[Startup Nomad] Challenging to Be The Next Generation Smart TV Media Platform, BrilliantTS

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Startup Nomad 2013 is a three month long global accelerator program organized by The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and The National IT Industry Promotion Agency, and hosted by VentureSquare in collaboration with Plug&Play.
The Startup Nomad teams plan to leave in early November for Silicon Valley to participate in an acceleration program at Plug&Play Tech Center. Each team will undergo intensive mentoring and coaching to equip them with the tools to enter the global market. There will also be an opportunity to showcase the startup to local investors in the USA, and upon return to Korea, a Demo Day will be held on Dec 11th.
VentureSquare has taken this opportunity to hear about the global strategy and the expectations of each team waiting aboard on ‘Startup Nomad’ global accelerator program in Silicon Valley.

Other people might just retire and enjoy the rest of their life, but he didn’t want to do so. He answered it’s because of his ‘venture DNA’

Jae Hun Bae, The founder of BrilliantTS, has already experienced an IPO with his first start-up. He wanted to have more challenges with his other start-up ‘BrilliantTS’ even though he successfully exited his former company. The business item is the smart TV which only large and global corporations are trying to deal with. I wondered why he is taking on such a risky challenge.

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He never thought of this as a painful time when he rested his tired body on a small convertible bed, but rather a time that he should go back and start again as if he had nostalgia for the past.

It was a nice day for an interview in October. I asked him why he applied to Global Nomad program by the time he had run his start-up for 1.5 years. He said “I just wanted to get my business model’s potential appraised in the US where the largest media market is present since smart TV is a pure global product.”

BrilliantTS is approaching the smart TV market, where large corporations such as Apple, Google, Samsung, LG and Sony have never achieved a substantial success, with a new perspective. Mr. Bae said that the current smart TV is making consumers uncomfortable. Now I wonder again, how in the world he will be able to make them comfortable.

I heard that you successfully executed an IPO before BrilliantTS.

I have experiences of working with the CEO, Mr. Ahn then, as a CTO of Crucialtec which is a mobile flash solution developer, and led OTP development and relevant marketing activities. It was hard from the start. At that time, people started paying attention to optical communications technology, but all of sudden the bubble burst in the US. Many ventures were sold at billions of dollars even though they had no explicit revenue source or core technologies, and this was added to the oversupply of start-ups into the market, leading into the bubble burst- the result was that about 80% of start-ups went bankrupt.

What I think is great about Mr. Ahn is that he set the new direction to catch the potential in the mobile market in 2005 when people didn’t even know about the ‘smart phone’. He saw that mobile phones would evolve like PCs in the future when there were only feature phones and camera phones started being released in the market. Since Crucialtec owned substantial relevant technologies based on optical communications, we were able to succeed in the mobile market.

The revenue of Crucialtec was USD 5M in 2007, and grew up to USD 60M, breaking the record every year. In 2010, we broke through USD 100M, making it to USD 230M, of which was from overseas business as we successfully carried out our global business.

Since you made a big hit, why didn’t you just maintain your business in a more stable way rather than taking on another challenge?

I sometimes consider myself crazy. I guess it’s in my DNA. This might sound weird, but I thought that I wanted to do something new as the company stably grew up. For example, it was not a problem that I used stay overnight in the office if I wanted to, but if I do so now, many people cannot go home after work because of my presence in the office. If the company has the revenue of more than USD 200M, it is rather a mid-sized company than a venture, I felt that it is absolutely different between what you can do in a venture and a mid-sized company.

When I announced to the people around me that I would go into a new challenge like what I’d been through, they tried to stop me, asking why I wanted to go through such hardships again. I, however, missed so much of the passion I had when I almost lived in a small office with a small bed where I worked, ate and slept. I’ve never had such a happy time that even though I worked hard, my company grew up and I was able to hire more people.

Assuming there are 4 people per household, I was feeding thousands of people and making a big contribution to the community, and this made me feel so proud of myself. So I started BrilliantTS to feed not thousands but tens of thousand and more.

You are making a smart TV while developing a media platform simultaneously. Do you have any reason that you develop not only hardware but also software?

In fact, the original target was to develop the media platform, but in order to do so, it was best to develop the hardware first on which the platform could be loaded.

Our slogan is “Let’s understand the world through hardware and change it through a media platform”. Since we finished developing smart TV now, our next goal is to develop the platform, and without our sufficient experience on the hardware, we would not be able to jump onto the next stage.

When I first talked about my plan of making smart TVs on my own, friends and investors all disagreed. They said it was too hard for a start-up because large corporations already entered into this business. I argued that I had to confront them face to face by making hardware in order to launch the platform business, and as I tried really hard to prove what I said, I think I’m reaping a meaningful result now.

BrilliantTS was incorporated in April 2012, and we were able to develop smart TV in 6 months, whereas people say that it normally takes a year and a half. We released the first product in January this year, and now our products are being sold in ET Land and Lotte Department Store.

How did you tap into this large distribution channel even with the handicap of being a small venture?

Different from what people think, I actually didn’t know anyone regarding the distribution channel because I worked on the smart phone module, so I only had a B2B network. I made up for this by pitching the product to customers one by one myself. It was not easy but necessary since we needed scalability to build up the media platform.

It’s been kind of long since the debut of smart TVs, but people are not using them so much. With this situation, what change do you want to make out of this?

People talked about N screen a couple of years ago, but now it vanished. This was supposed to be related to the trend that 96.6% of all the smart TV users still watch the same broadcast as before. The revenue from application by Samsung smart TV is negligible.

The first reason is that companies insist that consumers use the equal UI and UX as the one they used in mobile or PC. People are not simply consuming contents on smart TV as they do on smart phones by typing keywords to search something. They just want to watch TV while lying on sofa at home. So we are trying to build a platform like a channel in which consumers can see our curated content constantly without doing anything.

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For example, you can always see MLB games on channel 5 and hot music with music videos on channel 7. The key is how to make consumers connected with infinite contents from the internet via well-organized curation.

I want to hear about the goal that you want to reach through this program and the future plan of BrilliantTS.

It is a must that we research on customized contents suited for local markets to make a successful global business for our media platform. We are already talking with a few companies, and through this opportunity we want to reach out to more potential partners. In addition to this, I’m thinking about how to make synergies with other Global Nomad teams by networking.

BrilliantTS’ goal for this year is reached somehow by making and distributing our smart TVs in the market. Now is the time to develop the media platform. We will get invested for this purpose, and started reaching out to them. If we can see good investment opportunities in Silicon Valley, this will be a good point for our global business.

I want to contribute to making a world where people can constantly see new content tailored to themselves.

From one point of view, this case is rather close to senior entrepreneurship, is there anything you want to share with young entrepreneurs?

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It might be different if I didn’t start my second company, but I think I need to be careful since we are all pursuing our dreams, no matter how old you are. If I still have to say something for them, I’d say that you should have an ambitious dream. If the dream is too small and you encounter a difficulty, you can hardly see your dream in such a situation. But if the dream is big, no matter how big is your hardship, you can still see your dream that is bigger than the hardship and gain power to proceed.

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