A few weeks ago, I got to interview Yoon-Jin Chang, a co-founder of LifeSite. Yoon-Jin has been an advocate for technology startups across the globe. Previously she was a partner at Kstartup, the leading accelerator in Korea. She is an advisor, angel investor in Korean startups and a venture partner at Cherubic Ventures. YoonJin is also titled as Miss Korea 善 and has done numerous TV shows and big events hosting. Voted 2013 “Most Promising Female Entrepreneur” in Korea, she continues to pursue her entrepreneurship with LifeSite. Find out about her experiences and motivations that got her to LifeSite!
Could you tell us about your career before joining the startup scene? and how you were introduced to it?
Since I was young, I have always dreamed as a global person, so I have tried to attain as many international experiences as possible since my time in college. Participating in pageants and earning the crown of Miss Korea, for example, gave me the opportunity to diversify my experience and meet more people globally, than I ever would have otherwise. In addition, I worked as a host for TV shows and international conferences for several years. My work gave me opportunities to meet many inspiring people including numerous venture capitalists and even the CEO of Nokia. Gradually, I was able to build a strong network across Korea and the US. One day, David Lee, an early Googler who lead Google’s overseas operations and a venture investor, called me to work with him at KStartup, one of the first startup accelerators in Korea. That is how I got into startup scene. After joining KStartup as a partner, I invested in more than 40 startups, and helped their businesses go global by helping with communication / presentation skills, business development, and building networks by introducing them to the right people. I still interact a lot with the people I met through KStartup. That community continues to be extremely supportive of me.
Recently, I heard a lot that there is significant growth within the Korean startup community. Do you feel you were a witness / participant in this?
Kstartup was one of the first organizations assisting startups in Korea, even before the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MISP) were established, which is also now actively promoting the startup community in Korea. There was very little ecosystem established for startups in Korea, and for very early stage startups, this lack of support made starting a company even harder. KStartup was founded with the specific goal of helping these early stage startups. We gave companies seed funding, and helped connecting them with the right people to globalize their businesses. Things have changed a bit. Now there is government support available, and more accelerators, and venture capitalists that are all cooperating to grow the Korean startup ecosystem. But challenges still exist. Places like Silicon Valley and Singapore’s startup communities are so tight that there are abundant resources for startups at every stage. At this moment in Korea, there are some gaps in the ecosystem. For example, early stage support is now strong, but after Series A, the opportunities to secure funding are limited by comparison. However, I believe that there is a bright future for the Korean startup community, which continues to grow. It was exciting to be a part of one of the leading organizations to support such an innovative community and contribute to its early growth.
Now let’s talk about your company. You are one of the founders of the company. How did you meet your co-founders (their background)?
Teddy Zee, well-known for his movies “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Hitch”, is a good friend of mine and now also a LifeSite advisor. Teddy and I talked a lot about startups and he knew that I was bringing mentors from the US to Korea for the KStartup program. He suggested that I should connect with Chris Wong, who is a serial entrepreneur and veteran in the software industry, and talk to him about what I did. So Chris and I met. I was impressed by his expertise in the enterprise software industry, and he was amazed that even though I had a background in the glamorous TV/entertainment industry, I still wanted to help entrepreneurs, which requires a lot of work behind the scenes and not in front of a camera. We quickly got to know each other really well. He later introduced me to Crystal Lee. Crystal and I share a lot of similarities, like our personalities and respective pageant success. Since we all share a passion for innovative technology, we all could relate to each other, and we became good friends. The three of us always talked about introducing something great to the world, together, and soon we started LifeSite.
What are LifeSite’s goals and missions? What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
In life, we deal with a lot of personal information, and so many documents related to our assets, insurances, tuition, legal, and so on. People nowadays often manage files as hard copies. It is very easy to lose them, or it could take a long time to find the one specific document you are looking for. Alternatives include using cloud services or flash drives to save and manage documents, but they usually do not provide the security we would want for our most important information, and such options can be hard to organize. LifeSite aims to solve this problem.
We all know that keeping track of records for yourself and your family is essential. That’s why we take the time to get insurance policies, create wills and name beneficiaries. But most of us neglect to follow through by making sure all those important pieces of information are in a safe place where our loved ones can find them.
At LifeSite, our slogan is “We connect your head to your heart”. Emergencies are never scheduled, but should something ever happen it can be agonizing to waste time trying to find a necessary document in a dire situation. LifeSite is providing peace of mind by centralizing key information in one safe place, making it accessible from anywhere at any time, and enabling users to focus on what is most meaningful to them.
Could you tell us about the product and how it is different from competitors?
Our product, LifeSite Vault provides an intuitive solution to organize, categorize, manage and safely share information accumulated through every phase of life – a digital vault for life’s information, all in one safe place. It let’s you easily organize your documents into different categories. Users can also add and share with their family members to access certain categories. The strength of our product comes from its security. Because it is the vault for your most important personal information, security is our top priority. From scratch, we designed the system with security in mind. LifeSite Vault uses multiple layers of encryptions, so that even we cannot access your data. We also create a personal encryption key for every user and rotate that key periodically to maximize the security of the system. Shockingly, less than 10% of cloud providers currently encrypt data when it’s stored, and only about one percent use customer specific encryption keys. LifeSite does both.
LifeSite seems to have big emphasis on security. Does it affect the usability of the product at all?
LifeSite Vault is very easy to use. For example, uploading a document can be done in about 10 seconds with just a few touches on your mobile phone.
The challenge is convincing people to trust the security of the system. Even though we implemented state of the art security tools, most people simply don’t understand security. So, we have engaged third parties to verify our system. We are doing regular Qualys Tests and getting A+ all the time. We also used HackerOne to let hackers test our system, and we are constantly getting positive feedback. Cyber security expert, Morgan Wright, acclaimed the security of LifeSite Vault and said that “For too long our vital information was not as mobile as our lifestyle. That has changed with LifeSite. And by obsessing on security from the start, LifeSite has separated itself from other solutions.”
Where do you see your company in 5 years? Growth Strategy?
It is hard to predict what will happen in 5 years, but we will be looking outward to the global market. Already, there are some companies in other countries showing interest in our product. Countries that have suffered from natural disasters know how easy it is for people to lose all their life information all at once. They want to help their people protect their information through LifeSite.
We want as many people as possible to benefit from LifeSite Vault so that their legacy can be passed on to future generations. We believe that not only Americans, but people around the world have similar pain points regarding managing their life’s information, and we want to help all of them save their time and energy, and protect their legacy.