May Lunch talk : Handstudio Representative Donghun Kim, a Story of a Company that Aims for 0% Employee Resignation Rate Rather than Attaining Huge Profits
On May 30th, Handstudio represntative Donghun Kim gave a lecture on the topic of “A Story of a Company that Aims for 0% Employee Resignation Rate Rather than Attaining Huge Profits”. Handstudio is a company that develops and provides multimedia/software.
Representative Kim started off his speech with the “5 Ws” (who, what, where, when, why). In most cases, people say that the reason for engaging in startup related business is just to ‘earn money’. Represenative Kim gave his own perspective about the reason behind the action of ‘starting a business’.
Long-Lasting Successful Life
At first, representative Kim was not interested in academics. He could not find any reason behind studying. Nevertheless, he was certain about what he wanted to do. He wanted to run his own music store and hence he decided to immerse himself in the world of music. One day, his mother promised him that she would buy him 1 music record every time his score rises by 1 point. Having found his reason to study, representative Kim raised is score by 150 points.
After entering his dream school and realizing that running a music store is not an easy job, representative Kim turned his interest to becoming a music magazine editor. Unfortunately, after his military service, all the music magazines have gone broke. After that, he decided to become a PD at a radio company, a career more recognized by the society. He contacted many professional producers and in the end succeeded in entering a broadcasting center.
One day, he came across a great opportunity. He received a request to sell a broadcast that is run by the company broadcasting center. Representative Kim, having earned a great amount of money by running a broadcast at a big broadcasting company, achieved the highest listener rating in 20 years, did a live broadcast of the Olympic games for 20 days, received a prize at headquarters, and was scouted to the United States with the condition of issuing a E1 visa. He thought that he achieved all of the things that he wanted to achieve. He could have never imagined a better life that this.
Restructuring, a Process of Asking ‘Why’
One day, representative Kim became aware of what was happening around him – he observed that the office was continually being restructured. All of the employees were dedicated and were talented individuals, but some were fired solely because there was a increase in wage. Representative Kim, after having gone through the situation where his boss committed suicide, thought that it was very ironical. The fact that some employees were fired just because of their age was shocking for him. He suddenly became unsure – would it be possible to find a compromise between the work that I want to do and the need for me to be in a certain organization? He realized that modern society simply ‘consumes’ and ‘utilizes’ people.
From this point, representative Kim thought about the question of what it is to be in an organization. People are not meant to live just to earn money. Rejecting an job offer from the United States, he came back to Korea and attended university for 4 years.
After giving much thought, he reached the conclusion that he had the desire to ‘live as a human being’. Representative Kim decided not to go to the United States and for 6 months, he put in effort in finding out about ‘what he was interested in’ instead of finding out a way to ‘enter a prestigious company’ like most other college graduates. He regretted the fact that he did not try to answer the question of ‘why’ in his life before graduating.
A Hierarchical Society that Considers Money as its First Priority : Why do we earn money in the first place?
During his trip to Europe, representative Kim noticed something about the toilets in Venice. People had to pay about 4,000 to 5,000 Korean won every time they used the toilet. After doing the math, he found out that toilet janitors in Venice can earn about 2.3 billion Korean won per year. He then thought to himself that it would be best to become a toilet janitor if we work just for the money.
The second company that representative Kim went to was a classical company. There, he observed a very strict hierarchy within the company’s community. The way the people of high status treated the janitors portrayed how ‘money is everything’. It was clear who were the ‘controllers’ and who were ‘the servants’ being controlled. The number of production facilities are finite, and people struggle in order to attain the ownership to these facilities. It would be best if the owners and the employees treat one another equally and create a good community, but in reality, this is hard to achieve. Capitalism considers manpower as a ‘resource’ and employees can always be replaced by another person with better skills or conditions. Representative Kim commented that it is important to think about who we want to be: a costly resource or a person who freely does the things he or she wants to do. He emphasized that before making any choices, we must clearly know who we want to be and what we truly want to do.
Handstudio, a Company that Thinks About its People First : The Growth and Decline of a Company
Representative Kim entered Handstudio, a company known to respect its people. He entered the company at the time when the teams were being formed and thus was able to share his life story with the other members. He enjoyed his work there and the company grew. From 2010 to 2013, the company grew twice the size every year. The number of workers also grew twice as much every year. As the number of employees increased, the young company gradually structured itself into groups and organizations. However, as smart televisions entered the market, the company started plummeting.
