Philobiz, the startup that runs the first of its kind in Asia platform – Socialerus.com, a YouTube big data Ranking and Media Tech Platform for creators/MCN/Advertiser/Provider, had a tough beginning. But the founder of Philobiz, Hyo Wook (Justin) Yang, did not want to give up on his dream to run a successful company. So despite hurdles, setbacks and funding deficiencies, Yang worked hard to make Socialerus.com a leading big data platform helping creators and advertisers in South Korea.
Hyo Wook Yang spoke to koreatechdesk.com about the difficulties the company faced and how they overcame obstacles to run a steady and successful venture.
1. Can you share information on your personal background and what you are working on?
I have been working in the IT industry for the last 20 years. I worked with a web agency where I developed a lot of websites since 1997. This experience helped me to make good platforms for other people but not for me. I wanted to start my own business and 5 years ago I started as a web agency. I was looking for a long-term business and for the last 2 years I have been focusing on Socialerus.com, which is my main business now.
2. What motivated you to start on your own? How did your career choice lead you to where you are now?
The first time I had no specific items. I just started a web agency and made a good revenue, about $700K per year. Though I was still developing platforms for other people. I focused on 2 or 3 things. The first was to find out what is the trendiest business, I found YouTube to be one. Second, I wanted to develop my own skills, so I chose machine learning technologies. For the last 15 years, I was a developer and project manager, so it wasn’t difficult for me as I have a background in machine learning. I started a business like YouTube and machine learning. YouTube’s big data ranking and analyzing and matching advertising was my main business model. I also published a book in 2017 called Machine Learning Business which helped me in developing Socialerus.
3. How did your co-founders and founders come together?
When I started this business 5 years ago many YouTubers and creators got interested. One of the YouTubers joined my team. Also, commerce and advertising majors got interested in my company and now I have some working for me.
4. How have you grown your company? Was it tough initially?
Actually, it is still tough! Earlier, many people asked me how did I get the data, they wondered if I would be an agency. Now people love the business. I am the first one in Asia while the US has some competitors. In fact, several companies now visit my website and check it out. Some companies in Korea are even using the same sentences! However, I think it’s very interesting for my service. The personal problem is that for the first two years I could make no revenue on Socialerus because I needed to make a stable system, collect more data; it was a tough time.
5. What’s your business model? How have you grown the revenue?
In the last 2 years, I made a very stable system and have huge data now. So now I can do what I want. I just started the advertising matching system so many agencies, advertisers and creators come to my website now. I wrote the English version of my website for Japan, Vietnam and some major countries in Asia. Two years ago, one company in Indonesia wanted to join Socialerus and they asked me to provide the platform; they would raise the money and share the profit. My model is providing an analysis report, advertising matching solution of Youtube big data. I have recently made some profit. I can produce a platform as a partner and overseas companies can join us. They can do marketing locally and I provide my platform. However, this has just started.
6. What are the biggest challenges you are facing?
The biggest problem is money. For two years I paid Microsoft $120k for the platform which is big money for a startup. Today, I am the No. 1 big data company in Korea and there are only a few small competitors now who have just started collecting data. The second problem is the marketing strategy.
7. How much money have you raised so far?
In the last 5 years, I made a revenue of $3 million. Last year I got a pre-investment of $350k. They have 6.2% of the total while I still retain 81% of shares. The post-value of the company is $5 million. The Angel Investment is about $350K. It is a tough process raising funds.
8. How do you plan to raise funds differently now?
Last year there was no revenue for Socialerus, so they only saw some possibility. Slowly, I made some money from advertising matching and selling data. The next round must be higher value. I have to prove KPI revenue growth, so all my focus is on how I can make KPI data. I am focusing on the numbers and revenue, but I believe I can prove the number and myself to the investors.
9. What’s your goal for future fundraising? What are the goals?
Hopefully, by the end of this year, I will provide figures on the number of users who have joined, and how many cases have I provided from advertising matching.
10. You have run a company for many years. What’s the most important thing for running a company?
Money! Most startups talk about investors and partners, but I don’t believe that. I made $3 million in revenue in the last 5 years, but I am still hungry! I am trying desperately for money in the last three years. If you are a startup you must have your own proper model and earn the money for the first time. So my focus is on revenue generation.