Korean startup BEMYPET’s CEO Hyunjin Sung used her skills as a finance professional to build a business that has an emotional connect. Her love for her dogs meant she wanted to provide the best care to them but did not find any exciting content related to pet issues like health, behavior, etc. BEMYPET is a fast-growing pet-content platform that caters to pet parents, aspiring pet owners, children, and all those who love animals through much creative content.
Hyunjin Sung shares the story of the company’s launch, the problems faced, and advice for entrepreneurs with koreatechdesk.com.
1. Please tell me about your background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Personal experience as a pet parent and my professional experience lead me to start BEMYPET. I have been a dog parent since 2007 and identified pain points in pet parenting since then. I almost lost my first dog because of the lack of knowledge in dog health and behavior. This experience changed my life. I realized I was not alone. A lot of people were spending extensive time finding the right information for their pets.
For my career, I was in the finance sector for over 7 years. I had a chance to interact with many companies, from startups to large corporates. As seeing entrepreneurs changing the world, I started to dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
2. What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Our current main product is a pet content-based platform. We create original, informative content and provide aggregated content from various creators. Through our content platform, we have gained a large userbase. Now, we are aiming to convert these users to other products and services.
Prior to this product, we tried to run a pet adopting platform containing information on abandoned animals and responsible breeders. Our strategy was to onboard new pet parents by providing adoption-related information and then convert them to other commerce and services. However, due diligence on responsible breeders was not possible. Also, the scalability was limited as we could only target new pet parents.
Due to limitations, we pivoted our product into a pet content-based platform. After the pivot, we face a huge opportunity and target a larger customer base, even globally.
3. What is the market opportunity for your service?
The global pet industry has been steadily growing and estimated to be $ 223.1 billion as of 2019. The global pet content market is estimated to be more than $ 4 billion and is expected to grow rapidly, given the lifestyle of millennial /Gen Z and the strong demand in digital content. We see the market opportunity given the fact that there have been no leading companies in the pet content space.
4. What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Our business model is to acquire a loyal userbase via content and convert them towards commerce/services. Our revenue is mainly from content ad and commerce. We will expand our monetization model by manufacturing Character-based merchandise and private brands.
Our strategy has been consistent. We believe expanding based on strong content presence works the best for us. Recently, original video content with cute and fun animal characters was a game-changer. It helped us to gain a huge and loyal userbase.
5. Please tell me more about your founding team?
Michael and I are college alumni and used to work together at an investment firm. We had a chance to get to know each other’s strengths and thoughts about business opportunities and running a startup. As both were dog parents, we shared pain points and have come to start a company.
6. How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Our last funding round was in November 2019.
7. What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
When I faced potential investors expressing an opposing point of view without specific reasons, I was a bit frustrated. However, I believe that fault is on me. I might have seemed enthusiastic but not strategic.
If I had to start fundraising over, I would prepare more and seek for the right timing. I believe preparation always increases your percentage of success. Also, choosing the right time for fundraising is important as the money injected needs to be used in a scalable way. Without a scalable business model, the capital is useless. I believe now is the right time for us.
8. What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Our next milestone is acquiring global users. We have been trying to find a product-market fit through pilot tests. Although we need further improvements, I believe we will find our way in acquiring global users.
Another milestone would be improving user experience in our mobile app. We are planning to include additional features such as data-based content curation.
Our goal for the future is to become a renowned pet content platform across the globe. We are creating a strong userbase in Korea through our digital content, and we will do the same for other countries.
9. How have you attracted users and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
From the early days and till now, we have been focusing on attracting customers via content. Quality content is always what people seek for.
We have developed our content into many types. We started from text-based content. Now we are creating animation-based videos and webcomics as well. Also, in the past, we have been focusing on creating informative content. Now, we are expanding to creating content with stories that pet parents can empathize.
10. What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
One of the wrong beliefs would be believing that marketing efficiency has a linear relationship with capital injected. We believe marketing efficiency is based on the product quality & pre-owned userbase that are willing to support the product as an early user.
11. How do you plan to expand globally?
In terms of our global expansion strategy, we would execute the same strategy we have done in Korea but with the understanding of global users’ needs. Also, for global expansion, we are willing to partner with local companies in the targeted countries.
12. How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Working remotely has been our companies policy prior to COVID-19 outbreak. We had let our employees to work remotely once a week. Therefore, we were relatively used to remote meetings and working standards. Given COVID-19 outbreak, people at our company have become more used to this working environment.
In terms of business, our merchandising & commerce unit got affected as we were manufacturing from factories based in China. There was a constant delay in manufacturing due to factory shutdowns. We have overcome such situations by flexibly adjusting purchasing & selling plans.
13. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? and What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
The best advice is ‘Just start it. You will figure it out.’ When I told other people about doing this business, many people said it would be so difficult, the market would be too competitive and so on. There were only three people who agreed with me, my husband, co-founder and the VC who is our investor now. I would say do not get frustrated by what people say unless you identify in the market-facing customers.
14. What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
I would say the book ‘Justice’. It taught me how to connect liberalism and communitarianism and made me to think of my own criteria when I decide so many things in my life and what I desire.
I enjoy watching TV series such as Extracurricular on Netflix, the movie Parasite and Big short. I guess I like the movies showing the real-life that people would not want to face and define the dark side of our life.
15. How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Life is never easy for anybody. I am not the only one who struggle to survive. We all live once, so I would like to do my best for every single second doing what I want and being responsible for my decisions. Also, our customers send kind and lovely words to us hoping to cheer us up. That makes my day and motivate me.
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