Kakao CEO Sirgoo Lee: Creating a mobile social platform



This is a part of our coverage of B Dash Camp Fukuoka 2013.

At B Dash Camp 2013 in Fukuoka today, Kakao CEO Sirgoo Lee, explained a little about the rise of the KakaoTalk mobile chat application in Korea and around Asia. Sirgoo was joined on stage by Gen Miyazawa, the head of search at Yahoo Japan, Kakao’s partner in Japan.

To date the KakaoTalk app has seen over 86 million downloads, including 10 million here in Japan. Sirgoo explained that Kakao has over 29 million daily unique views, and more than 4.8 billion messages are exchanged each day.

Perhaps more important than those metrics are the revenue figures that Sigoo mentioned. He says that in 2012 the company hit $42 million in total revenue, turning a profit of $6.5 million. Most of that revenue comes from their platform business, specifically games and social commerce, as well as ads.

But he noted that this is just the beginning and that this social layer can stimulate growth in spaces like e-commerce, for example, showing friends what you want to buy.

Line Corporation CEO Akira Morikawa was sitting in the front row (having spoken in a session earlier in the day) and Sirgoo acknowledged that they have a few things that Kakao could take away from watching how Line operates:

We have to learn more from Morikawa-san in terms of global business. We are very local in that 70% of our users are in Korea. It’s difficult to expand beyond Korea. We at Kakao are taking a different approach. […] We’re partnering with Yahoo Japan here, and we’d like to partner with local partners in other regions who know those regions.

This is an interesting contrast with Line, who expands in a different manner, observing where they do well and then flying in to do business there.

The paths of these two mobile chat giants have largely mirrored each other to date, with each one dominating their respective local markets. But with their somewhat differing philosophies on expansion, it will be interesting to see which strategy works best.