Joon-ho Bae, CEO of Korean startup Willim Inc launched the 3linediary app after he and his wife took a 400-day world journey. During the trip, Bae realized several travelers would like to record their experiences through photos and short texts instead of wasting time on long diary entries. 3linediary was founded from Bae’s collaboration with his former colleagues at Samsung and the app has already recorded 1.2 million downloads and 20,000 MAU (monthly active users).
In an interview with koreatechdesk.com, Bae shares that 3linediary’s success as an emotional content platform is growing by the day and that he hopes the startup becomes a leading global emotional content platform soon.
1. Please tell me about your personal background and what you are working on.
I’m Joon-ho Bae, CEO of Willim Inc. Currently, I am making 3linediary as a social diary app that records three lines of text and a photo. I majored in Computer Science and Journalism and after working for Samsung SDS, I worked for 7 years in Software Development and PR. I left in December 2014 and went on a world trip with my wife for about 400 days. The idea I got while traveling made the 3linediary app. I am in charge of overall service planning, design and management activities.
2. What motivated you to get started with your company and how did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?
I was normally an office worker with my wife. One day, my wife said that her life was not happy. I was wondering how I could live happily so I quit my job and went on a 400-day trip with my wife. I left a short text and a photo on my SNS that I experienced while traveling and a publisher contacted me to publish it as a book. I thought: ‘Would anyone besides me record their life in three lines so they can make it into a book later?’ The idea was the beginning of 3linediary. At first, I just wanted to verify. However, the app has been through the process of commercialization and government support and early angel investment.
My background in IT and content was very helpful in making content platform services. It has a positive impact on various areas such as service planning and design. In addition, the experiences I have gained from advanced companies such as business processes, manners, finance, accounting and marketing, which I learned while working at Samsung, are helping me run my business.
3. Please tell us about your Founding team and how did the team come together?
Most members are friends who worked together at Samsung. All are experts with over 10 years of development experience. Initially, I was planning service so I made a beta app with a college friend with a prototype and then I scouted a co-worker who developed an Android app for 10 years at Samsung to launch it officially. A year later, I also scouted a co-worker behind iOS app development and big data experience.
In addition, a friend working on content planning for 9 years has recently joined the Content Agency and the JoongAng Media Group. We are creating 3linediary as a team with IT and content expertise.
4. How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start?
When I first opened the beta version of Android, 20,000 people downloaded it in a month. I didn’t even advertise. I thought it was possible. However, since it was an early version, there were a lot of inconveniences because stability was not secured. Fortunately, our CTO Jae-deok Park and Hee-jun Lee joined us to ensure stability and we made the iOS app.
3linediary is an anonymous platform so you can read people’s sincere and honest life stories, securely. More than 70% of teenagers and women in their 20s use it. And there are many connotations by limiting the length of the text. It is considered the biggest difference from other social media.
We have had 1.2 million downloads and 200,000 MAU. I think the marketability of 3linediary as an emotional content platform is being proven little by little.
5. What’s your business model and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
We have a business model in two ways. One is a content-driven business model. This is a product business that makes goods just for themselves, such as a diary printing service and postcards, etc.
Second is the platform business. Many people can stay in this space and add a lot of services. For example, you can post an ad. You can also add a habit of learning, writing and educational services. You can also attach healing, mental care and mindfulness programs. In this way, we plan our business in two ways. So far, we are pursuing scale-up strategies for the platform business.
6. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge is to attract investment. Our platform business requires time and cost. It’s money after all. In the early days, there were no business models like Facebook, Instagram, Kakao and Naver in Korea, but many examples show that when people come together, it becomes a business. That’s why I think the initial investment in the platform business is very important.
7. How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
We have attracted angel and seed investments. And we attracted pre-A rounds recently. We are aiming to invest in A rounds in the future.
8. What are the obstacles to fundraising?
Initially, it was time-consuming and expensive to set it all up. So I had a hard time in funding because of the lack of sales. But we are overcoming this with ever-increasing traffic and it’s clear even if we start over again. Content platform businesses initially need time and cost. But I want you to know that corporate value and growth potential are enormous when we grow up. We want to keep collecting content and do our best to attract users.
9. What are your milestones for the next round and what are your goals for the future?
The next goal is to show sales through print services. And our future goal is to become a global emotional content platform through scale-up.
10. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and what advice do you have for someone interested in doing similar things like yours?
The best advice I ever received was: “Don’t be afraid.” Actually, when I was traveling around the world, I was scared to leave the company and travel, but when I walked and walked my way, it was my life. This project is likewise. There are always fears and anxieties about what to do if my choice is wrong in many processes. My mentor always tells me: “Don’t be afraid.” If I give advice to someone who wants to do the same thing, I want to say: “Don’t be afraid, let’s try it.”
And it would be nice if there was a culture in our society where one can challenge without fear. Of course, businesses ultimately have to make money but there are tens of thousands of ways to make money. I think we need a culture that can wait socially for tens of thousands of ways to make money. The reason 3linediary could be raised so far was that there were people who believed in us and waited for us, including investors. The 3linediary will definitely be a global emotional content platform.