March’s StartupTing is joined by Bagelcode, a global gaming company with 40 million users from 200 countries. Founded in 2012, Bagelcode has studios in Seoul, London, and Tel Aviv, and secured Series D funding. Let the StartupTing begin!
Bagelcode’s StartupTing begins with a lecture by CEO Kay Yoon and is divided into three parts, including stories from KAIST seniors. The lectures are described below from a first-person perspective.
1. The Startup Story of Bagelcode & Becoming global is no longer an option, but a necessity – CEO Kay Yoon
Bagelcode is a global company with 5 studios in 5 countries. Influenced by seniors at KAIST, I always thought about starting a company. While working at a company in my early 30s, I decided to start a business. It’s been a long time since I left the app development field, so I started by gathering developers. At first, I didn’t know what business to do, so I went through 5 pivoting (webtoon, web-service, social dining, fashion, game) after trial and error. At that time, KakaoTalk and Anipang were trending items, so I developed a KakaoTalk game called Battle Pangpang, but did not achieve commercial success.
The first time I entered the global market was after my failure of the game, and I decided to enter the U.S. market. I thought about casino games that can only be played in the U.S., and began cold emailing companies. As a result, I launched the first social casino game with Gamevil USA. After analyzing American companies and studying how to make a business successful, I worked with Big fish games and attracted global publishing. I adjusted my workstyle to Western culture by introducing calendar invitations and video meetings. Working three years in the U.S. made me, I felt the need to continuously publish and start my own business. Since then, we received Series B funding and established Bagelcode USA. The U.S. branch actively recruited foreigners with experience in the industry to Seoul. Coincidentally, I acquired a company in the U.K. and established Bagelcode UK. After the UK M&A, I recruited experienced members from Israel and established branches in Israel, Ukraine, and that is how Bagelcode became a global company.
2. From a No. 1 Global healthcare Silicon Valley startup to Bagelcode DATA & AI Director – AI Leader Joohyun Kim AI Leader
My name is Joohyun Kim, and I was previously a developer at eBay and am currently the AI leader at Bagelcode. When I choose a career, I consider growth, challenge, and fun the most important. I met CEO Yoon while working as a military industrial agent, and studied machine learning and data while pursuing my Ph.D. in the States. While working at the Trust Science team at eBay, I gained hands-on experience with data. Since then, I joined a healthcare startup MyFitnessPal. The company was a popular startup that later became acquired by Under Armour in 2015. The challenge of becoming a leader at a data team at a data-oriented company and the potential of Bagelcode drived me to join Bagelcode.
Eventually, I made the decision based on what I want to do, what career I will do in the future, and what story I can tell. I am now working at Bagelcode because of data-AI machine learning, startup exit, growth, challenge, and my team. I am in charge of the technical and strategical parts of data and AI. The data and AI team main tasks are Data platform/Data engineering/Data science. Bagelcode is not just a game company, but a company with smart team members, IT technology, fast growth, and well-developed communication. Bagelcode also values data by monitoring the data dashboard.
The two important things in data is cumulative number of users and the game action count. Bagelcode has secured more than 50 million users since the 2019 acquisition. The game action count (actions of users in games) has increased since 2017, and Bagelcode has accumulated data worth 60 billion KRW. Data is managed by over 600 dashboards and 1700 event tables in 5 games, and 7TB of data is processed daily. These data is used in AI and machine learning to strategically predict what each user will do at a certain point. I believe it is necessary to automate monitoring of key indicators in games. Bagelcode is a fast-growing company backed with data and technical specifications unlike other game companies.
3. Establishing and operating a development team in Korea, UK, and Israel after the global M&A, Head of EXP Donghoon Cha
I joined Bagelcode in 2012, and am currently the head of EXP. I worked as a software engineer for 5 years, covering client and back-end areas. I also served as an all-rounder working on various teams as a data analyst for 6 months, product owner for 2 years. I will introduce the most global team at Bagelcode, JPJ. After the M&A, the team divided into three regions (Seoul, London, Israel) and developers also worked in Canada, New Zealand, and Portugal. Due to this division, it was difficult to manage the team. It was imperative to create a collaboration protocol, so I went on a business trip to London and had a marathon meeting all day. We had daily meetings to improve the work pace and collaboration process. We didn’t conduct the regular scrums and there were also problems due to culture and language difference. However, we managed to integrate people of different nationalities into one field.
As a global company, time, distance, language, and culture problems are inevitable. Because we are one team in different parts of the world, business trips were frequent. However, due to COVID-19, this became even more difficult so we tried to solve problems through online meetings. We communicate using English, but sometimes we miss details and experience difficulty in communication because of different nationalities. Because we are a global team, all members must work hard to mitigate these differences. Nevertheless, the challenge and joy of working at a global team is great.
Q&A and Discussion
In the Q&A session, many students participated and submitted questions in advance. Questions were divided into fields and answered.
To the question regarding the challenges and timing of startups, it is important to meet many people and find mentors who are experienced with startups, because problem-solving skills are important in starting a business.
2) Global capabilities
Regarding questions on how Bagelcode became global and the difficulties becoming global, the Bagelcode team gave a simple example adding on to the lecture earlier. In addition, the global recruiting problem is inevitable, so the team will continuously work on this.
3) Military service exemption, etc.
Bagelcode recruits 2-3 people every year for special military service exemption. In the case of interns, they do not differ much from regular employees, but tend to work for about 6 months. We look for members who are flexible in communication and relationships. We select people who fits these descriptions: “working with this person is fun”, “the best welfare is talented individuals”.
There were many live questions as well, and the team members answered them sincerely. Bagelcode was the most global company that joined us for StartupTing. There are branches in England, Israel, Canada, and New Zealand, and we are proud that the center of Bagelcode is Korea. We expect greater growth for Bagelcode, a global company that focuses more on data than games.