#Asia This startup wants to become the ‘Yelp’ of South Korea


In a chat with Tech for Korea, CEO Universe Shin of PinSory talks about the restaurant review industry, starting up with friends and more


The Pinstory Team

Universe Shin of Seoul-based tech startup PinStory shares the journey of founding his startup, breaking down language barriers, and how the company plans to generate revenue without making a profit from the website.

Here are the edited excerpts:

Tell us about yourself and your company product/service. What is the problem you want to solve?

PinStory is a multi-lingual restaurant review and reservation platform targetting major metropolitan cities in Asia. We launched our service in Korea in May 2015.

PinStory wants to solve language barrier issues for foreigners and non-native locals. Today, the world is very connected. Everyone travels a lot but due to language barriers, many travellers face difficulties in finding reliable and objective information in their native language. PinStory has a vision of allowing everyone to find popular places and hidden gems without getting stuck by language barriers.

What is the story behind your startup becoming a reality?

Before founding PinStory, I was an emerging market analyst at Bank of Singapore (BOS). I used to travel a lot to the big cities, mostly financial hubs such as New York, London and Hong Kong. I have used Yelp in the US and I absolutely loved it. Since then, I had a dream to make a Yelp-style review platform, which helps and connects businesses and customers. So I decided to quit BOS. Of course, it was a tough decision for me.

After founding PinStory, I graduated from the acceleration programme offered by Digital Entertainment Ventures. Subsequently, a VC firm in New York, some talented engineers and trustworthy friends also decided to join our team.

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How and where did you meet your team members?

It will take too long to explain how and where I met every team single member because our team is not small anymore. I met Mati, our Co-founder and engineer, online. We shared our vision because he was a foreigner majoring in computer science from Ethiopia. We easily got on the same page and he made the hard decision to jump in and align our goal of starting up.

Our COO (Chief Operating Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) were my friends and they worked at prestigious top-tier companies, Premier Oakwood Hotel and Daiwa Asset Management, respectively. I appreciate their decision to leave stable jobs and come work for a startup.

How did you come to target this particular industry?

Our diverse team is composed of members from the US, Japan, Ethiopia, Korea and Spain (which means a lot of eating out). So it was convenient for us to target the restaurant industry, because we were very unsatisfied with the current state of the restaurant industry in Korea and Asia.

Who are your competitors? Who might become your competitors?

There are a number of similar competitors. The fact that we have a growing number of new competitors means that our target industry is growing. For example, there were only a few food-delivery service startups two to three years ago, but we now have a much bigger scene.

I think the strongest competitor for us right now is someone sitting in a garage, making an awesome and creative product we haven’t even imagined so far.

How do you generate revenue?

We have two key revenue generation models — advertisement and commission per transaction of coupon and reservation. In general, we don’t try to make a profit within our website, but we try to generate profit from local businesses by creating values.

How will you get users? If your idea is the type that won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users, how will you overcome that barrier?

We’re already attracting a large number of users because our service is becoming a must-have for many. This fast growth in user volume means that users need our product, even though we haven’t advertised our product aggressively.

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Of course, we’ve been promoting our product with various channels such as online advertisements, viral marketing and coupon promotion, but we’re primarily concentrating on making a better product for users. I am sure this is the best strategy to attract users than relying solely on aggressive promotion.

This article has been republished from Tech for Korea.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at writers[at]e27[dot]co

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