Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Interview at TigerStartups

TigerStartups is an up and coming tech blog that focuses on "Asians in Technology." The founder, Peter Shen, was nice enough to interview me for their "hot seat" segment.

In The Hotseat With Bernard Moon, Founder Of SparkLabs And VidQuik

Recently, Bernard Moon graciously took some of his busy time to talk with us and be part of our Hotseat segment. Bernard is a serial entrepreneur, who has left footprints from Chicago to San Francisco and as far as South Korea. His latest ventures are VidQuik and SparkLabs, which he talks more about in depth below. Previously, he was Managing Director of the Lunsford Group, which is a private investment firm consisting of entities in technology, healthcare, and real estate. He was Co-founder and VP of Business Development at GoingOn Networks, a social media platform for companies. He is a mentor for Mucker Lab, a startup accelerator based in LA. Bernard is also a prolific blogger and is a frequent guest writer to various technology journals, such as VentureBeat, Mashable, TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb. His latest blog in VentureBeat is titled “4 signs that your startup is ready to pivot.”

Now in the hotseat, Bernard Moon.

Can you tell us more about Vidquik, your video conferencing startup? Such as what phase of the project the startup is in and what can we look forward to in the near future?

Vidquik is seeking to provide companies with a flexible and powerful web conferencing platform for their websites. While not for every industry, we allow our users, such as e-commerce sites and sales organizations, to replace their text chat or phone interactions with video engagement. Vidquik allows you to easily embed our platform into any website and allow customers to interact with your customer service or sales representatives. We have a powerful intelligent routing system that directs your customers to the appropriate representative by tags. So our users can tag a call center "seat" or sales team "seat" based on geography, product line and other factors.

We will be launching some pilot tests soon with a few clients and have been in a long beta development period, which we hope to get out of soon. If you visit our website, we don't have our core product displayed since we planned to show it after a few pilot tests.

We did a blog article about SparkLabs inaugurating its first class of startups, tell us how it is going and what you hope to accomplish with SparkLabs?

SparkLabs is a fun side project for me. It's always rewarding to help out other entrepreneurs. The first class was selected with some good buzz and it's been great engaging with these first six companies. It's an awesome group of passionate, incredibly talented and intelligent entrepreneurs.

HanJoo, Jimmy and I really wanted to help grow the startup ecosystem in Korea and help put Korean entrepreneurs on the map. This means helping Korean startups go global and effectively penetrate new markets outside of Korea. We recently add two general partners, Jay and Awy, that will help with market entry and growth strategies for our companies into Southeast Asia and China.

You have been a dedicated entrepreneur here in the states but you have been in touch with the entrepreneurs in Korea as well as investments there. Tell me why it is important for you to keep a connection over in Korea vs focusing solely here in the states?

There wasn't any conscious decision on such activities, it is simply part of who I am. I have many friends in Korea and Asia, and I come from a large family where most of them reside in Korea. Though I am American, if I have something to offer and help any entrepreneur whether in Korea or elsewhere, I would do it. But strategically, starting SparkLabs made sense because of my various connections to Korea.

Besides being an entrepreneur, you seem to enjoy your role as an adviser and mentor. Can you tell me why do you feel strongly about doing this role?

Some of this I already described, but part of this comes from my first startup experience, which was actually with Jimmy Kim, my co-founder of SparkLabs. We suffered, learned everything on the fly, begged our parents for money, accumulated credit card debt and faced rejection over a hundred times. We loved and appreciated our first startup experience, but we also decided if we could help others suffer through a shorter path that we would do it.

You are already a successful entrepreneur but let's say in 5 years, you have more than achieved every goal you set to accomplish. What do you hope to give back to the community that brought you to that point?

I wouldn't say that I'm successful. I still haven't hit a home run. Just a single, a double and waiting on a couple at-bats. Even if I exit Vidquik successfully, I will be back at it right away. Financial success has always been secondary for me. I simply love the whole process of building a new company. Taking a concept on a napkin, building the product, building the partnerships, hiring people, and all the uncertainties of startup life.

Anyway, regardless of how Vidquik turns out, I will go at it again at least a couple more times. Regarding my community activities, that's always been a part of my life. If you can't balance your life between your professional goals and giving your time to various causes, it might be difficult to do so in a whole-hearted manner when you have more time. I believe it's better to make such commitments early in your life whether it's a nonprofit, religious organization, or some cause. I will say once we had kids, I had to step down from a couple nonprofit boards because that's a whole other level of time and commitment.

You grew up in the Chicago suburbs but now live in San Francisco. Tell us what do you miss about Chicago?

Food. I missed hearty food and steaks. Also the diversity of foods that you would only get in NYC or Chicago. My wife and I sometimes miss the "big city" culture that only NYC and Chicago provides. The shows, museums, big park festivals, etc. San Francisco is great for a small city. It's a city of character, which is similar to Chicago.

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