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‘All things are founder-like things’

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Doyon Kim, now 38, left his home in Seoul, South Korea to attend business school in Michigan — and in short order became one of Silicon Valley’s most-favored sort of citizen: the indefatigable serial entrepreneur. Which isn’t to say he hasn’t seen a few hard knocks. All good founders do. In 1999 Kim founded “Dialpad Communications”:, as a spinoff of South Korea’s Serome Technology. An early Internet phone service provider, Dialpad sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2001, only to be “acquired by Yahoo! in 2005”:,1895,1828833,00.asp. In 2004 Kim founded *Opinity, Inc* an online reputation management startup, which “also struggled”:
Now Kim is trying again. Earlier this year he cofounded a Digg-competitor called “Spotplex”:, which aggregates and ranks blog and news media content, but without tagging or voting. Instead, Spotplex ranks the stuff people are reading most, a bit more impartially; that is, based on generic impressions.
So *what keeps this repeat founder going?* Read on and you’ll see, Kim is all business, all the time — but don’t think this means he has no fun. Poker is on the list, and Kim dreams of retiring to a Mediterranean island one day! (Don’t we all?)

*1) Where are you from and what year were you born?*

Seoul, South Korea in 1969

*2) What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning–even before breakfast?*

Turn on my PC and log on to to determine if the site is working properly.

*3) What is your academic background? How does it relate to your business training?*

I received my M.B.A. from the University of Michigan and B.A. of Political Science from Yonsei University in South Korea. Much of the training I had in school has little in common with what I do now in technology, but overall I can say it helped me establish a unique framework through which to view the business and market.

*4) Other than managing staff or fundraising, what do you spend most of your time doing as a founder?*

Even though the term “founder” appears on business cards, it does not function like a regular job title. There is no industry standard job description or generally accepted role for a founder within an organization. And there shouldn’t be, in my opinion. In a start-up, a founder just has to do whatever is necessary at the time, which can change hourly from accounting to marketing to PR to customer support to business development and back again.

*5) What is the least “founder-like” thing you do on a daily basis?*

I think all things that in some way contribute to the success of the business are “founder-like things.” Regardless of how small the task, a founder is usually the first person to volunteer to do it and the last person to delegate it. To answer the question, perhaps it’s responding directly to customer support emails, which I do daily.

*6) What is your most precious possession?*

My family: my wife and two kids

*7) We get a lot of questions from readers about how to find a co-founder. What was it about your co-founder that told you he was the right person to found your company with you?*

You just have to find the right person who has complementary strengths in terms of business function. Spotplex’s Co-Founder also serves our CTO, so he leads the site’s development and engineering, while my strengths lie in sales, marketing and operations. A good co-founder should also have strong opinions and know when to not back down in order to balance key decision making.

*8) Short of grabbing the so-called Brass Ring (an IPO or selling Spotplex), where do you find day to day fulfilliment in running your business?*

Product or site releases are usually done in the middle of the night. What I feel in the car driving on my way home in the early morning hours after major release is something very difficult to describe in words. It’s a tremendous feeling of pride or an overwhelming sense of achievement. At any rate, it’s very fulfilling experience for me. Maybe that’s why I do what I do.

*9) What is your favorite non-business source for inspiration? Perhaps a book or film?*

My favorite film is “Mediterraneo,” an Italian movie that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1991. The film is set during World War II and follows a group of Italian soldiers who become stranded on a Greek island and are left there after the war ends. They each find their own niche on the island and decide that being stranded is not necessarily a bad thing. That’s how I am going to live once I retire!

*10) How do you bond with your Spotplex staff outside the office?*

I consider them as my family too. In a way, I spend more time with them than with my real family anyway. I’m trying to spend more time with them out of office doing family *BBQ* or *playing poker,* but sometimes we are simply too busy for those.

Read more Q&A with Doyon “here”:

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