For Korean startup SG Entertainment COO Thomas Summer, his passion for new and more humane things has become his business’s interest. Alongside co-founder Joon-Hae Spielmann, who has 20 years of experience in the music industry, the duo has created a comprehensive training program for K-Pop artists to market them to western markets. SG Entertainment is the first of its kind music and video label startup combining an academy and a production studio. It is the only entertainment company using a French-Korean pedagogic approach.
In 2018, K-Pop markets export was $ 550 million, which has increased with the success of BTS, Black Pink, among others. Thomas believes that understanding the western creative mindset and the intrinsic factors that influence success in the western markets will lead to more tremendous success for K-Pop artists. Amidst the Corona Virus pandemic, Thomas sees a great opportunity in online concerts (“ontech”) a fan meets until offline shows pick up again.
Thomas Summer talked to koreatechdesk.com about their comprehensive training for K-Pop artists at SG Entertainment, his aspiration for the K-Pop market, and how their new trainees will take the world by storm.
1. Please tell me about your background and what motivated you to get started with your company?
My background is working in early-stage startups. Although most of my career I was in technology, I felt that this project could bring a different, more human side on top of the excitement of building something new.
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 the comprehensive training of K-Pop artists or “idols” aimed at the Western markets. Our pedagogy instills the qualities required for the Western creative mindset to help the artists communicate with their fans and develop and foster that relationship in the long term for more sustainable success and profitability.
3. What is the market opportunity for your startup?
The K-Pop market’s export value was over $ 550 million in 2018. This figure has increased since then with the success of, among others, BTS and BlackPink. We believe that to be consistently sustainable in Western markets, K-pop producers need to understand the intrinsic factors of success in these markets, namely the need of fans to establish close and evolving relationships with the artists.
4. What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Right now, we are incubating artists to debut them (launching them) in the second half of 2021. Up to and after debut, the business model includes the following activities: album sales, concert sales, and fan meets, merchandising, advertising, and licensing.
5. Please tell me more about your founding team.
My co-founder Joon-Hae Spielmann has been working in the music and entertainment industry for close to 20 years and has ample experience as a producer, a composer, and an artist himself. I have known him for 25 years since we were in middle school together.
6. How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
We have raised 600 million won or about $538k, with the latest funding round mounting up to 400 million won or about $ 358k.
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?
The challenge is to explain to Korean investors how vital creativity is to the West’s entertainment industry and how sensitive fans are to the artists’ authenticity.
8. What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Our goal is to raise sufficient funds to expand our production capacities to an industrial production level to meet our KPIs in content creation and monetization goals.
9. How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Until now, we have started to showcase our artists in training (“trainees”) with various content pieces, both cover and original, to demonstrate their talent and their evolution.
10. What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Being too much in love with their idea and not listening to market feedback (early) enough.
11. How do you plan to expand globally?
We plan to open an agency in Europe one year from now to help with the export of our products and develop our B2B activities between Europe and Asia.
12. How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
We plan to participate in and organize online concerts (“ontech”) and fan meets until the situation improves. However, we understand that the need for socialization is very strong with all populations and that offline concerts will pick up again once the situation is under control.
13. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Understanding markets means understanding needs. Individuals buying or consuming your product, so understanding their needs and how these needs evolve is fundamental.
14. What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
I recommend people to learn from their own experiences rather than from books or movies. However, one easy-to-watch film with a lot of wisdom to draw from is Kung Fu Panda ☺
15. How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Every day, every morning, we have a choice in all aspects of our lives (personal and professional). Do we keep going, even though many things are going against us, or do we give up? This choice determines who we are as individuals.
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[🎬] CL – ‘LIFTED’ Dance Cover
(Yelin, Jiyeon, Jiyun, Chaeyeon, Aiganym, Yuri, Hanna)
— SG Entertainment (@SG___Official) November 7, 2020
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