David Park is the founder and CEO of Covalent Inc., which created Kippo – The Dating app for Gamers. David comes from a Wall Street background working as a quantitative analyst and algorithmic trader. He transitioned into tech leading product and engineering teams at early-stage startups. David is born and raised in Los Angeles and a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy.
Kippo strives to deliver a better, safer, more inclusive environment for gamers to get to know one another.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, David says:
I think discipline is more important than motivation. It is extremely difficult to be motivated every day. A work ethic built of motivation will have highs and lows, but discipline is consistent. I use high days of motivation as a burst of energy and effort, and I rely on discipline to grind through low motivation days. Discipline transfers across all areas. I don’t know anyone who exercises regularly and has a bad work ethic.
When starting a new company, tell your idea to anyone willing to listen. Too many people think that they need to keep their ideas secret in fear of someone else stealing that idea. Ideas are cheap. Companies are built through execution. People generally want to help other people. If more people are aware of your endeavors, there are more chances for someone to help. Furthermore, each time you tell someone your idea is a mini way to practice your pitch and flush out your idea into something clear and concise.
Read on to know more about David Park and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
David Park: I originally come from a Wall Street background working as an algorithmic trader. I worked on early teams at various startups leading teams in product and engineering. Throughout the years, the rate of anxiety, depression, and loneliness has been on a terrifying rise. I like to say that human interaction is food for the soul, and social media is empty calories. I wanted to find a solution for people to interact again in a deeper and more meaningful way and a way that worked with a digital future.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
David Park: Kippo is more than a product. Kippo is an idea. Our flagship product is a mobile app called Kippo – Meet New People, available on iOS and now newly on Android. The app is continually evolving and improving daily. We track deep metrics and incubate feedback groups of users to understand how people are using our app. Kippo’s goal is to create new meaningful relationships in people’s lives, and we constantly iterate on our product to more closely sign with that goal.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
David Park: We raised $2M in Seed funding. We have some amazing strategic partners, including former senior executives from Tinder and professionals in the esports and gaming industry. Our Seed Round raise was in February of 2020.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fund-raising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
David Park: The most important thing for us was to take investment from strategic partners that believed in our vision. In the dating app industry, it is easy for investors to push for revenue early on and compromise the product for short-term profits. We have a long term vision, and we needed to align with partners who would not compromise this vision. From my connections in tech, I reached out to a couple of angel investors who not only understood the dating and gaming space but personally know me and my abilities as an operator. They were interested right away. They not only invested but introduced us to other investors that they thought might be a good fit. From there, the connections snowballed. Every investor who invested introduced us to more investors, and we were quickly oversubscribed. There is no better endorsement than someone who has put their own money in as a vouch. We picked up a lot of great early press, including coverage in Forbes and VentureBeat. The continuous inbound cold calls from the press were overwhelming. Even today, we regularly get cold contacts from investors and VCs asking for a Zoom call. We never doubted that we were onto a great idea, but it always feels good to validate.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
David Park: The biggest lesson I learned was not to waste time with people who need a lot of convincing. You will have to pitch over and over again, answer lists of follow up questions, provide requested metrics, go through diligence, and so much more. On top of this, you still need to be working to the bone running the company. The people who ended up invested in Kippo were interested right away. Most of them were excited about the idea even before meeting. They just wanted to meet to confirm that I was an effective operator and better understand the long term vision. None of the people who took up the most of my time ended up investing. Most of the people who invested were convinced in the first meeting. Many wrote a check on the spot. Do not waste time with people on the fence. Focus your time on people who are already enthusiastic about you or the idea.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
David Park: Before raising the next round, our goal is to accumulate the metrics to form a compelling vision for how Kippo is on the path to be a billion-dollar company. We have outlined a clear set of minimum metrics to hit to demonstrate the global potential of Kippo. We already have a lot of VC interest for Kippo’s Series, but we want Kippo to be in the best position possible to negotiate the best terms that will accelerate Kippo to success.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
David Park: We have been leveraging viral social platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. Kippo, as a content, needs little user education, so our marketing goal was to get as many impressions as possible just to let people know that we exist. We got creative with the media through which we distribute our content. We created a webcomic that we share on social media, which has more than 15k followers. We posted viral memes on Reddit that were shared all over the internet. We even searched Twitter for people talking about dating apps for gamers and engaged with these tweets for free impressions. This is not a sustainable strategy for the long term but allowed us to get our initial users almost no cost.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
David Park: We do not use any marketing software tools.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
David Park: The hype is short-lived. Startups these days focus so much on marketing, branding, and hype. The hype is great to get eyes on your product, but at the end of the day, the product’s quality has to speak for itself. No amount of marketing can dress up a mediocre product long term.
How do you plan to expand globally?
David Park: Fortunately, both gaming and love are universal languages. Still, we need to take the time and effort to understand the cultures and customs of different cultures worldwide and make sure to monitor metrics and user feedback on a country by country basis. We like to say that every place is the same place on the internet, and Kippo helps realize this concept.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
David Park: Companies forget that the world is composed of various cultures and customs. We cannot assume that one size will fit for every region.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
David Park: We are online business in a historically recession-proof industry. However, high-growth tech startups have historically relied on frequent cash injections from investors to not only sustain growth but to sustain basic operations. Whether this paradigm will continue is uncertain, and we are not banking on it. We still have a plan to raise subsequent rounds, but at the same time, we’ve given more focus on the business fundamentals of cash flow, profitability, and sustainable growth.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
David Park: Busy does not mean productive. A day full of back-to-back meetings and phone calls will feel like a productive day, but it will almost always be a waste of time. Your time is precious, and you will never have enough of it. I try to take few meetings as I can and try to consolidate all meetings to one day a week to have uninterrupted work time on the other days.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
David Park: When starting a new company, tell your idea to anyone willing to listen. Too many people think that they need to keep their ideas secret in fear of someone else stealing that idea. Ideas are cheap. Companies are built through execution. People generally want to help other people. If more people are aware of your endeavors, there are more chances for someone to help. Furthermore, each time you tell someone your idea is a mini way to practice your pitch and flush out your idea into something clear and concise.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
David Park: “Thinking Fast and Slow” – Daniel Kahneman.
I read this book cover to cover several times, and it first sparked my interest in behavioral psychology. You can’t build a product for people if you do not understand people.
“The Disciplined Trader” – Mark Douglas
This was a great read during my Wall Street days, but the lessons learned from this book carry everything else.
“The Pursuit of Happyness”
Just one of my favorite feel-good movies
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
David Park: I think discipline is more important than motivation. It is extremely difficult to be motivated every day. A work ethic built of motivation will have highs and lows, but discipline is consistent. I use high days of motivation as a burst of energy and effort, and I rely on discipline to grind through low motivation days. Discipline transfers across all areas. I don’t know anyone who exercises regularly and has a bad work ethic.
What are the top- three life lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
David Park: Success is not a destination. It is a state of being.
Live a life that is in service to others.
What would you like to be remembered for?
David Park: Maybe I’m still too young to be thinking about a legacy. I want to be on the right side of history, do the right thing, and help many people.
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