Facebook, Twitter and Cyworld may be the hottest kids in social media when it comes to the Internet in Korea. But when it comes to social media on smartphones, Kakao Talk ranks on top of the list.
A mobile messenger app downloadable on the iPhone and Android-powered smartphones, Kakao Talk enables text messaging as well as sharing photos, files and links while accessing other mobile apps. The number of Kakao Talk users went over the 10 million mark merely a few weeks after its launch in March this year. So what are the secrets behind Kakao Talk’s success?
Securing an early lead in the industry is one of them. After graduating from college, Jaebeom Lee created an internet startup company, which he ran for 3 years but unfortunately didn’t make much progress. In 2006, he got a call from Beomsu Kim, a former CEO of NHN, Korea’s leading Web portal. Kim has recently left the company and was seeking a new venture and he thought Jaebeom, a fellow Seoul National University alumnus, was fit enough to take on the position of CEO for a new startup.
Back then, there were only 4 people working for the company: Jaebeom, Beomsu, a developer and a business administrator. They worked on a few internet services but wasn’t able to break into the Korean Web market, which was already dominated by giants like Google, Facebook and NHN. In 2009, Jaebeom and his investor decided that the company shouldn’t waste resources, having realized that a mobile strategy would make a perfect and efficient business model with the availability of resources like mobile phones and networks.
Jaebeom was determined to see communications become the biggest market in the smartphone era, as the realm of Search blossomed in the Internet age. This paved the way for the launch of Kakao Talk.
The local mobile messenger app is now used by people in 216 different countries worldwide, with about 9 million Korean and 1 million overseas users. What’s interesting is that a portion of its users come from the Middle East, where the app is not available in the local language as it is a region not populated by Koreans! This just shows that Kakao Talk’s potential of penetrating overseas markets ensure a high success rate. In the words of Beomsu, “A venture would only lag behind in this market if it is not globally competitive.”
Although Kakao is only a startup, Jaebeom believes that Kakao will meet global companies like Facebook and Twitter down the road. “This is not a dream but a challenge,” he says.