How This Millennial Entrepreneur Runs a Multi-Million Startup in Japan

Sae Hyung-jung recollects a time when he frightened that he would not have the funds for for his subsequent meal.

He was 20 and had simply based a man-made intelligence (AI) firm that helped college students enhance their school entrance take a look at scores — nevertheless it wasn’t doing properly.

“I used to be in a lot debt and even had to make use of my bank card to pay my workers,” Sae mentioned. CNBC do it.

Ten years later, the lifetime of the serial entrepreneur paints a quite totally different image.

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

Sae Hyung-jung

Founder and CEO, oVice

He’s now the founder and CEO of oVicea digital workplace platform created to deliver the collective power in bodily workplace areas to distant groups.

For instance, the platform permits for casual check-ins with colleagues with out the “formalities of on-line conferences”, in line with oVice.

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

On the finish of final month, oVice raised $32 million in a Sequence B funding spherical led by a bunch of traders from Japan and abroad. The most recent funding introduced the entire capital raised to $45 million.

The corporate made $6 million in annual recurring income, in line with Sae.

CNBC Make It finds out what the younger entrepreneur discovered from his failures and the way a brand new startup was lastly born.

Flexibility is vital

The most important drawback with the failed AI enterprise was that it did not “discover the market”, Sae acknowledged.

“My AI platform specialised on this examination that worldwide college students needed to cross to come back to Japan,” he shared, referring to the Japanese college entrance examination for Japanese college students. worldwide college students (EJU).

Sae, who was learning in Japan in 2017, took the identical examination and struggled to organize for it.

“There weren’t many books to review for EJU… I collected questions from native college exams and created an AI that generates questions to enhance scholar scores,” said- he declared.

“However [at that time]only one,000 individuals took this examination every year, so it was [a] actually a distinct segment and a small market.”

Buyers informed him that to put money into the start-up, he must broaden the market.

However Sae mentioned he was cussed. “I mentioned no. I wish to clear up this drawback.”

Regardless of her dedication, the rig struggled to remain afloat and, as Sae places it merely, “she failed.”

Sae Hyung Jung is now the Founder and CEO of oVice, a digital workplace platform created to deliver the collective power into bodily workplace areas – to distant groups.


If in case you have flexibility, you usually tend to succeed.

Sae Hyung-jung

Founder and CEO, oVice

Seeing how unsustainable the enterprise was, Sae determined to close down his enterprise and pursue a school training in Japan as an alternative.

Trying again on his experiences, he realized that adaptability is essential in entrepreneurship.

“If it would not work, it is tremendous. I will begin one thing else. If in case you have flexibility, you will be extra prone to succeed.”

An concept was born

All through school and graduate faculty, Sae labored as an AI and blockchain marketing consultant. In February 2020, his position took him to Tunisia, about 925 kilometers, or 575 miles, from Italy.

At the moment, the covid19 virus unfold quickly all through Italy, which grew to become the epicenter of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreak.

“The Tunisian authorities mentioned you needed to exit tomorrow as a result of we have been going to be blocked. However the flights to Japan have been as soon as a day, so it was unimaginable,” Sae mentioned.

Caught in Tunisia, Sae needed to work abroadin addition to his colleagues in Japan who have been additionally working from dwelling.

However he shortly grew to become annoyed with distant work as a result of there was little collaboration between workers.

Doing telecommuting… It was like a blackout, we now not know something about what’s going on within the firm.

Sae Hyung-jung

Founder and CEO, oVice

“Within the workplace, I might go and ask for updates on the venture and shortly determine bottlenecks, or I might uncover points from conversations I had overheard a method or one other,” he defined.

“However doing distant work, speaking through Zoom, Soft…which does not provide the similar sort of expertise. It was like a blackout, we now not know something about what’s going on within the firm.”

Sae determined to take issues into his personal palms and recreated the space-sharing idea of an workplace by bringing it on-line.

For instance, its digital workplace platform permits customers, or their avatars, to strategy a colleague to begin a dialog or have an informal dialog – very similar to in a bodily workplace.

Do not wish to be heard? You may “lock” the dialog or take it to a non-public digital assembly room, Sae mentioned.

oVice permits workers to strategy their colleagues to strike up a dialog or have an informal chat – very similar to in a bodily workplace.


After taking two weeks to construct his first prototype and sharing it together with his colleagues, Sae discovered that his creation gave him immense satisfaction.

“As a result of I loved it a lot, I imagine individuals who really feel the should be in an workplace may also be glad.”

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

“Firms have began serious about communication and engagement with distant work and oVice has helped.”

Swap to hybrid working

How Remote and Hybrid Working Changed the Office

“Lots of people at the moment are saying, I like being within the workplace, but when my firm decides to go to the workplace 100%, I’ll stop. And companies know that“, added Sae.

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

Sae stays assured that his platform will proceed to thrive as workplaces transfer in the direction of hybrid working and pre-pandemic normality.

It was good to expertise failures, they taught me vital classes.

Sae Hyung-jung

Founder and CEO, oVice

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