It is said that the true form of a company reveals when it is in danger, and Handstudio did not look good during its decline. Approximately 20 to 25 people resigned from Handstudio every year. As a result, it was difficult to maintain a strong connection among the employees. Representative Kim started losing his patience and started looking for other options, but he could not find a place that met his philosophy. In the end, representative Kim decided to become the head of a company that only had 500,000 Korean won left in its bank account. The following are the resolutions that he had when he started out as a company representative.
A Continuously Growing Company in a Humane Manner
Representative Kim wanted to create a comfortable company where the employees feel like they are at home. He thinks that an organization in which its members feel uncomfortable or unfortunate should never exist. As a result, Handstudio became a B2B company that had no operating costs and its sales increased by 60% in 2 years.
Soon, employees brought their siblings, friends, peers, and their spouse and introduced them to the company, describing that it is a great place to work in. Thanks to that, since the members in the group knew each other very well, things started to work well at the company. By applying the attendance notification system, the company let its employees to come to work after 9:30 AM if they send a notification in advance. Moreover, every Thursday, after the afternoon shift, the company held a Kartrider game league. The game league has already been held 12 times and employees are able to enjoy their free time by playing games. When a employee is found to have left the game room without turning the monitor off, he or she has to buy snacks for the other employees. When more than 4 people have the same hobby, they often form a mini club within the company. When employees get married, they are given a financial support of approximately 10 million Korean won. Parties are also held at least every month. For 7 years, the company has been raising a cat within its building and every half a year, the company conducts an internal survey about the welfare of its employees. The survey includes questions regarding the company’s working conditions and asks for any suggestions about the service or welfare the company provides.
Reprentative Kim receives a lot of questions about his expectations and the effects of the current welfare system, but he always gives people the same reply: ‘because it’s fun’. It is good to have a clear goal, but it is simply not humane if we have to give up so many things on the way in order to achieve that particular goal. We are not meant to sacrifice ourselves for something. He emphasized that we should think about the things that we want to do and make choices based on that. Moreover, he hopes that we think about how to make the company ‘human-friendly’ whenever we start a business and ended his presentation by describing his current goals.
– Lowering opportunity costs
– Making a more comfortable working environment
– Trying to stay together more longer
– Living without any worries regardless of the outcome
– Showing the world that it is possible to earn a living like this
The topic of representative Kim’s talk was a bit different from those of other lunch talks. It is true that creating a ‘human-friendly’ working environment is vital when running a corporation. Representative Kim reminded us of the most important things we have to remember as potential entrepreneurs. We hope that Korean companies provide a happier and more comfortable working environment for their employees.
KAIST Representative Student Startup Support Program
E*5 KAIST (12th)
Total 64 students
March 30th, 2018 ~ June 8th, 2018
Grand Prize Winner 1 team / Silver Prize Winner 2 teams / Special Prize 1 team / Activity Prize 1 team
Senior entrepreneurs who have participated in E*5 KAIST in the previous years
Mission + Activity
1 mentor was in charge of the education sessions and 3 senior entrepreneurs were in charge of the coaching sessions for each team. Teams were evaluated based on their performance in these education and coaching sessions. Excelling teams were given the chance to win extra financial support for their projects.
During the program, each team went through mentoring sessions with their mentors (Mentoring), learned current issues and trends from experts (Networking), visited startup companies (Field Trip), conducted market research (Research) and held team meetings (Teamwork). Teams uploaded their activities on Facebook and completed the Activity mission.
Record of the 3-month period
KAIST’s Representative Student Startup Support Program
E*5 KAIST (11st)
Total of 75 people
2017. 9. 8 – 2017. 12. 1
Grand Prize 1 team / Runner-Up Prize 2 teams / Special Prize (Improvement Prize) 1 team / Activity Excellence Award 1 team
Senior entrepreneurs who participated in previous E*5 KAIST events
Conducting Mission + Activity
1 mentor was in charge of education sessions per mission, and 3 Seniors (senior entrepreneurs) regularly/consistantly coached their corresponding teams. Teams that excelled in education and coaching sessions were given a chance to attain extra funding.
During the program, teams visited mentors and went through mentoring sessions (Mentoring), had networking sessions (Networking), went on field trips to various startups, conducted market research (Research), and uploaded team meeting activities on Facebook (Teamwork).
Records of the 3-month period
On November 16th, 2017 , startup networking program “Let’s Meet Then” was held at Startup KAIST Studio 1F. At the entrance of the building, hoppang (호빵) machines and warm hoppangs that people held in their hands stood out. This networking program was held in collaboration with Doryong Venture Form for the first time. Doryong Veuture Forum is a startup forum that provides Daejeon people, such as entrepreneurs and investors, a place to meet.
