Born in South Korea, Brian Kim grew up witnessing realities far from society: Because of being from a poor low class, he had to share a room with 7 family members. Those days are over, but now the social isolation measures being implemented by the Korean government to control the Covid-19 epidemic are helping Kim to become richer, going to be among the top 500 richest people in the world.
Kim, 54, the founder of Kakao, the operator of the mobile messaging app, has become very popular in South Korea and they are witnessing a rapid increase in users everywhere in Asia. The company started out as a social messaging app that has expanded its business over the past decade by acquiring entertainment company K-pop and merging with the country’s second largest internet portal. this. In addition, their payment and ride-hailing services are becoming essential daily activities for many consumers.
Kakao shares rose 55% this year, adding $ 1.2 billion to Kim’s assets – currently at $ 3.7 billion. That brings Kim closer to the ranking of the 500 richest people in the world according to Bloomberg statistics.
Hwang Seung-taek, an analyst at Hana Financial Investment, said that the reason why the number of users on Kakao increased suddenly was because people suddenly stopped having direct contact during the pandemic break. While South Korea is trying to control the spread of the disease without imposing strict blockade or international travel bans, the government has closed down a few public places like parks, libraries and encourage people to stay home. Many companies also ask their employees not to come to the office.
“That contributes a lot to the revenue growth of the services Kakao provides despite reducing consumer spending,” Hwang wrote.
Kim owns 26% of Kakao directly and indirectly through the family investment company. His wealth calculation does not include stocks that are mortgaged for loans.
Kakao reported revenue of 868 billion won (US $ 705 million) in the first quarter with more than half coming from platforms including messaging apps, web access and payment. Ecommerce activity on KakaoTalk application increased 55% over the same period last year.
“When the Covid-19 epidemic hit its peak, the time people spent on KakaoTalk recorded a record high. Video chat has increased unprecedented. We have also seen an increase in the delivery of healthcare gifts, hygiene and family activities “.
KakaoTalk has 52 million users globally, including more than 45 million in South Korea – that’s more than 90% of the country’s population. Hope Kang, a native of Seoul but working in Hong Kong, says he always uses KakaoTalk to keep in touch with his family.
“That’s the only way I can communicate with my family in Korea right now. I can still chat with them and watch my face through the video. I guess this will continue until we meet again but I’m not sure when it is. “
Global blockade orders have led to an increase in demand for services such as online streaming and e-commerce, prompting many other entrepreneurs to see their assets increase significantly. Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney now has a net worth of $ 9.6 billion, up 32% this year thanks to the popularity of Fortnite, while Zoom founder Eric Yuan also witnessed the block. The net worth increased to $ 9.1 billion according to Bloomberg.
The question remains whether the rate of growth thanks to such a pandemic will be sustainable when life returns to normal.
Kim was the first of the siblings to attend university, majoring in industrial engineering at Seoul National University. When he was still in school, he had to work as a tutor to earn money to pay for his school fees. Playing games like poker and billiards during his school days was what inspired him to create his first business – an online gaming portal Hangame Communication in 1998.
This bet has paid off.
Hangame merged with Naver.com, the largest internet portal in Korea, in 2000. Kim ran the company after the merger before retiring in 2007.
This is an important transformation for Kim: “I am very fond of the saying: A boat located in a port is safe but that is not the purpose of building that boat. It made me jump into the startup world. once again”.
This goal brought him to America.
The introduction of the iPhone is the next lever. Too fascinated with this product, Kim returned to Korea and developed applications for the iPhone. The breakthrough was Iwilab – the early version of Kakao – the company was officially established in 2010. Four years later, Kim signed another agreement, merging with Korea’s second largest internet portal company. is Daum Communication. He became the company’s largest shareholder after the merger.
Kakao is currently the 10th largest company in Korea – with a market value of 21 trillion won – equivalent to Hyundai Motor.
“I have always been excited by new challenges like technologies including artificial intelligence and blockchain or the idea of going to Mars. There was never a limit to Kakao, so I kept thinking about new challenges. “.