[THE INVESTOR] Korean weight-loss solutions provider Dano -- short for Diet Note -- is hoping to step outside the country with high-end diet products that have international appeal.
Dano is strictly against weight-loss drugs or supplements. Instead, it sells products that look exactly like ordinary food such as cereal, soymilk and yogurt. They are, however, made following four strict rules: low sugar, low sodium, low spice and less processing.
Dano CEO Lee Ji-soo
According to Dano CEO Lee Ji-soo, the company plans to enter overseas markets via its online platform Dano Shop. The next step would be to launch its paid-fitness coaching service app My Dano.
“We are mainly thinking of Hong Kong and Taiwan as our first target markets. Next, we will look at Singapore,” Lee said in a recent interview with The Investor.
K-beauty is popular in these regions and there are many potential customers who are curious about what Koreans eat to stay fit. “When I looked at these markets, I found out that most weight-loss solutions there are short-term and not very healthy. So I believe we have a good chance,” she noted.
Dano is currently test selling through existing open market platforms such as Amazon.
Lee is also hoping to secure additional funding from investors. “We are not in hurry, but we do understand that funding is crucial in order for us to try new things,” he said.
The company secured 2.2 billion won (US$1.96 million) funds in 2015 from investors including GS Home Shopping, Aju IB Investment, Smilegate and 500 Startups, and currently expects to receive around 3.8 billion won funds from investors by end-August, when its additional funding process ends.
Although there are many companies that seem to have a similar business model related to weight-loss programs, Dano is unique in several ways.
One of the main differences is that it was born from the CEO’s personal experience. Lee first started her business as a student at Yonsei University with her classmate, co- CEO Chung Bum-yoon. At the beginning, they were considering a social network service business model, but were not successful.
“I had lost a lot of weight and had so much I wanted to share,” Lee said. “In the end, we decided to change our business model.”
Women became Dano’s main target after the CEO discovered that the majority of fitness contents are written targeting males.
In 2013, the two partners started an eponymous smartphone app Dano which provides magazine article-like contents that can be helpful to anyone who is hoping to lose weight for free. Currently, more than 1.5 million users have downloaded the app.
In 2016, the company also expanded through new online services that can help boost its existing service, such as Dano Shop and My Dano. “My Dano is like a school, and Dano Shop is like a stationery store where you can buy the items needed for the lessons,” Lee said.
Dano’s biggest upside is that it’s all about changing habits and helping to instill a healthier mentality. “For us, it’s not just about losing 10kg, fast, but about having a healthier lifestyle.”
The vision is great, but not very easy to sell to people who want quick results. Dano then turned to social media, with Lee telling her own story on YouTube to eventually become an influencer. Her Youtube channel Dano TV currently has more than 388,000 subscribers and her Instagram account also has more than 136,000 followers.
When asked about the company’s long-term goal, Lee introduced Dano’s mission phrase: “To change the entire global citizen’s habit (to stay fit).”
“Although it might sound too idealistic, we try not to set our goals based on sales. We want to focus more on values that we can provide our customers.”
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com)