[KSS NYC] Interview With Universe Shin, CEO of Pinstory


Tell us about yourself and your company product/service. What is the problem you want to solve through your product/service?

PinStory, a Seoul-based technology startup, is a multilingual restaurant review and reservation platform targeting major metropolitan cities in Asia. We launched our service in Korea since May 2015.

PinStory wants to solve language barrier issues for foreigners and non-native locals. Today the world is very connected. Everyone travels a lot but due to language barriers, many travelers face difficulties in finding reliable and objective information in their native language. PinStory has a vision of allowing everyone to find popular places and hidden gems without getting stuck by language barriers.

What is the story behind how your startup became a reality?

Before founding PinStory, I was an emerging market analyst at Bank of Singapore (BOS). I used to travel a lot to big cities, mostly financial hubs, such as NYC, London, and Hong Kong. I have used Yelp in the States and I absolutely loved it. Since then, I had a dream to make Yelp-style review platform, which helps and connects businesses and customers. So I decided to quit BOS. Of course it was a tough decision for me.

After founding PinStory, I graduated from Acceleration Program offered by  Digital Entertainment Ventures. Subsequently,  a VC firm in NYC, some talented engineers and trustworthy friends of mine further decided to join our team.

How did you come to target the specific industry?

We are composed of very diverse team members from US, Japan, Ethiopia, Korea and Spain. So it was convenient for us to target the restaurant industry, because we were very unsatisfied with the current restaurant industry in Korea and Asia.

Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors?

There are a number of similar competitors. The fact that we have a growing number of new competitors means that our targeting industry is growing. For example, there was only a few food-delivery service startups two to three years ago, but we now have a much bigger scene. I think the strongest competitor for us right now is someone sitting in a garage, making an awesome and creative product we haven’t  even imagined so far.

How do or will you make money?

We have two key revenue generation models such as advertisement and commission per transaction of coupon and reservation. In general, we don’t try to make profit within our website, but we try to generate profit from local businesses by creating values.

How will you get users? If your idea is the type that won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that barrier?

We’re already attracting a large number of users, because our service is rapidly becoming a must-have necessity for many users. The fast growth in user volume  means that users need our product, even though we haven’t advertised our product aggressively. Of course, we’ve been promoting our product with various channels  such as online advertisement, viral marketing, and coupon promotion, but we’re primarily concentrating on making a better product for users. I am sure this is the best strategy to attract users than relying solely on aggressive promotion.

How and where did you meet your team members?

It will take too long to explain how and where I met every team single member, because our team is already not small. I met Mati, co-founder engineer, online. We shared our vision because he was a foreigner majoring in computer science from Ethiopia. We easily became on the same page and he made a hard decision jumping in making our goal happen together. Our COO and CMO were my friend for long and they worked at prestigious top-tier companiesPremier Oakwood Hotel and Daiwa Asset Management respectively. I appreciated their hard decision to leave stable jobs.

Boosik is a writer with Tech for Korea where he writes about interesting tech trends and innovations. His main interests lie in the intersection of technology, entrepreneurship and public policy. Boosik is a currently a senior at Columbia University, studying Economics-Political Science. Boosik can be reached at boosikc@techforkorea.com.


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