College Dropout Sold his First Company for Six Figures at 21… How possible is that?
When Kevin Kim left college at age 21 to start his own business, it felt like a major risk.
“There was no vision or alignment … I was a civil engineering undergraduate, but I wanted to create services and products for different audiences,” said Kevin Kim, who dropped out of college to pursue entrepreneurship.
“My mum cried a little,” Kim, who is now 33, said with a laugh.
But he had reason to be confident. Kim had recently sold his first business, which he had founded at the age of just 18, for “six figures.”
Given that his beginning capital was only $2,000, which Kim claimed he saved up by working part-time jobs, that was no small accomplishment.
His online store brought streetwear from South Korea and distributed it across North America.
Achieving product-market fit is really hard, it takes years. You need to ask yourself … Do I really like this industry? Can I see myself build around this for 10 years?
“After I sold my first company, it was easy to decide,” said Kim, who moved from South Korea to Canada when he was 11.
“There was no vision or alignment … I was a civil engineering undergraduate, but I wanted to create services and products for different audiences.”
Before striking out on his own in 2020 with Stadium Live, a metaverse app for sports lovers, Kim spent the next roughly ten years developing digital goods for other businesses and corporations.
Users of the program can personalize their avatars, purchase digital treasures, hang out in virtual spaces with other sports enthusiasts, participate in interactive livestreams of sporting events, or play quick games.
The firm has already garnered $13 million, including Series A funding from Dapper Labs Ventures, Blaise Matuidi’s Origins Fund, and NBA star Kevin Durant’s 35 Ventures.
Kim’s 3 Tips for Running a Successful Company
1. Founder-market fit
It’s common for entrepreneurs to attribute the success of their startups to finding a good product-market fit.
But for Kim, what he calls “founder-market fit” is even more important. It means a founder is really passionate about what he’s building.
“Achieving product-market fit is really hard, it takes years. You need to ask yourself, do I really like what I’m doing? Do I really like this industry? Can I see myself build around this for 10 years?”
They’re able to go into it and make money, but they burned out faster than other founders who have founder-market fit.
Kim said he knew he always wanted to build products around the four areas that speak to him — sports, gaming, music and fashion.
“I know founders who, for example, [launched] a SAS startup with accounting, but they were not even into accounting,” Kim said.
“They’re able to go into it and make money, but they burned out faster than other founders who have founder-market fit.”
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2. Closing a gap
Product-market fit is nevertheless essential to a company’s success, according to Kim.
Without product-market fit, your business wouldn’t be able to continue because there wouldn’t be any genuine demand or supply for your offering among the target market.
His businesses’ success has been made possible through addressing consumer wants. In fact, Kim founded his first online store in an effort to acquire clothing that matched his “style and sizing.”
“I could never do that with brands in the U.S. and Canada at the time,” he said.
“It really started as a personal hobby and need … I quickly saw that other people had the same need.”
That also applied to Stadium Live — Kim noticed that the sports industry was focused on building products for a limited demographic of “millennial or older fans.”
“I could see they were all focusing on one-dimensional content and building towards betting. This was an interesting opportunity for me to take a look at the next generation of fans and think ‘who’s building for these fans?’”.
“They didn’t have money yet, they consumed sports in a completely different way, they wanted to interact with others within a community and they wanted something new.”
Stadium Live has collected over 750,000 users, who, according to the firm, “spend over an hour a day on the platform,” so Kim’s plan appears to have been successful.
Similarly, Stadium Live is estimated to be worth $32 million.
3. Don’t overlook company culture
“Why should talented people join your company and grow with you? This question cannot be answered by just the product that you are building, but also the company and culture you’re building,” he said. Setting a clear vision and set of values for your team, in Kim’s words, is “absolutely critical.”
The importance of company culture cannot be underestimated, Kim stressed, if one wants to build an “iconic long-term company.”
“I saw this firsthand when I was a fifth employee and saw the company grow to 50”. The culture morphs itself every time a company doubles in size. He said.
Kevin Kim rounded off by saying; “So that’s something that you should set and think about very early on. Because as soon as you get to 10 people… by that time, it’s almost too late.”
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