Every two weeks, we feature one of our outstanding Buzzvillians on our blog. Get to know us, hear our stories, and find out how we came to be part of this dream team!
John Gwanwoo Lee, CEO & Co-founder
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Ever since I was young, I was deeply interested in making new things, so my childhood hobby was to bring home thrown-away monitors and remote control cars to disassemble. In the fifth grade of elementary school, I received a presidential award for my idea of a door lock device, and with the scholarship I received, I commercialized the product in Korea and Japan. In order to earnestly learn how to start my own company, I entered the business school at Seoul National University, but became frustrated with the curriculum, which was far from cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit. I hovered around the college of engineering instead, and in my first year in university, I jumped into a startup opportunity. With a friend from a student club, I established a mobile code solution business called Insight and Company, followed by a copyright management solution business called Postwing, then a social commerce business specializing in restaurants called Dailypick, which was acquired by Ticketmonster where I served as COO. Because most of the startups I founded were acquired within the timeframe of 4 months to 2 years by companies such as NHN or Ticketmonster, SoftBank Ventures Korea’s VP Dong-seok Kang nicknamed me “Single Hitter” (or “Slap Hitter”). Now, I’m focusing on scoring a long hit in the global market. I’m a real Busan guy, dreaming of changing the world with my ideas and running forward with a determination to embrace the Pacific.
After successfully wrapping up with Dailypick, I was invited by SNU professor Bae In-Tak to lecture for a course called “Entrepreneurship and Economy,” which I had registered for as a student just the previous semester. In this lecture, I saw the familiar face of Young-ho Lee, who was my junior by one year at SNU and is now co-CEO at Buzzvil. Young was working on a startup idea and asked me for advice, and as we continued to brainstorm ideas, we naturally came to found Buzzvil together. Young has the ability to gradually draw you in, so I sometimes refer to him as a “swamp.”
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO?
In the fourth grade, I read a novel titled “The Mugunghwa (Hibiscus) Has Bloomed” and was impressed by the character of a nuclear physicist named Dr. Lee Hwi-So. I then resolved to become a physicist myself and change the world with my ideas. By opportunities of chance, my inventions led to startups and I came to believe that through startups, you’re able to change the world much more quickly than you might have imagined. In this way, through several startups, my ideas have been made into reality and I’m appreciating the process of changing the world in this way. I believe that being an entrepreneur is like being part of a composite art on a canvas, and as such, I am responsible for the work of constantly painting a mural so that all the members working together can look and run towards one united vision. I feel happiest when I’m brainstorming with my teammates over a few beers on a Friday night, and I enjoy working my brain until it feels like jelly.
OFFICE HOT SPOT
Ping-pong room. 7 years ago, our team of 3 received a housing redevelopment crawling with cockroaches, free of charge, and we founded the company, Postwing. At that time, we invested a small fortune of ₩250,000 (approx. $244 USD) to purchase a ping-pong table. It was donated to a friend’s venture company, and two venture companies later, the ping-pong table was returned to me after I founded Buzzvil. It’s a ping-pong table that holds many startup stories. In our previous office in Yeoksam, as our team grew and we began to run out of space, there came a point where we had to give up either our meeting room or our ping-pong room. We boldly gave up our meeting room and by having our ping-pong table serve doubly as a conference table, we defended our ping-pong table to the end. My attachment to our ping-pong table is to the extent that even when moving to our current office near Seokchon Lake, we designed our conference room to fit the measurements of our ping-pong table. This ping-pong table is here to stay for as long as Buzzvil is in existence.
YOUR “IMPOSSIBLE” DREAM
My “impossible” dream is “to change the world with my ideas” and I am realizing this dream through startup opportunities. Ultimately, I want to create a social enterprise that connects and offers dreams to a population of 7 billion.
MOTTO TO LIVE BY
Dream the impossible. Pursue the impossible love. Fight the unbeatable enemy. Resist the unbearable pain. Catch the uncatchable star in the sky.
- #People & Culture