I’ve conducted more than 200 job interviews since May of 2015 for applicants at SendBird. Given our steep growth rate over the past two years, these interviews have been happening with more frequency.
At the end of the interview, I always try to spare time to listen to the candidate and answer any questions they may have about the company and the position. Today, I will ponder and share two of the most frequently asked questions. So the next time I get the same question, I hope my future applicants will get to see my authentic and well-organized thoughts through this page.
Why did I join the company SendBird?
Remember, it was the end of March 2015. At the time, I just completed a deal to sell the majority shares of Ticket Monster, one of the largest Korean mobile shopping applications at the time, to a global private equity fund called KKR for about $850M. At first, I considered starting my own business, but I soon realized that I had neither the work experience within an early stage company nor the networks to build a team. I therefore went to seek out startups that shared my business aspirations.
When I was introduced to John Kim, CEO and Co-founder of SendBird (formerly known as JIVER at that time) on April 27, 2015, I already had two offers from other startups to join as their early members or as a part of their senior management team. I chose SendBird for the following reasons:
Serial entrepreneur (s)
As you might have guessed, when I was searching for my next step, I was looking for someone with experiences in serial entrepreneurship to hopefully minimize trial-and-error mistakes. This is the reason I appreciated the co-founders of SendBird, who found and liquidated their previous startup called Paprika Lab together.
Moreover, it was fascinating to see four grown men working together as founding members rather than having one founder also work as the CEO of the company. The benefit of having a group was that they not only shared their experiences and perspectives together, but they also were able to supplement each other’s strengths while covering each other’s weaknesses. This group dynamic is the reason why I still believe it was a great decision for me to join SendBird. Since early startups are normally exposed to many decision variables, having a group of founders working together minimizes the risk of senior management losing composure.
Clear expectations & transparent communication
Back then, SendBird proposed to me 1) the lowest share of equity (one of the most important criteria for me at that time) compared to my other two offers, 2) a vaguely stated job title, and 3) a less-competitive compensation package.
However, the reason and the philosophical background of the proposal were clearly and consistently communicated with me, and it made me believe in the authenticity of the company’s vision. In addition, the contract in the Stock Purchase Agreement was not only well-written, but the content was concise and close to industry standards.
Unfortunately, the other two offers gave many attractive perks, but these details were often only communicated verbally, making it difficult for me to establish the validity of their claims. Furthermore, their contracts contained a (seamingly arguable) toxin clause, such as limited voting rights and an oddly designed vesting period.
Two additional factors affected my decision, and they are as follows:
Product / Engineering-focused talents
I wanted to choose a startup that could differentiate itself from the crowd with product/technology defensibility and innovation factors rather than its business models. Whether or not there was good enough technical talent within the startup that could drive such a growth strategy was an important criteria, and I found this possibility within SendBird, which was 100% centered on its technical workforce.
Early startup from the ground-up with a small enough team
It was important to me that I could be a highly correlated factor (or multiplier) that determined the success of the business. I believed that becoming an early member was the key to achieving that structured environment.
Eventually, I’ve joined SendBird, and now, we’ve attracted a total of $120M from Silicon Valley’s leading VCs through a series of A / B rounds, which turned out to be a good decision.
Then, Why Do I Stay?
The next question is, why do you still remain with the company until now? Every time I get asked this question, I need to contemplate. This is because my impressions are constantly changing year after year from 2015 all the way until now, in 2020.
When I was asked this question in 2018, I remember saying the following answer:
My greatest motivation for staying is the fact that we are growing faster and more efficiently than any other SaaS company in Silicon Valley, making historical benchmarks. In a company with fewer than 50 people, it’s very exciting to work with enough ownership and with high levels of engagements that drives a strong correlation between the effort you put in and growth that comes out. It was also thrilling to be recognized at Silicon Valley, the capital of technology startups all over the world, as an international entrepreneur from Korea.
Now in 2020, many facts have changed as the company has grown to nearly 200 people. The roles and responsibilities I used to own have been delegated to many other people in different job titles. There are also different challenges appearing in this expansion stage as we have moved past the product-market fit and the go-to-market stages.
So with that in mind, I think the reasons why I have stayed at SendBird have also changed and grown.
First, I am constantly asked to grow as a leader, not as an individual. In the past, my job was to solve challenging problems and to deliver what I was asked. Now, I am asked to encourage the team to solve the problems and expand those capabilities throughout the bigger scale of our organization.
In addition, there are growing demands to have many different perspectives between different people when it comes to the geographic and cultural diversity of our operations. Having this diversity is truly an essential part of growing a company that you cannot overlook because you will not keep scaling your company unless you transform yourself while helping others grow in a positive matter.
Finally, I want to complete this journey successfully with my colleagues. There are many people who have been with SendBird since the moment the company had almost no presence. I feel grateful to all of the companions I’ve made over the years who trusted us enough to take the leap of faith with SendBird. In the future, when we end this journey, I wish everyone to be more successful than they could have ever imagined in the beginning.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for our team and community culture, philosophies, and values that we consistently believed and invested in despite our ever-changing situations, and I am glad that we always maintain transparent communication of whatever happens in the office. Those are things we can pursue consistently, and we believe that the power to construct our own future, despite many uncertainties, is always within us.
We pursue these ideals not by relying on our individual competencies, but rather by relying on each other as a team. I will always be grateful to SendBird for making me a person who is “becoming better” and “learning how to live together.”