Management support solution and food-on-demand management service for institutional food service businesses
“I always welcome newness. It is fun to discover my own newness that goes beyond others’ experience. And I always recall this ad copy; ‘If you want to win, extend your fist!’ ‘
Here is a student founder who just enjoyed app creating competitions and on-campus start-up support programs and then went into business. His name is Joon Young Yi (KAIST School of Electrical Engineering & School of Computing). A school meal app, ‘BabDaeSaeng’, that he developed has been a sensation at KAIST and is now used by 70,000 to 80,000 college students nationwide. We met Yi, the CEO of BAB Labs, Inc. whose ambition in business is to provide food-on-demand management and management support services to institutional food service providers across the country.
A simple ‘past-time’ became a popular app with more than 70,000 users
‘BabDaeSaeng’ is an application that provides school meal menu information for university student cafeterias nationwide. Started at KAIST in 2013, BabDaeSaeng received enthusiastically favorable responses from KAIST students, and thanks to word-of-mouth, requests for the same service for other universities began to rush in. This app, which is currently supported on more than 300 campuses, not only provides menu information, but also information on opening hours of cafeterias, menu details, menus at faculty restaurants and dormitory cafeterias, weekly cafeteria updates, feedback and comments on cafeterias, opening hours and menu notification alerts, hot-spot and delivery food info, a shortcut widget for favorite restaurants, and so on. The provision of the diverse services listed above reflects the corporate philosophy of Yi, who wants to meet student need for convenience, a desire that is common for human beings.
“Creating apps is my hobby. I’ve been making apps to refresh myself during break times. At first, I started to create apps that people around me needed, and now it has led to this management support service. ”
Discovered a business item in conversation with his brother majoring in food and nutrition
He has always wanted to use his ideas for greater needs. One day, he came up with the idea of food-on-demand management services while having a conversation with his younger brother who was majoring in Food and Nutrition.
“My brother, who was in his fourth year at the Food and Nutrition Department, worked at the school cafeteria as an internship and told me about the difficulties of food demand management. He told me that it is an utter headache to handle the leftovers and excessive food orders since it is difficult to predict the number of people who will come to eat.”
Thinking that he should ‘pivot’ BabDaeSaeng to food-on-demand management services, he started to visit hospitals, schools, and many companies because he thought that he had to listen to the voices of the practitioners. After consulting with a number of nutritionists working in cafeterias, he saw the urgency of solving the food-on-demand management system. Since then, he has started to grow and further develop his app, with the slogan of “Our technology will make your organization the best performing one!”
‘E*5 KAIST’, a driving force for his startup
Having teamed up with four friends, he started participating in the ISK programs. Among many KAIST student entrepreneurship support programs, ‘E*5 KAIST’ is the best of its kind. Yi, who had already failed at the E*5 KAIST program twice, continued to knock on the door with his ‘Food-on-demand management service data’. It was a data service program in which food demands and food resources needed are predicted based on Korea Meteorological Administration and holiday data. On his third attempt, he won an award and was able to start his business with financial support for corporate establishment from ISK. The program, which predicts food demand with an artificial intelligence system, is receiving highly favorable responses from the industry, with an average error rate of about 5%.
If Chingiz Khan had not challenged himself, he would be just another shepherd
Yi tells us that if he knew everything about the business before starting, he could not have even started it. He had realized that not everything in the consulting report was true, and others experiences on failure or success could not be entirely relied on as well, because every case has to be different.
“Actually, I was brave because I was ignorant. If I had known everything, I would never have started it in the first place. I want to praise myself for the reckless but brave challenge that I accepted. I always tell juniors not to study too much in advance, and just jump in it. I myself will continue to challenge myself without thinking too much in advance. After all, there is a saying, ‘You can never have too many hardships when you are young’.”