[THE INVESTOR] “Startup Stories’ Platform.” That's the tagline of Platum, one of Korea's first media outlets focusing purely on the rise and fall of startups and venture companies.
Platum itself is a startup, born from the determination of a couple of men who wanted to shed more light on a sector they thought was gravely underrepresented. Sticking to that initiative, Platum has grown exponentially since its inception in 2012. In addition to doubling its staff to deeply penetrating the local startup scene, the firm runs a separate market analyzing team that provides rare investment data on startups, from how much investment they have received to what’s trending.
Insight on China -- from startups to investors -- is another pillar of Platum. Recently, the firm entered into a partnership with All Tech Asia, a China-based media outlet which also focuses on venture companies, and is using the platform to introduce Korean tech startups to the world.
CEO Jo Sang-rae, who’s also the co-founder of Platum, takes time to personally write stories about the Chinese startup scene, and the firm regularly produces reports on marketing data and investment trends about both Chinese and Korean startups.
In a recent interview with The Investor, Jo said he believes Platum has come so far because it was willing to really listen to what was happening in the markets.
“We focused on what matters the most, and for startups, it’s all about whether or not they can make it in the first three years of their birth. To do that, they need to know how the system works.”
The following are excerpts from the interview with Jo.
The Investor: You’re a pioneer media covering startups. Why did you create Platum?
Jo: We felt startups needed to have a story to tell. Most startups die before three years of establishment. To prevent this, they need to have an outlet to tell their stories, and need to be a part of the database. There was also literally almost no compiled data on venture companies, so we wanted to create such a cache.
TI: How did you finance Platum in the early years?
Jo: For about two years, we mostly depended on government funding. At the same time, we knew we couldn’t rely on it forever, so we built a Chinese network, based on my personal connections and knowledge. In 2014, we were able to get exposure on top Korean search engines like Daum and Naver.
TI: As an expert on Korean startups, how do you assess the current situation? Is the market saturated, or is there room for more growth? Maybe there is a bubble forming?
Jo: In the beginning, we were just “observers.” We didn’t want to make snap judgements, and we didn’t want to speak anything bad about fledgling companies. Then, the market began to mature and slowly but steadily, it adopted some of the vices marring the bigger companies. But I think right now, even that has passed, and the industry has gained a sort of self-cleansing ability.
TI: In your view, who or what sector will the next great startup be?
Jo: I can’t say which company, but I can definitely say it won’t be about ideas anymore. In the past, someone with a great idea could be successful. But now, especially since last year, the technology to support that idea is a must. In the age of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and mind research, technology is a must in order to succeed as a startup.
TI: What kind of homework do you think Korean startups, or rather, a startup of any nationality, should tackle?
Jo: They need to think about being “user-friendly.” Some of the ideas that these startups come up with border on the ridiculous. People are interested in new technology, but unless it really makes sense and makes their life easier, they won’t catch on.
TI: Let’s talk about your “Chinese connection.” How did you get started, and what’s the extent of it?
Jo: We first started out small, doing tours to China for Korean startups or investors, and vice versa for companies and investors from there. But soon, we saw that the people wanted more. They wanted to learn more about each other, and we wanted to fill that gap. We also wanted people to get accurate and up-to-date information before making business decisions. We knew the possibilities are still abundant in China. It’s still new, it still wants to do new things, and new paradigms are being built. We saw the opportunities.
TI: What are your future plans?
Jo: Hopefully, I won’t sound arrogant. But I do think Platum has come a long way (The Investor agrees, since whenever we go for interviews with startups or talk with the government, the name Platum comes up). We have more people working for us, and are well known in the startup scene. In China, we are also fast gaining a reputation.
So the next step for us will be branding. We want to be more than just a media outlet or a consultancy. We want to brand Platum as a platform, a standard for companies, investors and issues related to startups in Korea and China. We also are moving into other markets, such as India, and we want to continue our role in promoting Korean startups there to, cliché as it may sound, create a breathing and moving ecosystem.
By Jemmie Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Editor-in-Chief of The Investor