Startup M&A – Representative Inmo Jeong
The first presenter was Inmo Jeong, past representative of IAmCompany. He said that he was inspired to create education related content by the activities he did in Midam Scholarship Committee, one of the student clubs at KAIST, and his experience in mobile application design through URP program. IAmCompany provided a service called ‘IAmSchool’, a planner application. ‘IAmSchool’ digitalizes school planners, something that most of us have used during our childhood, and gives information to parents about various education related products. He explained that he himself advertised this product starting from nearby schools in Daejeon. He met with the principals of the schools he visited and presented the functions and the usefulness of the application. This service has been exported to Taiwan and once have placed 1st place in Taiwan mobile application stores in the education category.
Like investing is similar to dating, M&A is similar to marriage
However, Inmo Jeong stated that recently, venture funding attraction is becoming more difficult. Steady investment as long as web traffic is high is now something of the past. Now, a period of time when it is crucial for profits to be clear and visible, the education market is hard to grab attention. As ‘IAmSchool’ has relatively a big number of active users, it is possible to increase profitability by adding advertisement, but since the goal of the startup is to make an application that contributes to education, the company chose not to do it that way. Hence, NHN Entertainment took over ‘IAmSchool’ and the lecturer ended his presentation with a comment that the startup wishes to implement the leftover work required for the fusion of technology and education. M&A is considered to be an attractive final destination point for people engaged in startup. Thus the story of IAmCompany, which concluded as a M&A, has great meaning.
P2P Finance Platform? – Jongchan Lee CTO
The second presenter was CTO Jongchan Lee from a P2P company called Tanker Fund. He started off with a joke that he is the greatest stockholder of Tanker Fund. His explanation regarding Korea’s market economy was very clear and easy to understand. Because Korean banks are similar to companies that do government work, they loan only 60~70% of the house price in order to maintain the price at an adequate level. So, mortgage loan, which loans 5~10% in addition, came into fashion, but due to registration and closed character of the Korean loan market, loans of high interest rates happened. However, because registration is now digitized, it is possible to loan at a lower interest rate. He wrapped his presentation by saying that the company is working to lead P2P loans that fit the Korean financial culture such as construction fee loans.
4th Industrial Revolution National Long Range Plan – President Youngha Ko
The last lecturer, president Youngha Ko from Korea Business Angels Association talked about the national long range plan regarding the 4th industrial revolution. He started off by showing the audience an EBS documentary. In the documentary, the creators showed the closing ceremony of the G20 summit that was held in Seoul in 2010. The president of the United States of America during that time, Obama, specially gave the right to ask questions to Korean reporters, but the reporters remained silent. One Chinese reporter broke the ice by raising his hand and asked whether it was possible for him to ask a question as a reporter representing Asia. Obama, showing a bit of disconcert, replied that he is willing to listen to the Chinese reporters if none of the Korean reporters volunteer. In the end, the Chinese reporter gets a chance to ask the question. After showing the document, Youngha Ko asserted that there are two kinds of people: one who asks questions and one who doesn’t ask questions. Youngha Ko emphasized that in the period of the 4th Industrial Revolution, we need talented people who are passionate and active. He defined the 4th Industrial Revolution with the concepts ▲ Period of Geometric Progression ▲ Period of Artificial Intelligence ▲ Period of Long-Living ▲ Period of Cooperation and grabbed the audience’s attention by thoroughly going through various recent examples.
Open Podium – 1 Minute Keyword Pitching
After the presentations from the guest lecturers, there was a keyword pitching session. In this session, anyone can stand in front of the podium and present about startup in general for approximately 1 minute. This session had a different appeal to the previous 30 minute presentations. The first presenter was a person who currently just launched a startup, but have been diagnosed with herpes. He advised that people should complete the track to startup slowly rather than going at a fast pace similar to that of a 100-meter race and thereby ruining their health. Another person introduced himself – he was planning to start a business through the help of a startup support program run by All Generation Startup Campus (세대융합창업캠퍼스). He described his business item, which was car-sharing in units of apartment household. Then, he said that it would be great if everyone gets something out of this forum’s networking session. Other than these two presenters, many other people, such as a person from Handong University who lost most of the research data due to the recent earthquake and thus decided to move the laboratory to Daejeon or a person who is looking for an Android developer, introduced their personal experience and thoughts about startup.
Finally, former KAIST Innovation manager and professor in the Business and Technology Management department Rakkyeong Song presented his comment about the forum in general. It was the first time for him to run KAIST Startup Networking Forum at the same time with Doryong Venture Forum and he showed thankfulness about inviting such great lecturers. In addition, he hoped for the active participation from KAIST students who are engaged in startup and wrapped up the forum.
