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  • Writer's pictureBumsoo Kim

Lessons from my previous startups

I started my corporate career in Samsung, and founded a flash memory software team. After helping the company to reach a top position from the bottom in the non-volatile memory industry, of course having started just with me and by me alone, and having grown it into a big team, I felt that I was ready to begin another, and much tougher off-road journey.

Then I joined Hyundai IT, a TV and display company, as a board member and an executive of new business development with its investment into an SSD startup Mtron. Mtron successfully and quickly developed, manufactured, and sold SSD products and went public via backdoor listing in Korean stock market. I observed that pursuing rapid growth without building sound ground for technology and operations expedited the process of self-decay.

With two other co-founders, I decided to establish my own company Indilinx. We had a good start with a funding from Softbank Ventures Korea and MVP Capital. Instead of building the whole SSD product, we only focused upon designing SSD controllers, firmware, and ready-to-manufacture board solutions. Our SSD controllers topped all other controllers at the market in terms of performance and sales volume. During 2008 financial crisis, the company failed to raise money for further growth, but we still wanted to stay in the market even by building SSD solutions around third-party controllers, and by taking an outsourcing eMMC project from a memory manufacturer. It ended up with M&A by OCZ technology. OCZ took the same miserable steps as Mtron, finally went bankrupt, and their assets and the team were acquired by Toshiba.

After spending contractual period at OCZ, I was recruited by SK hynix. My mission was helping their post merger integration process of an SSD controller startup Link A Media Devices. I came to be at the opposite side of M&A and was engaged with more acquisitions. The company came to have teams in Silicon Valley, Colorado, Taiwan, Belarus, and of course South Korea. The challenge of their NAND business was that there were too many challenges. One and only good thing about SK hynix was that they were the second largest DRAM company. Success could not be bought, though.

Here's what I learned from these experiences:

Lesson One: Growth needs a strong team led by a charismatic leader, and supported by a trustful investor. For all that, the invisible hand can kill you any time howsoever beautiful you are. Don't blame others and humbly accept the result whatever it is.

Lesson Two: When the party's over, they'll never call you. Success will be theirs, and failure will be always yours. Be prepared to get led up again into the wilderness, and stay connected.


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