“Computer only when I was young
If the games were on, my life would be different.”
Kim Bong-soo, the richest person in South Korea, said this with a laugh. In South Korea, which is dominated by large family-owned businesses (Chaebol), it is a surprise that Kim Bong-soo, a solo entrepreneur, came to the top.
Kim Bon-soo’s family is poor. Both of his parents were educated only up to the primary level. His father is a pen factory worker. His mother is a hotel cleaner. They live in the slums of Seoul. A family of 8 lives in a small house with only one bedroom. When their parents go to work, their grandmother takes care of their 5 brothers and sisters.
Because her parents were poor, Kim Bon-su had to find her own money to go to school. I earn money by tutoring. It is no longer unusual for him to go to bed without eating anything because he has no money. While trying and struggling, I graduated from Seoul National University with a BSc degree in engineering. I was able to get an MSc degree.
After finishing school, I started working in the IT services department of Samsung company as an online communication service. After 5 years, he quit his job to open an internet cafe. He started Hangame in 1998 with $184,000 raised from family and friends. Hangame is South Korea’s first online gaming portal.
“In the early days of starting my own business, both as a businessman and As a programmer, I work day and night. I cried when I went to the hot shower at dawn. I’m proud to be able to start my own business, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay my employees.”
Going to the hot bath at dawn has become a habit for Kim Bong-soo. Sometimes I spend 1 hour thinking of new ideas. In 2005, he moved to Silicon Valley to establish a foothold in the United States, and in 2006, he founded IWILAB (later Kakao).
When Apple’s first iPhone dominated the world market, he got the idea to create smartphone apps and resigned as co-CEO of NHN Entertainment Corporation in 2007.
”A ship is safest if it is anchored in the harbor. But the ship was not created to anchor.” This is what he wrote in his resignation letter. It’s an announcement that the venture steps have begun.
In 2010, he started KakaoTalk. KakaoTalk is the most popular messaging app in South Korea, installed by 90 percent of smartphone users. Even though he became a billionaire thanks to the success of KakaoTalk, Kim Bomsu didn’t stop there. In 2015, he entrusted a young man named Jimmy Lin as the CEO of Kakao Corporation and continued to implement his goal of establishing 100 technology start-ups.
He invests in startups through 2 venture capital firms. According to Forbes magazine’s calculations, Kim Bong-soo has a net worth of US$9.6 billion, making him the richest person in South Korea.
“My parents can’t take the time to take care of our two siblings. So we have to make our own way. Because of the situation where there is a lot of personal freedom, it also leads to the perception that you have to take responsibility for yourself,” Kim Boong-su recounts the past. He died rich and could send his children to a good school. But he doesn’t seem to like the current education system.
”The current education system only focuses on university entrance exams. There is no free thinking and creativity. Many people limit themselves within the frame. For the next generation, we need to think outside the box,” he said.