December Lunch Talk: How Engineering Adds more Value to Agriculture during the 4th Industrial Revolution
On December 7th, 2017, Manna (만나) CEA representative Taebyeong Jeon opened a lecture with the topic ‘How Engineering Adds more Value to Agriculture during the 4th Industrial Revolution’ at Startup KAIST Studio, 1st Floor. Manna CEA is a company where many KAIST alumni engineers, including representative Jeon, bio engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and experts from the field of agricultural studies work and cooperate. Through this lecture, representative Jeon introduced how engineers from different fields of study come together and work on agriculture and the kind of worldview he has for expanding the business.
Representative Taebyeong Jeon started off by saying that he wanted to introduce a new perspective to the students through his personal experience in working in an uncommon field of study. Representative Jeon entered KAIST in 2008 and when he was a freshmen, he was completely lost. Because he was from a public high school (일반고), he did not have any friends or mentors who could guide him. One day, coincidentally, he met with the current Manna CEA co-representative Aron Park. As a person who cars, representative Jeon made a car-making club called K-Alpha (케이알파) with co-representative Park. At the time there were only car-making clubs at KAIST that competed only in Korean competitions; there were no cases of entering in competitions abroad. Representative Jeon and Park sent an e-mail to Nampyeo Seo, the school chairman at the time, and the chairman gave a financial support of 37 million Korean won. With the support from the chairman, they made cars for one and a half years and eventually could enter a competition that was held in California, USA. Their peers who worked with them during the time are now either doing their PhD or working as a member of Manna CEA.
Ways to Make the World a Better Place through Engineering
Manna CEA corporation was established in 2013. The company is located in Jincheon, Chungcheongbuk-do and is currently running approximately 6000 pyeong (1 pyeong = about 3.3 meter squared) of farms. The company not only sells crops that it harvests from the farms, but it also exports its agricultural system in Korea and outside of Korea such as the United States, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Moreover, the company is constantly working on developing agriculture related patents. Right now, the company is expanding their business by continually attaining approximately 2 billion Korean won from investments.
Representative Jeon explained why he decided to work for a business in agriculture despite his interest in machines and vehicles. After experiencing the car manufacturing process, he felt that there are always people who are better than him in terms of skills and there always exist better technology even if he works diligently. He thought that if he works hard enough, he could have the potential to reach a level similar to those talented people, but it will be difficult for him to stand out significantly. Also, it made him doubt himself because the results were not that great compared to the effort he put in the work. For these reasons, representative Jeon did not have another choice but to stop pursuing vehicle-related occupations.
After serving in the military, representative Jeon coincidentally did a part-time job related to design outsourcing in an influential, major company. He got a request to revise whether a design for a plant farm factory has business value. This plant farm factory harvested plants indoors using artificial lighting. Representative Jeon concluded that the present plat farm factory system is very inefficient in terms of costs and that there are so many things that should be improved. After this experience, he attended school as he thought about a possible good solution for this problem.
The conditions of the current rural areas are quite poor. Due to aberrant climate changes and droughts, harvesting is not like before. In addition, because the population residing in rural areas are aging, there is a lack of people in the agricultural industry. Representative Jeon used technology to solve this problem with co-representative Park. They replaced LED artificial lights with cheap florescent light and changed expensive zinc or aluminum materials to wooden structures. Wood was relatively efficient cost-wise considering its volume and strength. With these modifications, the two engineers developed a system that was 60~80% cheaper than existing plat farm factories. They believed that the world will turn into a better place when they supply good equipment at a cheap price, continued to solve various problems step by step, and eventually initiated them to engage in business startup.
Making an Efficient and Beautiful Farm
Manna CEA produces crops and sells them through online commerce or sells them to big distribution industries such as Emart (이마트). Also, it sells their high-tech farming systems and plays a role in connecting the buyers with the market.
