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Jared Kim, Serial Entrepreneur

Teenage Entrepreneurial Whiz Jared Kim

Most high school seniors are asked the question that can haunt/annoy them through their 20s: what do you want to do in life? For Jared Kim, 19, the question is the exact opposite: what new startup do you want to tackle? At such a young age, this serial entrepreneur has made huge strides in the technology sphere that many other startups can only wish for, and he’s doing it all by himself. His current venture, Yaqqer, makes sharing your location with friends via cellphones a snap (through universal SMS technology). And though he realizes this service might be prohibitive now because of text message costs, it doesn’t dampen his spirit one bit: he’s taking a break from it to work on his next big idea (a foray into the online gaming world). Find out more about this amazing talent in this week’s Young & Professional Profile.


Yaqqer and my next big thing (currently in stealth)


September 2006



Name, Title

Jared Kim
Serial Entrepreneur




Everywhere. I’ve spent several years in: NYC
Los Angeles
San Francisco Bay area
Seoul, Korea
Shenzhen, China

Current residence

Berkeley, CA


UC Berkeley, Class of 2010

Work Experience

My next big thing…, Founder/CEO, 2007, ???

Yaqqer.com, Founder/CEO/Janitor, 2006, 2007

Stalkerati.com, Founder, 2006

Xinjun Software Limited, Founder/CEO, 2004, 2005



About the company

Yaqqer is a location-based mobile social network that connects college students through their mobile phones. Yaqqer allows you to broadcast your current location to all your friends via SMS. In college, students always want to know where their friends are or what they are doing. Yaqqer helps solve this common need.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Yaqqer is a one-man team at the moment, therefore I wear all kinds of hats. I do the planning, design, programming, marketing and anything else that needs to be done.

Most notable milestones

I’ve never built something in the mobile space before, therefore Yaqqer was dabbling in something brand new to me. I was most proud of being able to develop Yaqqer in five months by myself during my freshman year at UC Berkeley.

What’s the niche?

Mobile is a new space that has a lot of innovation going on in it. Only recently have companies started to link social networking with mobile devices. We are the first service that provides a SMS location-based social network to the college market. Our niche is the tech-savvy college student with a cell phone.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Yaqqer is promoting a new way of interfacing/communicating with a service via SMS. This type of behavior is something that users are not accustomed to and is the biggest hurdle.

Also, the costs associated with mobile communication are a big barrier for us to acquire users. In our case, we find some users reluctant to use Yaqqer because of the SMS text messaging costs that are related to using our service.

What’s in store for the future?

Yaqqer was a fun project that spawned from my boredom with college. Getting users on the service has been tough because of the challenges I’ve mentioned above. I believe it might be a product that is a little early for its time. For Yaqqer to truly shine, it would require text messaging costs to drop and text message use to increase among college students.

As of right now, I am planning to take a leave of absence at the end of this semester to pursue another startup idea I have been brewing. This project is in the video/online gaming space which is an industry I am extremely passionate about. I’ve discussed my idea with quite a few entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that I respect and feedback has been very positive. I’m very excited and optimistic about the future!

How does yaqqer differentiate itself from competitors?

There are a lot of companies that are jumping into the mobile social networking space, particularly in the location-based sector. Many of the current offerings are GPS-based options like Boost mobile’s loopt and Helio’s Friendar.
These services are great but have their disadvantages:

  1. You need to pay a monthly fee for them.
  2. All your friends need to be on the same carrier as you (boost or helio).
  3. You need to download/install their Java application on your phone.

Anyone who can text message from their cell phone can use Yaqqer and text messaging is quite easy to use nowadays. Also, text messaging allows Yaqqer to work no matter what network/carrier you are using. I believe this is the major factor that differentiates us from the others.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

I love meeting new people. I’d love to meet entrepreneurs who are passionate about technology and fellow students who are just even remotely interested in entrepreneurship.

Also, if you happen to be an awesome software engineer or UI designer in the Bay area, hit me up 😉

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

  1. Learn as much as you can about your industry. Always keep up-to-date on what is happening in it. Become an expert.
  2. Be quick. One of the advantages you have as a small company or a one man team is you can make quick decisions and changes. Use this to your advantage. While the big guys are busy going through layers of management and meetings, you can just have a quick chat over pizza with your team and have the changes done before the sun comes up.

Guiding principle in life

As of right now, I live by one quote:

“For the true entrepreneur, reality is the superior teacher; and school is an excuse to delay failure.”

Yardstick of success

I think Steve Jobs put it best in his Stanford commencement speech. He asks himself everyday, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

If I am, then whatever I’m doing is a success to me.

Goal yet to be achieved

Be able to financially retire by 21.

I still have 2 more years 😉 Of course, that doesn’t mean I stop working!

Best practical advice

I think most kids my age would love to start their own company but think they can’t because they think, “I’m just a kid.” Honestly, you couldn’t be more wrong. You’ll be surprised how many people who are my age or early-20s who have taken ideas they had in high school/college and turned them into huge successes. Just take a look at Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. It started out as a fun weekend project during his sophomore year at Harvard and now, three years later, it’s a multi-billion dollar company. I’m pretty sure he had no idea back then what it would be today!

