SendBird is currently comprised of 15 total employees with 12 located in Korea and 3 in the US. 3 team members from our Korean team will be moving to the US within the next few months. The 3 presently working out of our Silicon Valley office are John Kim (CEO), Jin Ku (Head of Engineering), and Francis Marantal!
Francis is the US sales manager for SendBird. He is a rare native San Franciscan who received his BS Microbiology & Biochemistry from Cal Poly SLO and MBA from the University of San Francisco. He previously worked for Oracle, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Etrade. We got to sit down with him and find out what it’s like to join a fast growing startup that came out of Y Combinator.
AngelList. Being in the technology industry, I am familiar with the messaging space so SendBird’s job posting immediately caught my eye. After doing research, I discovered that they had a good reputation in Korea, delivered amazing technology, and were now positioning themselves to take on a massive opportunity to expand to the US. John (CEO) responded to my inquiry, we immediately clicked, and their interview process moved fast from there. One of the neat things about startups is that once you make the initial connection things can move very quickly.
In addition to their market fit / potential, I really liked their story. They were a startup in Korea and the founders were either friends or coworkers before. They became a US company then went through Y Combinator. Now they’re looking to expand into this new market. It was such an interesting story and challenge. I thought to myself when is there not risk? I came to the conclusion that this company is a smart bet.
I’m the US sales manager. I’ve been in sales & marketing roles (e.g. account manager, product manager, business development manager) for almost 20 years. I previously worked for Oracle, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Etrade. Today at SendBird, I’m responsible for sales, sales development, and customer success. I am wearing many different hats as we scale our organization. In addition to sales, I also involved with recruiting, marketing, and product. There are entire company shares a “can do” mentality.
Bottom-line, the business decision was about market opportunity. Korea is very sophisticated but relatively small versus the US. The best way to grow is to establish a US presence. This is both exciting and nerve wrecking to be honest. On one hand, you get to do so many things and whatever you do is going to profoundly impact our company. On the other hand, you are not always 100% sure you are making the right decisions all the time because the information might be incomplete, the timing is wrong, or we are just not there yet.
There can be. I do not speak Korean and some team members do not speak English so we need a translator whether it is a person or technology. Additionally, there is an 11 hour time zone difference. But you work on it and make it happen. The good thing though is that collaboration is possible by using technology. It is certainly a lot easier today versus trying this 20 years ago. If an email is sent in Korean, I can click the Google Translate button to get a general idea of what is being discussed. Doing business in 2016 is global. Customers are everywhere.
We have NDA’s in place with certain customers. But I can say that we do work with companies like eBay, SK Telecom and Nexon as well as hundreds of up-and-coming SMB’s. We currently have 2,000+ apps integrated, 2M+ new messages a day, and 4M+ monthly chat users.
Korean companies are known to have an insane work ethic. It is important to be respectful of that culture. I have an insanely strong work ethic too, but I also have to balance that with my family commitments. So I typically get into the office before 8am then go home around 5:30pm. After I have dinner with my wife & daughter, I usually log in for another hour or two depending on what the priorities are. As the company becomes more Americanized over time, it will be interesting to see how company culture evolves. People in the US love work / life balance which is a good thing in my mind. As a matter of fact, we are celebrating Jin’s (Head of Engineering) birthday!
That is a great question. Hopefully we meet and exceed both our customers’ and investors’ expectations as we expand in US market. SendBird has a strong brand in Korea, but that will take time to replicate in the US. It would be great to get a few marquee wins who are referenceable. My focus is to grow the business fast but in a smart way.
Check out SendBird, download the SDK, and give us a try. Please give us feedback so we can improve our product. By the way, we are also hiring! Ideally we would like to have a total of 7 US based employees by the end of 2016. Reach out if you want to join us on this journey!