Manna CEA improved the farm through various technology. It utilizes drones to make efficient plans and reduced a great amount of costs by using a unique cultivation method. Sensors installed in farms of Manna CEA transfer information via Bluetooth without the need of a central computer. This kind of method is adequate for rural areas where Wifi is not readily available. Normally, sensors installed in farms would send data to a central computer and based on the data received, the central computer would decide how to control the farm. However, installing Wifi in gardening facilities or vinyl greenhouses is inefficient. Using his experience in farming, representative Jeon firmly decided to make a farm that can be controlled without the use of Wifi. As a result, Manna CEA developed a de-centralized messy network system that is able to charge the sensors with sunlight and information regarding the surroundings is transferred from sensor to sensor via Bluetooth. Some sensors are connected to a motor and can therefore take some kind of action if necessary. For example, if the temperature is too low, the motor sensor will be activated and will either open the windows or close the insulating curtains. Like this example, without the interference of people, the sensors are fully in control of the environment such as atmospheric temperature, humidity, amount of carbon dioxide and water, PH concentration, and nitrate, phosphorus, and potassium concentration. The state and environment of the farm is clearly organized on the dashboard automatically and thus administrators are able to focus just on employee management. Representative Jeon explained that he felt the need to start a business in the agricultural industry because agricultural technology is quite outdated and many of Korea’s talented workers are concentrated in the vehicle or semiconductor industry. Because there were no sensors or modules adequate for use in agricultural environments, he had to make them himself. Thanks to his efforts, nowadays, many of the sensors and modules are commercialized.
Crop cultivation methods also different from that of existing farms. Manna CEA utilizes the aquaponic method, a cultivation method through fish farming. At the beginning of civilization, the reason behind the rich soils around the Nile river in Egypt was hydroponics. Manna CEA farms eels, and uses water full of nutrients that plants need to grow, such as nitrogen, after purifying the water through bio-filter. Aquaponics, which is a method of farming using excretions from fish rather than from livestock, has many advantages. First, it is possible to move crops from place to place. Crops such as rucola, basil, and salad tend to grow sideways and therefore during the initial stage, there exists some inefficiency in the use of space. Crops have to be planted further away from each other because farmers have to consider the increase in size. However, by using aquaponics, the amount of crop production increases 20 to 30 times. For crops that have a fixed stem, such as tomatoes or strawberries, the amount of crop production increases 30 to 40%. Second, it is possible to reduce costs significantly. Water is circulated and so aqaponics uses only 2% of the amount of water used for cultivation in normal outdoor farms. Third, is is possible to cultivate plants in an environmentally-friendly manner without the use of chemicals or pesticides.
Through the experience of making automobiles, Manna CEA was able to reduce costs by improving structures used in existing farms. Normally farmers have to notion that they have to use zinc or iron for their structures. Manna CEA, on the other hand, chose wood as its material and made agricultural facilities that are 80% cheaper than those of other competing companies outside of Korea.
One one hand, the company constructs agricultural facilities that combine farms with cultural content. Manna CEA broke the stereotypical image of mundane farms and built a beautiful, entertaining farm that grabs the attention of young people. It exported its visually pleasing farm design to other countries; it even organized weddings for its employees at its farms.
Currently Manna CEA is collaborating with Daegwallyeong Samyang Ranch and plans to open various contents and facilities related to farming and agriculture starting from next year.
Representative Taebyeong Jeon introduced a variety of examples through his story of establishing Manna CEA, which showed that engineering can be applied to real-life situations to make the world a better place. It was a great chance for students to think about the great number of choices that they have for their future careers.
Q. Are there any research done regarding the reduction of cultivation period for other crops such as ginseng?
A. We are actively conducting research on crops. For example, it is possible to reduce the cultivation period of ginseng from 1 year to 3 months. Nevertheless, when we sold them in the market, not many people bought them. Distribution systems for ginseng and rice are quite firmly established and thus it is difficult to bring some kind of change to the system. Also, we received strong criticism from the farmers. It was an opportunity for us to realize the cruel nature of the market.
Q. When looking at the homepage, it seems like Manna CEA mainly deals with crops used in salads; what other crops are cultivated?
A. We started out with strawberry, tomato, and quinoa. Increasing the kinds of crops cultivated is not difficult once the agricultural system becomes stable. We aim to maximize the amount of sales per unit area. In the future, there will be strawberry crops and tomato crops based on new technology. We are currently working on that.
Q. What is the final goal that you wish to achieve as an agricultural industry?
A. The company was born after realizing that there is a lack of farmers in rural areas. People in their 50s are considered to be young. The average age is 67.5 years, and most people are almost in their 80s or 90s. Korean farms are at stake due to factors such as global climate change and crop prices. As of now, we are selling agricultural systems, but in the future we hope to expand our business to crop distribution by building a food storage. We consider the president of Halim(하림) as our role model. He made NS Home Shopping (NS홈쇼핑) and recently took over STX Pan Ocean and is now in charge of crop distribution. Likewise, ultimately, we are aiming to work on the food security of the country.
Q. I felt that the company have a tendency to solve many problems in creative ways that utilize engineering; did the two representatives possess this kind of creativity beforehand, or did the two representatives learn a new kind of business mind from their experience?