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

I always get supportive words from all my family members and friends, but I really think the best words they give me is when they shoot holes through my ideas 😉

Sometimes friends are too afraid to give you negative feedback, but sometimes you really need someone to give you a reality check.

Mentor(s) and why?

  1. My father: the first entrepreneur I knew in my life.
  2. My older sisters, all four of them: Too many reasons to list! Each sister has her own special touch and experience that has helped me get as far as I have today. Their support and wisdom will continue to help me for many years to come.
  3. My two brother-in-laws: Both are smart, amazing, and successful technology entrepreneurs. They both have been through the trenches many times like I am doing right now and their advice has been invaluable.

What motivated you to get started?

Hearing and reading about success stories. When I was growing up during the .com boom, whenever I turned on the TV I would see something about some young 20-something kid striking it rich with some software he made. It always made me think, “Hey, I want to do that!” I have always been passionate about technology and computers, so every success I hear about adds more fuel to my entrepreneurial fire.

Like best about what you do?

I get to meet all kinds of interesting amazing and successful people in tech. The technical problems I work on are always interesting and challenging. Most of all, there is no feeling more satisfying than the one you get after you launch a product that was only a sketch on the back of a napkin a few months earlier.

Like least about what you do?

Having an abnormal sleeping schedule that disconnects me from the normal world at times 😉

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Professional golfer.

What was your first job?

Founder/CEO at my company Xinjun Software.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Hanging out and doing stupid stuff with my college friends :).

Person most interested in meeting and why?

Jeff Bezos: He has pioneered so many things on the web that we take for granted today. Recently, he has created services like Amazon S3 that really helps startups launch their ideas without spending tens of thousands of dollars on hardware. Also from what I’ve read about him, he seems like an awesome guy in general.

Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?

I’m going to pick someone in tech again: Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs has been to the top of the world, then witnessed it crumble in front of him. He didn’t give up and made an amazing comeback. When everyone thought Apple was out of the game, he made great business decisions that repositioned Apple and took it to where it is today.

Three interesting facts about yourself

  1. Played golf with Tiger Woods when I was 13. Those were the days I wanted to be a professional golfer.
  2. I can speak Korean, Mandarin Chinese and English. I’m Korean-American, but my parents sent me to boarding school in China for high school. They said something about China “being a big player in the future” 🙂
  3. I don’t get good grades in Computer Science classes

Three characteristics that describe you

  1. Motivated
  2. Ambitious
  3. Funny

Three greatest passions

  1. Technology
  2. Entrepreneurship
  3. Networking, meeting new people

Favorite book and why

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card – because, well, it’s “Ender’s Game!”

Favorite cause and why

The micro-loan stuff that people like Muhammad Yunus are doing with the Grameen Bank is really cool. It is helping people who are entrepreneurs create businesses even though they are in parts of the world that lack capital. These organizations are helping people realize their full potential.

If you want to help out with these causes, I suggest checking out www.kiva.org. You can personally loan money to an entrepreneur in Africa or other parts of the world!

Tell us about the experience of managing a company of 70+ people as a teenager.

It taught me numerous lessons on efficiency, building a team, and managing people. The company was my first try at startup life and business in general. I was still a junior in high school at the time. I really didn’t have problems managing my employees even with my young age. If you show your people that you know what you’re doing, they will respect you for that.

In China, limited capital gets you a lot in terms of people. I could hire 10-20 programmers for less than what it would cost for one programmer in Silicon Valley. So when I started Xinjun, I had 20 people within the first month and 50 people within 6 months. I had initially thought the more people I hired, the faster I would get things done. I learned that this wasn’t the case. Having 70 people was quickly becoming a nightmare to manage. Things were taking very long to get done because it involved getting many people in the loop (think lots of meetings, meetings, meetings, planning, meetings). Eventually, I took the company back down to a size of 20 people, but we were actually even more efficient than when we had 70!

About 11 months into the company, I brought the company from 70 people back down to a more manageable size of 20. We then found a buyer for the software we had developed. I was going to college in the US in a year and the gaming market in China was quite unpredictable at the time. I found it a good time wrap up and take my leave.

What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently?

Because I had hired so many people, I had the company developing 4-5 different projects at the same time. If I could go back, I would focus all our energy on one product and make it awesome.

Also, I would have been more careful in my hiring. I had no previous experience in running a company or hiring/managing employees, so when it came to hiring I had a tendency to be a little cheap on the salary side. In the end I learned you get what you pay for. Now I would much rather spend money getting one very good programmer than spending the same money and getting ten mediocre programmers. In the long run, not only is the single programmer much easier to manage, but he will probably deliver better results.

What’s Stalkerati?

Stalkerati is a social network search engine. You type in a name and we return people with that name who are on MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Google, Technorati, etc… Nowadays, we all “google” new people we meet, Stalkerati just provides a more powerful and easy-to-use interface.

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Interview by Dana Wu
Introduction by Kaiser Shahid
Edited by Valerie Enriquez

Also this week

Salman AzamAmir P.

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