Tony Park, the Co-Founder and CEO of the innovative sticker platform Stipop, realized that the sticker API market in South Korea was limited and that’s when he launched Stipop in 2017, a content platform that offers superior quality stickers with intuitive UI/UX.
Tony, a graduate from Korea University, used his experience of living in the UK and gathered a global team to build a globally appealing product. In an interview with Koreatechdesk.com, the Management Co-Founder of Stipop shares his story about overcoming challenges to begin a startup and future goals for the company.
1. Please tell us about your personal background and what are you working on right now?
I am the Co-Founder of Stipop. We have been working to build a sticker platform whereby connecting sticker artists, producers, users and channels we are creating a whole new ecosystem where new stickers are created and used by people around the world. We have been working on this project for over 2 years now.
2. What motivated you to get started on this? How did your career choices lead you to where you are right now?
I lived in the UK for 5 years when I was young and after coming back to Korea communicating with my friends back in England was a big part of my life. But I realized that we were communicating online mostly through Facebook. The environment was very different to the one provided by services provided in Korea. There weren’t any stickers and fun digital content to use during my online communication so I realized there was this problem where the digital content was very limited to certain services. It meant that most people online weren’t provided by this great content that Korean people use on Kakaotalk so I wanted to forward and solve this issue so many more people know about and use fun stickers. That’s how I created Stipop. My experience of living abroad really helped to build a global platform where I communicated and understand people’s needs better.
3. Please tell us about the co-founding team, how did you guys meet?
My co-founder is Daniel who is also my roommate and high-school friend. We had been talking about building a business for over 4 years before starting this company. And we came up with many ideas but we thought we were best fit for the idea we are working on right now. The market was huge and big enough for us to spend our youth on it, that’s how we decided to work on it.
Also, the reason I got the co-founder was that I am young and inexperienced so I know I would need more help to make this happen and it worked out well. Sometimes, I wanted to give up, but then my friend was there for me and vice versa. Also, our older team member is a developer who has an MA in Computer Science from France. We have data scientists who studied in the UK so we are trying to gather a global team with global experience to build a global platform.
4. How have you grown your product?
Because we are a platform for sticker content, and that is a very important part, we worked hard to gather sticker artists. We would send e-mails, we would go out and meet them, open up events and tell people they can sell their stickers to global users. So we would gather 50 people, give them a short lecture and teach them how to upload it. The process took 3 to 6 months and we gathered 500 sticker artists; that became the core, the keystone to form this company. We grew by running test marketing on many global markets such as South America, the US and Europe and we are now testing which part of the world would need us the most, by finding that out that way, we grew faster than we had hoped for.
5. What’s your business model? How have you grown your revenue?
We have been developing our business model throughout the period but our main business model is a B2B one whereby providing sticker API to businesses such as websites that have messaging tools, communication tools, chatbot, we provide them with our sticker API. After integrating, they can access 10000 stickers at once. We get paid by the companies using our API which ranges from $100 to 1000. That is our primary model.
But we are developing a new one where we are connecting brands and building a channel. We will get revenue from our clients whereby exposing and converting users through stickers with a brand in it.
6. What is the biggest challenge you face?
The biggest challenge is that we are trying to build a global product while living in Korea, the team members are from Korea. We are trying to work that out partly by gathering global teammates but that’s not enough because we are away from our end-users and clients. So we try to meet them often; for example, we meet foreign users every week, dozens of them, we update our product according to their feedback. We also go to many global conferences where we meet clients and have successfully met clients such as HP, Tesla, through this.
7.How much money has been raised so far? When was the recent funding round?
At the moment we have raised our seed which is $110K plus some government funding. It also involves a VC funding.
8. What was the biggest challenge you faced while raising funds?
The biggest challenge is that Korean investors have limited experience and perspective, it is limited to Korea. We are trying to explain to them a phenomenon that they have not experienced before because stickers are for global and a young generation.
9. What’s your milestone for the next round of funding or future goals?
Our next milestone is to earn $100K of revenue per month and another would be to gain 100 million end-users through our B2B.
10. What’s the best advice you have received from your father or mentor or friend?
I think the best advice I have received is to be realistic because as a young startup and entrepreneur I was very idealistic. That was one goal that helped me get started but while running the company I was advised to be more realistic to set KPIs, problem-solving, etc.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing a similar thing (launch a startup)?
Considering my position, I would tell them to have a goal first. To first just start and see if you can go forward if you can’t then it means you are not fit for it.