In Korea, it is recognized as the history to talk about the success story of Mun-Soo Kim’s innovational challenge in the education market. In the early 2000s, all Korean secondary school students once chose his book, or even considered the choice. When he was a 4th grade student of Seoul National University, he established the first company ‘ETOOS’ to come true his dream ‘making a reference book like a personal tutor’ with two friends. In one year, the groundbreaking book called ‘Nude Textbook’ sold a million copies and Kim became a recognized entrepreneur in the education industry. Since then, he led the ongoing growth even to the online education market. In 2011, he launched his second company ‘SMATOOS’ specialized in language education with developing the mobile app ‘BeNative’ to target the global market.
Through the success in the conservative offline education market as a university student and expanded to the online education market as a pioneer, Kim has proved that he is an entrepreneur seeking innovation. He said even though the education market is not easy to keep challenging, he has always fun with learning, teaching -‘education’ itself. Those innovative ideas never come out just overnight. He tries to think from the position of a learner not a teacher. He says this is the know-how in the education business field.
So, now he is more proactively running business in the education industry not only for high school students but also adults. He made the ‘Nude Textbook’ because he hoped to have friendlier and easier reference books and started ‘BeNative’ while studied business English by himself. The new business for language education expanded to China by cooperation with Chinese education corporations. He said it was struggling at the beginning due to the shortage of knowledge about China.
As one of the first students of the CKGSB’s Korean EMBA (CKGSB EMBA on China Business: A program for Korean Leaders), he said he could learn the basic of Chinese economy structure and get lots of help from the lectures and case studies for managing the company in a new environment.
Company logo of ‘SMATOOS’ (left) and its brand ‘BeNative’ (right)
Mun-Soo Kim, CEO of SMATOOS, student of the CKGSB Korean EMBA
The following contains edited excerpts of the interview :
Q. SMATOOS and BeNative is your second start-up company. Please share your business philosophy when you start and manage two companies. What kind of advice do you think is the most needed for CKGSB alumni, or entrepreneurs considering various challenges as entrepreneurs?
KIM: I have not been able to build enough business to define the business philosophy, I may need to experience more. However, watching the rise and fall of the entrepreneurs around me, I came up with the following idea that
‘Small success can be made by the power of man, but most of the great success is what the society choose.’ If I have to dare advise on entrepreneurs’ successful business, ‘the great success must be attached to the luck that society choose. We always humbly look at the market, but have to learn and work hard so that we can choose when opportunities come.
Q. What was the most difficult point in entering the Chinese education market, or what was different from the Korean market based on your recent experiences in the real field?
KIM: The most difficult part of doing business in China was that I was still a lack of knowledge about China. But it seemed that I could have had more fun while I get to know about China and learn them.
Online enterprise education market in China was formed a little later than Korean market, but it has very attractive features. Firstly, I found the different size of the ‘enterprise unit’ between two countries. Another important feature of the Chinese market is that companies in China are connected to each other. So when solving a business problem, it is important to look at the structure of the partnership and competition of the companies that are connected with the company in a relationship of interest.
Q. How did CKGSB’s Korean EMBA modules help you in terms of managing your business?
KIM: It was very useful and memorable class in Beijing taught by Dean. Xiang Bing. He explained the background, structure of China’s reform and Chinese national capitalism which started in 1978 with the theme of the Great Revolution. I got great help to understand the modern Chinese society and economic structure. The learning of these frame became the important basis for thinking about the essence of the problem from the viewpoint of China whenever analyzing the Chinese market and conducting business.
Q. What did you pursue when you enroll the program? To whom would you recommend the CKGSB EMBA program?
KIM: I chose this course because I should build up my knowledge of China as a CEO to help my company develop. Above all, China has been the country with the longest impact and closest location to Korea, which will be same in the future. Whether you are directly involved in business in China or not, we should still learn about the international business environment that will affect our companies beyond the borders and compete with other global companies. Preparing for these change will be more necessary for the manager level.
Especially, CKGSB’s Korean EMBA is a very beneficial process to learn deeply about both Chinese society and economy, and I would like to recommend it to the manager and leaders who want to learn more about China.
To read the full interview with SMATOOS CEO Mun-Soo Kim, please click here.