Steve Lee is a Korea-born American entrepreneur who is presently the CEO & Co-founder at AmazeVR.
Mr. Lee after completing his Bachelor of Science Degree from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology with a specialization in Industrial Systems Engineering & Biological Sciences in 2010 joined A.T Kearney as a Business Analyst in Korea. Prior to this, he also worked for 3 years with Kong Young DBM as a software engineer where he led 15 projects. He studied at Seoul Science High School and won the “Grand Prize” at the Seoul Science Olympiad.
With a keen interest in science and technology, Mr. Lee was also Vice President of ICISTS-KAIST, the first student-run international conference on science and technology in Korea. Besides that, he has been President of Structuring & Debating, a corporate strategy study club.
Mr. Lee before moving to California has worked in various organizations in Korea. After A. T. Kearney, he joined Bain & Company as an Associate Consultant where he worked for a year. He joined Kakao Corp. in Seongnam, Korea as a Team Leader of Strategy team before moving up the ladder as Task Force Leader of the new O2O business. As a Task Force Leader, Mr. Lee headed the launch of a new intelligent retention marketing platform, “Kakao Time Coupon”, for offline stores.
With his expertise in technology and past experiences in the marketing industry, Mr. Lee co-founded AmazeVR, Inc. in Sunnyvale, California in October 2015 along with other Korean technology veterans.
AmazeVR, a virtual reality video distribution platform has made a niche in the industry. The company has maintained a top 10 ranking in the top free sections of the Gear VR and Oculus Go stores since 2017. As a CEO & Co-founder, Mr. Lee is responsible for strategy development, fundraising, and directing day-to-day operations.
Mr. Lee aims at building VR/AR the next great frontier for entertainment and personal displays.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Mr. Steve Lee says:
“More pain, more gain. It makes me handle stress. Don’t start a startup unless you really want something from it and you understand high return is coming from high risk.”
Read on to know more about Steve Lee and his personal journey from being an employee to an employer.
What background and domain expertise do you have? What makes you turn into your current job and role? (Additionally, if available, How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now)
Steve Lee: I’d say that my background is 50% of software engineering and 50% of business development and strategy. I was starting as a software engineer 15 years ago and after that, I worked at management consulting firms such as Bain & Company and A.T. Kearney. While I was working at Bain & Company, I co-founded a startup with my friends and we were trying many things during the weekend, but as you know, we can’t build startups as part-time. We failed and I decided to join a fast-growing startup named Kakao to learn. I worked as Head of Strategy and luckily we grew a lot – IPO’d in 2014 and now it’s a $9B market-cap company. After the IPO, JB, former CEO and co-founder of Kakao, and I are discussing a lot for what to do next. Kakao was a very successful company in Korea, but it couldn’t be a global company. It was always our motivation – building a global service in the next paradigm shift. At that moment, we saw VR and we believed that within a few years – it will be the future of personal display that can replace TV and monitors. That was the reason that we founded AmazeVR in 2015 with Jeremy and Steven who are the top software engineers at Kakao.
Please describe what your typical workday looks like so that readers can understand more about you and your roles.
Steve Lee: As a CEO of a startup with 18 members, I check everything through Slack and emails trying to find something that I need to be involved in. I’d say that I take care of most of the fundraising and investor relations related works since we’re still a small team that everyone is wearing multiple hats. Also, every 7 pm on Monday, I’m having a weekly management meeting to decide things.
What are the key skills and attributes needed to be among the top influencers in your industry?
Steve Lee: Since we’re working on the premium VR content platform, I’d say that we need to have user tractions and great content and partnerships.
What career mistake has given you the biggest lesson? What is the biggest risk that you’ve taken?
Steve Lee: I’d say that everything is fair. If a person wants to work on the exciting jobs, he or she needs to give up something for that. Normally, it’s a stable salary. I always choose jobs that make my heart beating over salaries. Sometimes, there could be a payback, but not always. I haven’t regarded that as a risk, though.
What was your first “win” that made you confident that you were doing the right thing?
Steve Lee: My first win would be the moment that we hire the first employee in the US since that was our biggest fear of founding a startup in the US. It wasn’t easy, but always if we hustle, we can accomplish what we need to.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Steve Lee: More pain, more gain. It makes me handle stress.
Don’t start a startup unless you really want something from it and you understand high return is coming from high risk.
What’s your general thought about the term “Global” and What are the important factors (criteria) for local startups to consider for an international expansion based on your experiences or expertise?
Steve Lee: I think hiring the right people is the key. For that, the founder should be there.
What kind of startup (or tech) industry will impact the world in the near future like 2-3 years locally (in your country) and globally in your own personal view?
Steve Lee: I believe in VR/AR, AI, and Robotics.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Steve Lee: I would work out more and read more books.
As you know, our company group name is “beSUCCESS”, what’s your definition of the term “success” as an individual human being?
Steve Lee: Enjoy every moment of life.
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