How a Harvard dropout created the largest e-commerce company in South Korea, the startup is now worth a staggering $9 billion
Kim Beom-seok, also known as Kim Bom, was born in Seoul, South Korea. Just like all immigrants chasing the American dream, Kim left South Korea with his parent at the age of 7. At age 13, he went to boarding school in Massachusetts at Deerfield Academy, and later attended Harvard University and graduated with a degree in government.
While at Harvard, Kim and classmate Daniel Loss started Current Magazine, a news title for college students that is now published by Newsweek. The two worked together as reporter-researchers at The New Republic in 1998. Kim later attended to study for his MBA at Harvard Business School but dropped out after only six months. Kim briefly worked at Boston Consulting Group before raising $4 million to co-found a magazine called 02138 with Daniel Loss. The magazine folded in 2009.
In 2010, Kim founded Coupang, an e-commerce startup set out to transform the end-to-end Customer experience — from revolutionizing last-mile delivery to rethinking how Customers search and discover on a truly mobile-first platform. Coupang went on to raise more than $3.8 billion in venture capital from investors such as Sequoia Capital, Softbank, BlackRock, and others. Today, Coupang is a $9 billion e-commerce giant and South Korea’s most valuable startups.
In a recent interview with CNBC make it, Kim revealed part of his determination to succeed in life: “I had a belief when I was in grad school that I had a very short window to really make something that had an impact,” he told CNBC Make It. Coupang has been dubbed the “Amazon of South Korea.” However, the now 40-year-old founder said during the interview that, he didn’t exactly set out to become the next Jeff Bezos. In fact, Coupang started out in the late-2000′s as a Groupon-style daily deals business. The company later pivoted to e-commerce a couple of years later.
In November 2018, Coupang received a $2 billion investment from SoftBank. Other major investors in Coupang include BlackRock and Fidelity. Just last year, Coupang’s annual revenue exceeds US$4 billion. The company’s Rocket Delivery network provides same-day or next-day delivery of more than five million unique items. Coupang claims that 99.6 percent of its orders are delivered within 24 hours.
Kim has been named one of the most creative business leaders by US business magazine Fast Company. “Coupang has fundamentally changed people’s lives in a country that is marked for its dense population, long working hours and commuting hours,” the company quoted the magazine as saying. Coupang is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, in the Songpa-gu District. Coupang also has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Mountain View, New York, and Seattle.