A. We always think of technology by comparing it with vehicles; a car company cannot produce all of the components used in its vehicle. It would receive some parts from other companies or it would develop its own technology necessary for vehicle production. Similarly, we initially planed to buy a competitive technology for our farms, but we were not able to find an adequate technology that meet our needs. So, inevitably, we developed our own technology because ‘we had to’. We did not develop technology merely for the intention of boasting or showing-off; we developed our technology because we needed to.
Q. How do you control the water quality while selecting an aquaponic method?
A. We use the water supply system as using underground water has a risk of colon bacillus infection, and we control the PH concentration and evaporate all the chlorine. If nitrate concentration increases, a signal that either the number of fish or the amount of fish food increased, the computer detects the change and reduces the concentration. If the PH concentration increases, a signal that microorganisms are not active enough, the computer takes action to improve the environment.
2017 2nd Term E*5 KAIST Mission Final was held last month on December 1st, 2017. E*5 KAIST is a KAIST startup support program that helps students strengthen their potentials in startup by developing their ideas and actually get hands-on practice in commercializing those ideas.
E*5 KAIST mentor and CNTTECH representative Hwaseong Jeon, K Cube Ventures director Gijun Kim, Bon Angels Venture Partners Parnter Taeyeon Jeon, Futureplay Partner Seongjae Hwang, Naver D2SF center director Sanghwan Yang, MashUp Angels loan officer Jun Lee, KAIST Youth Investment Holding director Jaeho Jeong, Primer team leader Jeonghun Lee, and Stonebridge Capital team leader Jiseong Oh took part in this session as Mission Final judges.
E*5 KAIST students first were grouped into several teams. Each team had to clear various missions and activities step-by-step during the semester. Through financial support, they participated in startup related lectures and mentoring sessions run by expert mentors and senior students/alumni who are already involved in startup activities. Similar to audition programs, there were sessions where students were evaluated based on their progress and growth potential. Mission Final was an event where students did their final presentation on their progress for the semester and then were recognized based on their evaluation results.
There were a total of 3 missions. To begin with, the Business Model mission aimed to develop and make improvements on business ideas through business modeling. In the Customer Discovery mission, students worked on understanding and analyzing target markets and verified the commercialization of their ideas and customer development through market research. Pitch Deck mission aimed to establish a specific business plan for the idea and logically pitch the overall business plan. For each mission, students first went through education sessions, then had practice and mentoring/coaching session, and then were evaluated.
There are 4 activities that each team selected for the E*5 KAIST program must complete. First of all, teams must have a regular meeting and workshop in order to specify their ideas and maintain a strong, effective communication among members. Another mandatory activity is going on a field trip in which teams interview a person who is working in or involved in startup and get inspiration. Moreover, teams must have networking sessions where they can attain information and trends through people who are involved in a similar business idea or model. Finally, teams must take part in tutoring sessions run by startup-related experts.
A total of 11 teams participated in the 3-hour final evaluation session. First, team A.Line focused on the problem that many women face: not being able to find the just-right clothes that meet their tastes. To solve this problem, they proposed a sketch interface search system for shopping clothes so that users can draw the properties of the clothes they want that are hard to describe in words. When people want to buy a certain kind of clothes, they can search for it by drawing, and when they find something similar in the search results, they can change small details based on the search result. Moreover, people can change the color or size through gestures and can add more shapes or features. Team A.Line utilizes a clothes-search algorithm based on deep-learning and thus requires a good data construction. Team A.Line already have 80,000 images in their database and they are currently working on transforming those images into sketches. They made shopping platforms, such as Naver and Gmarket, and SPA brands as their target. Because products from SPA brands tend to be produced for a short period of time, A.Line stated that clothing trend information shown in sketch data analysis can be very useful. Judges commented that in order to cover all of the design, pattern, and colors, it would require a great amount of data and also questioned whether it is possible to conduct this complicated searching system using current technology. Moreover, the judges questioned whether they verified their hypothesis regarding the problem that customers face and whether this business is sustainable.
