Jaeuk Park is the founder and CEO of Value Creators & Company, a company that develops a mobile communication service. Value Creators & Company has launched a mobile service called Between, which provides a private online space for couples, so that they can communicate and share memories together. Ever since its launch, Between has been met with great success. Between has gathered more than 3.7 million downloads worldwide and international recognition, winning various awards throughout the world, such as The Next Web Conference (Netherlands), The Best Mobile App, GMIC 2012 (China), 2nd Place, Echelon 2012 (Singapore). Recently, Between had landed $ 2.7M U.S. dollars to expand its reach internationally.Before founding Value Creators & Company, Jaeuk worked as a vice-team manager at Infobank. In Infobank, he was the project manager of m&Talk, which is the first mobile messenger in Korea. He is a graduate of Seoul National University, majoring in both electrical engineering and business administration.
As part of App week, the Asian Entrepreneur has the pleasure of speaking with Jaeuk Park today about his work at Value Creators & Company and how Between came about.
What is Between and why should couples get it?
Between is a mobile application that provides a space for couples to share all their moments with their special someone. Between has 4 main features to meet couple’s every need for communication and capturing their memories: instant messaging, photo sharing, memo and anniversary reminder. The instant messaging feature has a customizable backdrop and includes sets of character emoticons unique to Between so couples can express their emotions in a fun way. For longer correspondences, the memo board is perfect for love letters and to-do lists.The photo sharing feature captures the couple’s memories by assembling multiple uploads from the user’s phone by calendar dates. Lastly, the anniversary reminder feature reminds couples on their special dates.
We understand that Between is the product of Value Creators & Company, now how did the company come about?
Ever since I was a student, I wanted to give impact to the world. And I thought I could change the life of people through IT services since since it was my expertise. Luckily I was able to meet a group of talented developers in college who are my co-founders and also some talent from my previous company where I was a project manager of the first mobile messenger in Korea. Through our mutual interest, we founded a student entrepreneurship club at Seoul National University and had built chemistry pondering over several business ideas. Then in February 2011, we decided to take it step further to actually start a company, which is now Value Creators & Company.
And where did your brilliant idea for Between come from?
As social networking is becoming a dominant part of our lives, we are often faced with sensitive privacy issues, mainly concerning with whom to share what. We all love the openness of the social networking platforms that allow us to connect even with celebrities, but not likely to the extent in which our potential employer can search our private information and our grandparents view our nightlife memories. Reflecting such growing concern of social data privacy, newbies like Path, Beluga, Groupme have developed privacy-aware social sites that enable targeted sharing. We also challenge to tackle the same problem. We came up with the conclusion that couples have the biggest need of this issue. However, we have found no useful and great mobile service for couples. As everyone knows, couples possess strong purchase power and are a greatly wanted target group for advertisers. This in other words was interpreted as ‘opportunity’ to us.
So was there an explosion of downloads initially?
After testing our alpha and closed beta version of Between, we first launched our open-beta version in both the AppStore and Google Play on November 2011. As we first launched our app, we were ranked in the top 10 free apps in the Korean AppStore. Later on, as we launched our official 1.0 version on March 2012, we grew many more users from Japan and China, and also were ranked #1 Malaysian AppStore and #9 in the Singaporean AppStore. We now have more than 3.7 million downloads worldwide with less than 2 years of operation. Fortunately, we were able to acquire many users quite quickly, we think the reason is because Between met the needs of couples.
What sort of key ideas did you guys push out initially as part of marketing Between?
We first marketed ourselves as the ‘symbol of commitment’, something similar to a ‘virtual ring’. We wanted to make Between equal to the status of being in a relationship. So, if you are in a relationship, you would have to be using Between. As a result, it was not only successful in acquiring more users, but it is actually becoming a culture within Korea. When starting a relationship, people would say “Do you want to use Between with me?” rather than saying “Do you want to go out with me?”. It’s happening in Korea, we want this to happen everywhere else in the world and I think it can be done.
Speaking of Korea, how do you find the startup scene there?
Recently there aren’t many successful Korean startups, except for the gaming industry. Not many services were successful. I think there are many reasons to this problem, but, like other countries, I think the biggest problem is that the startup ecosystem is still not mature. These immaturities resulted in the lack of M&A deals, lack of funding and negative perception of starting your own business. However, due to the efforts of many people, companies and the government, the startup ecosystem is emerging and starting to grow here in Korea. So, I dream of a more brighter startup scenery in Korea.
How does Between stand in this scene and what is its relevance?
Between is the first mover in this field and the leader of this field. Although we have seen many similar services launch since we started, we see competition as a good sign. Because, apart from the great traction we’ve made, with 3.7 million, this is just another sign that confirms our hypothesis was right, which is that ‘couples need a place to communicate and share their memories’. We have an advantage in number of users, engagement, supporting languages, supporting 13 languages, and also our team has experienced a lot throughout our alpha, beta and official launch which serves as a great asset. I believe these features and experience will be leveraged to bring peak performance and compete with the other brands in this market.
So how is it like managing your own company?
I can express my thoughts on managing our team and company with one word, exciting. Today, VCNC has grown to 21 people with significant expertise in the individual areas. Through constant team building efforts, the culture is open and constructive for proactive members with high work ethic. This culture has reflected positively on product development and operation. Based on constant innovation and perfection in product development, our multi-national business development team is beginning to expanded outside of Korea. In Korea and Japan combined, we have completed more than 10 different partnerships with advertising agencies and companies in consumer goods and services industries relevant to our target users. We are now widening the focus to user acquisition and business partnerships in Asia Pacific and the United States. We will continue prove the positive cycle of teamwork can be replicated as we continue to hold a high work ethic and passion for the product we operate and develop, Between.
So when you guys first started the company, what sort of challenges did you face?
As we first started VCNC, we focused on the e-book industry and developed apps related to e-books. However, we found out that the market was: first, smaller than we expected, in terms of the domestic market and second, there were dominant players existing in the market that were difficult to overcome. As we realized the market we were focusing on was not going to make us successful, we instantly started to find a better idea and market that we would be able to dominate.
And we were able to find a solution by setting our company vision. After deciding to pivot from our original idea, which was the e-book industry, we aligned our vision and goals to come up with our company vision. Our company’s vision is to “provide emotional communication services to enrich real, offline-based relationships”. And as we set this vision, we thought that many people were becoming disturbed by the openness of social networking services, and they needed some place more private. We thought this type of needs were necessary for couples the most and that’s how Between first started out.
What can we expect from Between in the years to come?
We are trying to provide a service where couples can eventually use for all phases of life. This includes the first day they meet and go out, get engaged, get married, have their first baby and so on. At the end, we want to become a global platform for couples where other 3rd party services can help us become the ultimate helper for couples. Although we now only touch a small potion of the relationship between couples, we would like to provide more features and contents to our users to enhance all aspects of couples’ life.
Any words of advice for entrepreneurs and readers out there?
Team members are everything. If you can be with great talented team members, you can do anything what you want to do. To be a good person who can be followed by other people is the first step to be a good leader. It is also important to have clear vision. Due to the lack of clear vision, we had some trouble making decisions on what direction our company should head and progress. If I were to do all of this all over again, I would try to narrow the scope of the company’s direction and make it more specific and clear to prevent any confusion or hardship we experienced at first. Also, whenever I have to make a decision in life, I ask the question “Why?”. And the answer to that question should be a purpose, not a method. That’s why I think the reason for starting your own business is important.
Connect with Jaeuk and VCNC today
Email: [email protected]