Korean Founders on Creativity and Teamwork

September 24, 2011

2:00 pm

Coast Defense rose to the #3 paid app in the Apple App Store in November 2009, selling for $1.99. The development phase was over, and longtime arcade-game designer Jin-Hyuk Kim was just splitting the revenue with his cocreator. But he wasn’t satisfied: he wanted something that would last, a team to keep creating games.

Jin-Hyuk Kim of FazeCat

That team is now FazeCat, which since built defense game Paladog and prides themselves on the creative design and structure of the game. Kim’s favorite part of his work is “when he plays a game that he imagined,” translated one of his team members, as Kim spoke to me in Korean in a pink conference room lined with sketches.

Chamsol Lee, cofounder of social, location-based deal app Lotiple, is also enthusiastic about the creation process. He says that their 25-person team discusses ideas aggressively, brainstorming a dozen new ones a week. What’s most exciting for him is developing one of those ideas – going through a loop of testing, feedback, and revision – and actually launching it.

“Doing these things without orders from outside – that was our dream since university,” says Lee, who previously worked in the smart card industry.

Lee founded Lotiple in March with seven cofounders and friends – all developers – from Kaist, the so-called MIT of Korea. Part of their camaraderie must spur from being different from many other Koreans, who, Lee says, prefer stable work at big companies.

Meanwhile, Kim is delighted to work with the FazeCat team because, together, they have more possibilities to create better games and succeed internationally. But this is only possible, Kim emphasizes, because of the App Store connecting developers and users. (In the Korean App Store, FazeCat’s games are listed in the entertainment category because regulation by Korea’s Game Rating Board has kept the games section closed, though those rules are changing). Lotiple also would not have emerged five years ago; the cofounders quit their day jobs – and Lotiple secured funding from SoftBank – partly because they saw a new wave of technology and a window for entrepreneurship.

Lotiple and FazeCat are part of this wave, and their motivations may sound familiar to American entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur bug, at least in Korea, is not lost in translation.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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