Naver, Korea’s largest web portal, is known for its corporate culture where employees are encouraged to try new ideas and potentially develop them into actual businesses. Kim Joon-Ku, now the CEO of Naver Webtoon, shares his own story.
“When your hobby becomes your career, you will always stay motivated. Think of founding a company as one of the ways to pursue what you love to do,” Kim said.
Kim spoke at an event held by early stage VC, Spring Camp and co-working space, Peach Tree in Seoul.
These days, more and more young people wish they can someday develop their hobbies into lifelong work by diving into them and becoming true experts in the corresponding field.
Kim encouraged the audiences to pursue their passion. His own entrepreneurial journey developed out of his persistent pursuit of his passion for reading comic books.
He pointed out that the best thing about having your hobby or interest as an actual career is that you always have an incentive to do better. “Only when we are providing services or making products we truly believe in, can they result in perfect quality. When doing business for the sake of business, this is not possible.”
He also advised that “founding a company and becoming its CEO, in and of itself, should never be the purpose of your business. Rather, your goal should be doing what you love. In this context, it is always better for you to just focus on realizing the introduction of the service or product that you believe will help or entertain people, much more than being too obsessed with succeeding your business with high revenue etc.”
In fact, joining Naver wasn’t part of his plans at first. His goal was to apply for positions where he could turn his interests into a career. At that time, there was a rumor that Naver would potentially invest in online comics and cartoons. That was enough for Kim, and he applied to Naver even when the team was not yet established.
Fortunately, Naver is a company that provides opportunities to people who are passionate about something. For him, proposing his business ideas for online comics inside of the Naver ecosystem and developing those ideas to the next level with other co-workers was similar to running a startup.
Kim said, “A lot of people asked me to start a business with them, however, I never really thought of founding a startup outside of Naver. This is because there is a huge difference in terms of how big the company can become when one individual starts the company with few resources and when one launches it inside an already-established company like Naver. Especially, when you want the business to scale or expand to global markets, you need a great deal of resources and personnel.”
Kim also said, “I aim to create a character in which the creator’s philosophy is portrayed just like Disney characters and The Simpsons. Making the best use of a company’s resources, this, I believe, is not a far-fetched dream.”
It seems that Naver’s corporate culture played an important role in realizing his dream. In Naver, if employees have an idea for a new business, they can gather a small group of people and form a ‘cell’, the name for a unit of team in Naver. Mr. Kim is the best example of having taken advantage of this opportunity. He started by proposing the idea of turning cartoons and comics into Naver’s new business. Afterwards, not only did this idea turn into a significantly-sized department, Naver Webtoon eventually spun off to become an independent company. Naver Webtoon is the first spin-off case ever in Naver’s history.
This is how Naver works. They encourage all employees to try new things using the resources and personnel the are at their disposal. They implemented a ‘Responsible Budget System,’ which enables the autonomous operation of the budget according to the needs and wants of each team, and allows for the expansion of a variety of in-house showcases where employees voluntarily present new ideas.
(Top photo from Baidu Images.)
This article, entitled “Meet Kim Joon-Ku, new CEO of the cartoon arm of South Korea’s Naver”, was written in Korean by Kim Min-jung of Platum, edited by AllTechAsia.