Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Silicon Dragon CES 2021: VC & Founder Tech Chat > K-Pop Trends


For this Tech Chat from our 2021 Silicon Dragon CES Event, our featured panelists were Jeffrey Lee, Managing Director at Northern Light Venture Capital in Silicon Valley, and Jihong Lee, Founder and CEO of Picky, a newly funded digital skincare community company. This conversation with a founder and VC touched on the emerging opportunities for a connected global world, the growing K-Beauty industry, and if Covid-19 can be a tailwind.


Hyper-Connected World
Northern Light Venture Capital has a focus on China with roots in Silicon Valley. Learning from experience investing in China and Silicon Valley, the firm sees a great opportunity emerging of a hyperconnected world where big ideas and execution can happen from anywhere, not just the well-known hubs like Silicon Valley. Northern Light is moving to execute on this premise, and one of its concentrations is in Korea. That’s where new portfolio company Picky factors in. 

Global to The Bone
When asked why Northern Light Venture Capital invested $1.3 million in Picky, Jeffrey gushed about how Jihong is part of a new exciting generation of entrepreneurs who are globally connected. Jeffrey cited Jihong’s experience expanding Supercell’s business in Asia, as well as his time with Google in the U.S. to illustrate Jihong’s ability to be successful around the world. 

Social Norms
When asked if being a male CEO in the beauty industry was strange, Jihong noted the tremendous pressure for Korean men to maintain a rigorous skincare routine for perfect skin. He added there is friction of actually being able to find the right products. Picky is working to build a community based around discussions and reviews of brands and products to break through the friction in hopes that the K-Beauty market will explode with growth. This is part of a trend that Jihong sees of influence going from east to west, rather than west to east like in the past. New generations see beauty and skincare regimens as an expression of themselves, and Picky is confident the startup can capitalize on these trends. 

Content is King 
When asked about Picky’s competitors, Jihong does not see global players that actually focus on content and information for personalized skincare. He does note, however, that there are similar companies in the U.S. that are receiving funding. Jihong believes that the momentum of the K-Beauty industry as well as a dearth of good consumer-friendly content around beauty products can propel Picky into a globally recognized brand. Jihong sees Picky as the Yelp or Tripadvisor of the beauty industry, a platform to help make sense of the cluttered beauty business.

Tailwinds Post Covid-19
Before the onset of Covid-19, it was traditional for a beauty shopper to go into a store to get advice to help them make their choice. Now, going inside a store to have someone in close proximity to your face is a rare and even dangerous endeavor. Picky is benefiting from this move out of brick-and-mortar stores and is welcoming users into their digital community. This trend won’t be reversing anytime soon, and Picky is well-positioned towards Jihong and Jeffrey’s goals of becoming a global player in the massive beauty industry. 

Jeffrey Lee is the Managing Director and Co-Founder at Northern Light Venture Capital, an early-stage focused firm operating for over 15 years with six funds and over 200 portfolio companies. The firm is a China concept fund with roots in Silicon Valley. It invests in IT, consumer services, clean tech and health care.
Prior to founding Northern Light, Jeffrey was a General Partner and Co-Founder at Newton Technology Partners (a technology focused venture firm in Korea that backed 18 companies). One of those companies was Wavics, an RFIC company where Lee served as the Director of Business Development.
Lee is a member of several boards, including Habitat for Humanity San Francisco, the Harvard College Fund, and BSPK, a digital marketplace for luxury products, backed by Northern Light.
Lee holds an AB in Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Jihong Lee is the Founder and CEO of Picky, a company building a digital community for discovering and interacting with beauty brands, tailored to the individual.
Prior to founding Picky, Lee was the second employee at Supercell’s Seoul office (Supercell is an extremely popular mobile gaming company and part of the Tencent family). He was also the Mobile Apps Monetization Lead at Google.
Lee holds a BA in Business Administration from Seoul National University. 

Summary by Silicon Dragon Global contributor Michael Weiss