HONG KONG -- Market Kurly founder and CEO Sophie Kim shared crucial fundraising secrets with The Investor on the sidelines of the RISE tech conference July 11.
In May 2019, the grocery platform startup landed a 35 billion won ($29.74 million) investment from China-based Hillhouse Capital in its series D round. Altogether, the total amount raised from the D round stands at 135 billion won.
Market Kurly founder and CEO Sophie Kim
“It’s simple -- if the numbers are there, then the investors will want to finance the business,” Kim told The Investor. She added that when she gives out this advice to other entrepreneurs, they all ask her to share the real deal. “It really is the big secret behind all the funding,” Kim said.
She also stressed that it’s important to establish a good relationship with investors before getting to the first round.
“I don’t socialize too much with my investors, but I do spend more than half a year communicating with them to feel them out,” said the 37-year-old former investment banker, likening the process to getting to know your future spouse.
“If we were looking to get some quick funds, then our strategy would have been different. But that’s not what we are looking for. For long-term relationships, you have to share the same vision and strategy,” Kim said.
When asked how Market Kurly chooses its investors and vice versa, the executive said it’s important to find investors who understand the life cycle of the business and the overall startup ecosystem. “Including Hillhouse, most of our investors are also VC startups. Some of their CEOs have experience starting their own business, so it helps them understand what we are trying to do.”
One major driving force for Kim that motivates her to relentlessly pursue innovation -- on less than five hours of sleep every night -- is customer satisfaction.
“Unlike employees, whose motivation could be a wage raise or a promotion, founders are inspired by other things,” she said. “I have never raised my own wages since I started Market Kurly, because that’s not what keeps me going. It’s more about seeing our customers satisfied, and keeping our suppliers happy and fulfilled.”
Of all the long-term goals that Kim’s company is exploring, she emphasized that it would never compromise its customers. “We want to choose the option that can maintain our service as it is. If we can’t provide the same kind of value we are offering right now even after dozens of M&As, then that would not be right.”
In light of the social controversy over the welfare of delivery workers, Kim said Market Kurly’s delivery people are the ones who make the platform’s early-morning delivery service possible. “We would never push them to deliver more than they can, and we make sure that our delivery staff only work eight hours a day.”
Market Kurly pioneered the idea of delivering groceries in the early hours of the day so that consumers can start their day with everything they need.
“Not a lot of people know this, but in our early days, I worked at the logistics center, and I have a license to drive a 1-ton truck,” Kim said. “So I understand how exhausted you can get after working so hard physically for eight hours. It’s totally different from working in the office. So we try to pay them well and work hard to create a pleasant working environment at the logistics center.”
Established in 2015, Market Kurly offers a wide range of groceries and merchandise for delivery by 7 a.m., as long as the orders are placed before 11 p.m. the previous night. The startup’s sales reached more than 157.1 billion won last year, increasing drastically from 46.5 billion in 2017.
By Song Seung-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)