Lightheavy Industry, the team that developed a UAFP carbon fiber automobile processing system, focused on the issue that people have to manually process carbon fiber which is 4 times lighter, but 10 times stronger than steel. Since the parts are made manually, there is a lot of space for errors. As the process has low precision and credibility, people have to test out multiple parts which results in wasting resources and capital. In order to solve this problem, Lightheavy Industry conducted research with a professor from the Aerospace Engineering department at KAIST. They are currently working on making their prototype. The basic concept of their item comes from the 3D printer – they wish to make an item that people can print out carbon fiber in 3D. The team received positive feedback from customers who use robots and miniature aerospace-related parts. The device utilizes robot arms, thereby increasing the precision and efficiency (both speed-wise and cost-wise) of the making process. Team Lightheavy Industry intends to make profit by receiving the blueprint from customers and then making the requested parts. Although team Lightheavy Industry is currently focusing only on the production process in their business, they aspire to focus more on automobile design system by utilizing big data later in the future. The mentors asked whether the team actually conducted any kind of experiment for this idea. Team Lightheavy Industry replied that this kind of technology is not completely new – there exists APF manufacturing system for rockets and spaceships. They added that they are applying this existing technology to the everyday market. The mentors then asked about the difficulties regarding the manufacturing process. The team replied that there could be difficulties in reducing the size of the existing individually controlled robot arms so that it can be commercialized because the cost of the machinery is too expensive.
Pangjisunrae (빵지순례) team is a service that delivers leftover bread from bakeries to customers. Every bakery has leftover bread near closing time. These leftover bread take up about 3~7% of the total amount of bread produced, but they are often sold at a cheaper price or discarded. Team Pangjisunrae pursued to develop a service that buys these leftover bread from bakeries and delivers them, enabling bakeries to make additional profit and customers to buy bread at a cheaper price. When bakeries register the number of bread leftover through mobile, Pangjisunrae then delivers the bread to the customers who wish to buy bread. The team conducted a total of 6 beta-testing sessions for 2 months that was open for KAIST students. Out of 28 students who received a notification that leftover bread sale has been opened, 8 students bought the bread. In addition, the 2 bakeries that participated in the beta-tests made 15% of profit. The team aims to partner up with 100 bakeries situated in Gangnam over the first two months. The team possesses three storage houses in Gangnam, Yongsan and Gasan for delivery. Mentors criticized the fact that the number of choices of bread that customers can chose from decreases. Pangjisunrae also added that the kinds of leftover bread is different every day and it is sometimes even affected by the weather. Although they were only able to conduct 6 beta-testing sessions, they observed that the kinds of leftover bread varied greatly from time to time and when they partner up with many different bakeries, each bakery would produce different kinds of bread with different characteristics, thereby solving the problem.
Team CES developed a safety evacuation simulation system. The team focused on the problem of people not being able to properly prepare for natural disasters despite the growing number of accidents. Existing simulations fail to perfectly mimic the actual situation of the disaster, is highly expensive and has low efficiency, thereby resulting in a great number of lives lost during disasters. CES changed this existing simulation into a mathematical algorithm and computer simulation and made it possible to see the safety certified natural disaster manual for earthquakes or fires. The team uses cloud service and consulting – when the user gives a blueprint, it prints out a video report based on an automated system and goes through a safety certification process and tells the user the danger areas in the blueprint. Cloud services can handle most of the job, but for complicated situations, CES provides consulting service. The team put maritime and architectural industries as their targets and emphasized that there will be a decrease in social costs when using their system. Moreover, the team highlighted the fact that they have been working on this project for 6 years and have managed to collect a significant amount of research papers, thereby increasing their hopes in actualizing the technology required for the simulation system. The mentors questioned the importance of cloud service in this system and the team replied that cloud service allows people from all over the world to easily access and download online reports. Secondly, the mentors asked whether the service is for interior design for a certain space or for real-life emergency situations such as natural disasters. CES replied that they wish to set the natural disaster manual and safety certification portion of the service as their priority. The mentors then advised them to consider more about the cognition or modeling of the people.
Next, team SandFox introduced their business plan. Team SandFox initiated a business called “Carry In” (캐리인) with the goal of taking care of tourist luggage. Carry In formed partnership with many different shops located in touristic places so that the shops provide a platform where tourists pay a small amount of cash to leave their luggage. In addition, Carry In sets its focus on the Nanba and Osaka region in Japan, one of the most popular places for Korean tourists, as its marketing target. The team already is doing beta-testing for Carry In in 10 shops and received feedback through its Carry In Kakaotalk Plus Friend account. The mentors questioned the usefulness of Carry In. The mentors commented that rather than putting the luggage in one place, moving around, and going back to the place to pick the luggage up, it seems more efficient for the tourists to just simply take a taxi to move from one place to another. Then, there is no need to worry about going back to a specific place to pick up the luggage. The team stated that they plan to expand and increase the usefulness of their service by developing a mobile app that instantly matches the tourist user with a nearby shop that can look after the tourist’s luggage for him or her.
