innate and where his relatives still lived.

This kind of review is accurately because we adore operative with founders early, even before a suspicion forms: You learn a lot about them as they explore, combat with doubt and eventually build self-assurance on a business they devise to spend a subsequent decade-plus building. Ultimately, success comes down to founders’ faith in themselves; when we rise a same faith in them as an investor, it is flattering magical. we was starting to unequivocally trust in Bom.

The suspicion gets genuine — and moves fast

I'm not Korean — we am ethnically Chinese — so Bom put together slides on a Korean marketplace and because it was ideal for a daily-deal model. In short: a unequivocally unenlightened race that’s impossibly online.

I’m not Korean — we am ethnically Chinese — so Bom put together slides on a Korean marketplace and because it was ideal for a daily-deal model. In short: a unequivocally unenlightened race that’s impossibly online. Image Credits: Ben Sun

I told Bom he should dump out of business propagandize and do this. He said, “You don’t consider we can wait until we graduate?” we responded, “No way! It will be over by then!”

First-mover advantage is genuine in a business like this, and it didn’t take Bom prolonged to see that. He lifted a tiny $1.3 million seed round. we invested, assimilated a board. Because of my believe of a deals marketplace and my entrepreneurial experience, Bom asked me to get hands-on in Korea — not during all standard for an financier or even a house member, though we consider of myself as a builder and not only a backer, and this is how we wanted to work as an investor.

Once he satisfied time was of a essence, Bom was heads down. For context, he was intent to his longtime girlfriend, Nancy, who also went to Harvard undergrad and was a successful lawyer. Imagine revelation your fiancée, “Honey, we am dropping out of business school, relocating to Korea to start a company. we will be behind for a wedding. Not certain if we will ever be entrance behind to a U.S.”

I emailed Bom, saying: “Bom — overtly as a friend. Enjoy your wedding. It is a genuine blessing that your fiancée is being so bargain of we doing this. Launching a site a few weeks before a marriage is going to be approach too distracting and she won’t feel like your heart is in it. Launching a few weeks after is not going to make or mangle this business. Trust me.”

Bom didn’t listen. He launched Coupang in Aug 2010, dual weeks before a wedding. He flew behind to Boston, got married and — using on fundamentally no snooze — sneaked out for a 20-minute snooze in a center of his reception. Right after a wedding, he flew behind to Seoul. Nancy has to be one of a many bargain and bargain partners we have ever seen. They are still married and now have dual kids.

Jumping on new distribution, branch down an merger offer

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