How is this millennial entrepreneur running a multimillion dollar startup in Japan

Sae Hyung-jung remembers a time when he was anxious about not having sufficient cash for his subsequent meal.

He was 20 years outdated, and he had simply began a synthetic intelligence (AI) firm that helped college students enhance their take a look at scores on school entrance exams — however it wasn’t superb.

“I had a lot debt that I even had to make use of my bank card to offer my paycheck to my workers,” Psy advised CNBC Make It.

Ten years later, the lifetime of the serial businessman paints a considerably completely different image.

I used to be obsessive about making it work as a result of it was my very own product.

Sae Hyung Joong

Founder and CEO, oVice

He’s now the founder and CEO of oVice, a digital workplace platform created to deliver collective vitality into the bodily workplace area of distant groups.

For instance, the platform permits casual check-ups with colleagues with out “on-line assembly procedures,” based on oVice.

The corporate is headquartered in Japan the place Sai, a South Korean, now lives.

Late final month, oVice raised $32 million in a Collection B funding spherical led by a gaggle of traders from Japan and overseas. The most recent funding raised the overall capital to $45 million.

In line with Say, the corporate has annual recurring income of $6 million.

CNBC Make It discovers what the younger entrepreneur realized from his failures, and the way a brand new startup was ultimately born.

Flexibility is the important thing

Say admitted that the most important drawback with the failed AI mission was that it had not “discover the market”.

“My AI platform specialised in that take a look at that international college students have to take to return to Japan,” he mentioned, referring to the Japanese College Entrance Examination for Worldwide College students (EJU).

Sai, who was learning in Japan in 2017, took the identical take a look at and struggled whereas making ready for it.

“There weren’t a variety of books to review at EJU…I collected questions from native college exams and made synthetic intelligence that generates questions to enhance college students’ grades,” he mentioned.

“However [at that time]There have been only one,000 individuals taking this take a look at yearly, in order that was it [a] A extremely small area of interest market.”

Traders advised him that in an effort to spend money on the startup, he would want to increase the market.

However Sai mentioned he was cussed. “I mentioned no. I need to clear up this drawback.”

Regardless of its willpower, the platform struggled to remain afloat and, as Say put it merely – “It failed.”

Sae Hyung-Jung is now the founder and CEO of oVice, a digital workplace platform created to deliver collective vitality into bodily workplace areas — for distant groups.


“I used to be so obsessive about making it work as a result of it was my very own product.”

Ultimately he bought the enterprise, which helped him repay his money owed and gave him the “reset” he mentioned he desperately wanted.

Nonetheless, Psy did not hand over – as a result of entrepreneurship is an “ongoing journey,” as he places it. Moreover, that wasn’t his first style of failure.

When he was 18 years outdated, he began a industrial brokerage agency connecting companies with suppliers and distributors in Japan and South Korea. However a 12 months later, Sai was pressured to shut the store.

“At the moment, 2011, there was a giant earthquake in Japan. It was loopy… my purchasers [in South Korea] They had been importing merchandise from Japan, and their buy costs doubled.”

You probably have flexibility, you’ll have a better probability of success.

Sae Hyung Joong

Founder and CEO, oVice

As a result of unsustainability of the enterprise, Sae determined to shut his firm and pursue a college diploma in Japan as a substitute.

Taking a look at his experiences, he realized that adaptability is essential in entrepreneurship.

“Should you do not succeed, that is high-quality. I will begin one thing else. You probably have flexibility, you’ll have a a lot nearer probability of success.”

An thought was born

Throughout the college and graduate college, Sae labored as a guide for synthetic intelligence and blockchain. In February 2020, his flip took him to Tunisia – which is about 925 kilometers, or 575 miles, from Italy.

At the moment, the Covid-19 virus was spreading quickly all through Italy, which turned The epicenter of the primary coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

“The Tunisian authorities mentioned you should exit tomorrow as a result of we will shut. However the journeys to Japan had been as soon as a day, in order that was inconceivable,” Sy mentioned.

Being in Tunisia, Sai needed to work remotely with colleagues in Japan who had been additionally working from house.

However he quickly turned pissed off with distant work, as there was little collaboration between workers.

Doing distant work… It felt like a blackout, you do not know something happening within the firm anymore.

Sae Hyung Joong

Founder and CEO, oVice

“Within the workplace, I can go ask for mission updates and rapidly determine bottlenecks, or I can spot issues from conversations I one way or the other overheard,” he defined.

“However doing distant work, speaking by way of Zoom, Slack…it does not provide the similar type of expertise. It felt like a blackout, you do not know something happening on the firm anymore.”

Sae determined to take issues into his personal fingers, and recreated the idea of sharing area for the workplace – bringing it on-line.

For instance, his digital workplace platform permits customers, or their avatars, to attach with a colleague to start out a dialog or have an informal dialog – like in a bodily workplace.

Do not need to hear? Psy mentioned you possibly can “lock” the dialog or take it to a non-public digital assembly room.

oVice permits workers to attach with colleagues to start out a dialog or have an informal dialog – identical to in a bodily workplace.


After spending two weeks constructing his first prototype and sharing it along with his colleagues, Sai realized that his creativity had introduced him nice satisfaction.

“As a result of I loved it a lot, I feel individuals who really feel the must be in an workplace can be glad, too.”

oVice launched in Japan in August 2020, and Sai mentioned there was an enormous improve in firms paying for the service as they realized the pandemic wasn’t going away any time quickly.

“Firms are beginning to consider networking and co-working remotely and oVice has helped.”

Hub to blended motion

The brand new Sae firm has had an enormous success prior to now two years because of the pandemic.

However as international locations world wide loosen restrictions and staff start returning to places of work, oVice is starting to shift its focus to firms adapting to what some have known as the “new regular” – hybrid work.

How remote work and the hybrid changed the office

“Lots of people now are like, ‘I like being within the workplace,’ but when my firm decides to go to the workplace 100%, I will give up. And corporations know that,” Psy added.

“Sure, we’ll return to the workplace, however that does not imply that [online collaboration] will disappear.”

Psy stays assured that his platform will proceed to thrive as workplaces transfer towards hybrid work and again to regular earlier than the pandemic.

It was good to expertise some failure, they taught me essential classes.

Sae Hyung Joong

Founder and CEO, oVice