After that, SeedMoney started their presentation by stressing the need for saving money in order to decrease our anxiety levels about the future. First-time users have to first fill out a survey to see their consumption trends. Then, the users receive recommendations about savings based on their consumption patterns such as saving 3% of their remaining balance at the end of each month or saving a certain amount of money when replying to a message at a designated time. For this to happen, as an example, Kookmin Bank customers will have to create a Kookmin Bank virtual bank account when they choose to use the service. SeedMoney constructed a stable profit model where the company receives a certain amount of commission when money builds up in the user’s virtual account. Mentors asked whether it is possible to have a great amount of surplus fund and SeedMoney replied that the total amount of user savings will sum up to quite a large amount of money. Moreover, they expect an annual growth of 18.5%. The mentors then asked more expert-level questions, such as economic prospects, to the team about their project.
Team Flavor emphasized how difficult it is to live as a “Korean idol” fan (or otaku, a person who collects various goods related to certain celebrity that he or she likes). For instance, otakus have to spend 30 minutes to make a 5 second gif file of a celebrity they like. Also, it is difficult to make small or detailed edits to a video on mobile applications. Team Flavor suggests a smart editing tool that uses machine learning technology. The team provides the users the technology to trim videos automatically so that only the clips where their favorite celebrity or member appears remain. Additionally, the team enables the users to put on stickers that are generated based on the atmosphere of the video clip and the user’s preference.
Team Anyfont explained about how difficult it is to develop font styles in East-Asian countries, especially font designs for Hangeul and Chinese letters. Anyfont stressed that deep-learning is a solution to this problem. The team enables the users to make their own complete font system based on only 250 letters. The similarity rate between the generated font system and the 250 letter font sample ranges from 98~99%. Furthermore, because the technology is image-based, it can be applied to create fonts for all existing languages. The business model is as follows. To begin with, the team will provide their design tools to design companies and verify their technology as well as make profit. After that, based on the verified technology, Anyfont hopes to provide the front to various companies and local governments. The mentors asked about their future plans or goals after the initiation/launching of their business. Anyfont replied that initially they will transfer the technology using B2B (Business to Business) format, but later on, when they have enough data on their database, they plan to employ a designer and manufacture fonts based on the user’s needs (B2C, Business to Customer, format).
Team JellyLab started their presentation by pointing out the limitations of Korean medical infrastructure. The patient have to wait for about a week for his or her follow-up visit when visiting a Korean psychiatric clinic; considering the emotional fluctuations of the patient, a week is a very long time. Regular daily check-ups is crucial for accurate diagnosis, especially for psychological treatments. Team JellyLab aims to eliminate this 1 week gap between the patient’s first visit and follow-up visit through “chatbot” technology. The team developed the chatbot based on the counselor’s manual used in the psychiatry field of study. JellyLab is already conducting a beta-test of their chatbot in Papalado Center at KAIST and at Asan Hospital. Also, the team emphasized that the demand for this technology will increase. They provided the fact that WHO states psychological problems such as depression will become one of the most burdensome illnesses for mankind in the future as their evidence.
“You do not have to know anything,” said team Dr.MOLA as they started their presentation. The main customers, or targeting audience, for Dr. MOLA is small companies or freelancers who need high-tech computing power, but do not have a great amount of knowledge about computers. The team introduces the right computer that meets the customer’s needs and provide computer rental service. The presenter described that this business will lessen the gap between the existing rental companies and major corporations. Many rental companies lack in credibility and major corporations are expensive as they have their own workstation installed. Dr. MOLA aims to establish its profit model through its business with a certain level of credibility and a reasonable cost. Mentors commented that the team should take the launching process and implementation more into consideration.
The final team to present was team Chakchak (착착). Many question the effectiveness of the existing advertisement banners displayed in public transportation. To solve this problem, Chakchak provides a platform where drivers can stick LED advertisement stickers on their vehicle based on their preference. When drivers stick an advertisement, turn on a mobile application and drive, they receive a certain amount of profit in proportion to the traveled distance. This means that theoretically, all vehicles can become potential advertisement media. The team mentioned that they plan to build alliance with car-sharing companies or taxi companies and develop into B2C. They ended the presentation with the comment that they expect a great amount of profit because there is no O2O (Online to Offline) mobile applications for non-static advertisements.
After the presentations, one mentor presented his thoughts about the 2017 2nd Term E*5 KAIST.
Team A.Line received an award in the Activity category, Pangjisunrae (빵지순례) team won the Special Prize, team A.Line and Flavor were selected as the winning teams and team Anyfont was selected as the final grand prize winning team. This concludes the 3-month E*5 KAIST 2nd Term program.