Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way — Yunha Kim on her Success Story
Last week, I talked about a tool for coping with stress, an incredible application called Simple Habit Meditation. The app is perfect for people with busy schedules since the meditation sessions, customizable to the situation, last only five minutes. It is the second startup of the successful, young entrepreneur Yunha Kim. This week, Yunha joined us for an interview.
MUNPlanet: Hello, Yunha! Your app got us very interested. In case someone missed last week’s article, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Yunha: I’m a former investment banker who quit my post-college job to found my first startup, Locket. I became so stressed while working on Locket that I started meditating, and actually became a power user of some other meditation apps. However, it was pretty difficult to find a simple way to integrate meditation into my schedule at the time — I had to work at it. So, I was inspired to create a meditation app specifically for busy people like me, with 5 minute meditations from a variety of top teachers — like a Spotify for mindfulness and meditations.
After Locket was acquired by Wish in 2015, I went to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business where my interest in meditation only grew. Simple Habit started as a passion project in the spring of 2016 while I was still at Stanford GSB, but when I realized the powerful impact the app could have on people’s lives, I dropped out to focus fully on building a product that can change the way the world views and uses mindfulness and meditation. We launched as a YC company in Winter 2017. Here’s a TC article on the launch.
MUNPlanet: You were an investment banker on Wall Street when you decided to quit your job to found your first startup. When and how did you know that your idea was worth risking it all on?
Y: When I started Locket, I was 23. I left my previous job in investment banking knowing that I might be out of job if Locket didn’t succeed. If you have an idea and you are passionate about it, you should pursue it to the best of your ability. So I think a large part of my decision hinged on my commitment to the idea I had, and my confidence that I could make things happen if I worked hard enough. I think I did that because I felt that I had the least amount of risk at age 23. My market salary was low, and I didn’t have a family to feed. If there was any time to take a risk, that seemed like the best time. I was excited about the idea and wasn’t held back by fear of failure.
MUNPlanet: Prior to founding Simple Habit, you started Locket, raising over $3 million from prominent investors. What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs when it comes to winning over the trust of investors?
Y: For me, a big part of winning the trust of investors is having (and showing) that you have a growth mindset. Setting realistic expectations for what you can accomplish, and being open about what you don’t know as well as what you do know is a great way to show investors that you’re worthwhile of their support and mentorship.
MP: It was actually when you were running your first startup that you got the idea for Simple Habit. We’d love to hear the whole story.
Y: In starting Simple Habit, I was interested in multiple ways to help people integrate mindfulness into their lives, some of which weren’t tech. I eventually decided to create another tech company because technology has the power to reach a lot of people, anywhere in the world. I was inspired by the idea that smartphones can give people access to the world’s best meditation teachers, right in their pocket. I was motivated to create a product that could shape meditation into a much more mobile and accessible practice, especially for busy people like me. Often the busiest people are the ones who are least likely to set aside time for mindfulness, but could benefit the most from just five minutes a day of practice — in terms of stress-management and also productivity.
MP: Simple Habit was started last spring. How did the first year go, did you meet your goals? Where do you expect to see Simple Habit in 3, 5 and 10 years?
Y: After only a year, Simple Habit already has more than half a million users worldwide. Looking forward, we’re working towards building a world where meditation is a daily habit — like what Nike did for running and fitness. We want to help turn meditation into a normal, expected practice, like brushing your teeth twice a day — not a habit practiced only by subsets of the world.
We believe that forming these daily habits are much easier with friends than without, so we’re working on some new social features that allow users to challenge each other, sending friendly nudges to meditate, and more. We are also constantly scaling our teacher and content platform to bring even more teachings and adding to our growing library of 1000+ meditations.
MP: Many people tend to be very skeptical of meditation. How would you convince them to try it? How has it affected your life?
Y: There has been growing scientific research showing that meditation can have significant positive impacts in decreasing stress, increasing attention, and cultivating healthy relationships. Meditation has also been proven to help people diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and ADHD; we have numerous doctors and therapists who’ve recommended Simple Habit to their patients.
Since the launch of Simple Habit, thousands of users have reached out to us about how the app has helped them — from college students to entrepreneurs, lawyers, new mothers, and even a surgeon who uses Simple Habit before performing a surgery. We’re currently ranked as the #1 meditation app in the app store and receive daily positive reviews from new users who have started implementing a meditation practice.
Incorporating meditation into my daily life, I find myself more productive and less stressed despite being increasingly busy as Simple Habit grows. But most importantly, I’ve found it easier to truly step away from work when I do have time to relax, more able to enjoy my time off without spending that time worrying about the constant and unpredictable challenges any startup founder faces.
MP: Simple Habit Meditation is the perfect app for business people, students and busy people in general. What are some direct benefits that students can gain from your app?
Y: Many of our users are full-time students, and have shared their improvements in focus, stress and anxiety management through mediation. Simple Habit’s For Students section offers specific meditations for before an exam, to help with worrying about grades, even for preparing for an interview; the relevance of our meditations to the everyday lives of our users makes Simple Habit an incredible tool for students.
MP: What advice would you have for meditation beginners? How do you stick to it?
Y: In my experience, meditations apps are the easiest way to start a meditation practice — all you have to do is listen and follow the teachers’ instructions. There’s so many different teachers and styles out there.
Simple Habit is a great place to start, with a platform of top teachers from around the world. It makes meditation easy with tracks that are just 5 minutes.
Also, meditating at the same time every day can make all the difference when starting a new habit. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, right before you go to sleep, or another time that works best for you (e.g. lunch breaks), learning to associate a certain time of day with a quick 5-minute meditation will make it much easier to do every day.
MP: MUNPlanet is a growing community that connects light minded individuals, influencers and young entrepreneurs who share advice and help each other make smart decisions. How can the role of technology and communities such as MUNPlanet help young entrepreneurs?
Y: The most important thing you can do early on is build a team of people who move fast, work hard, and genuinely care. Your products and ideas will always change, and your early team members will have a huge impact in shaping it.
Communities like MUNPlanet help connect like-minded influencers and rising entrepreneurs. Technology can help connect and network young people to help them find the people who share their visions, and who can work with them to achieve their aspirations together. Having a network such as MUNPlanet can give young people a head-start at finding valuable partners who can help each other work to change the world.
Let’s end this interview with a couple of questions posed by our community members.
How do I know if I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
Y: If you are resilient and passionate, then you have what it takes. Regardless of the hurdles that have needed to be crossed with both my startups, either as a team or as a leader, staying mentally resilient, ambitious, and not being afraid to take risks has helped me to get where I am today.
What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career, and how did you do it?
Y: With my first start-up, I went through a period of burnout that inspired me to try meditating. At the time, I was working 24/7 and often found it hard to relax, step away from work, or sometimes fall asleep at night. Simple Habit has helped me overcome that first challenge, but I think it’s important to realize that challenges are not always external; they are often internal and require us to pay attention to our lives, not the events within it, in order to overcome them.
What advice would you have for young entrepreneurs?
Y: For me, one of the most important pieces advice for young entrepreneurs is to find smart people who care about the product to help you on this journey. Be resilient, be passionate, be open to changes, feedback and growth. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Yunha, thank you for devoting your time to this interview and sharing your knowledge and experience with our community. We wish you luck in all your future endeavors!