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Tony Park and Daniel Cho of Stipop: “Keep learning”

Daniel: Technologies made our communication much more convenient and changed our lives. We are talking online more and more, but even though it became an essential part of our daily routine, it is still far from being perfect in expressing emotions and feelings. What we are currently experiencing in the world is what we call […]

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Daniel: Technologies made our communication much more convenient and changed our lives. We are talking online more and more, but even though it became an essential part of our daily routine, it is still far from being perfect in expressing emotions and feelings. What we are currently experiencing in the world is what we call communication 2.0. We are provided with tools like GIFs and emojis, which are great for having fun in conversations, but they become less effective when transferring emotions that’s more on the personal level. It’s because GIFs are a product of entertainment — TV shows and movies. But as a communication tool, they don’t cover all the depth and variety of emotions we share while talking online. Stickers, however, are specifically designed to carry an emotional variety, enabling users to share their real feelings online.

Tony: We are trying to help communication services provide better expression tools to their users, so they can communicate more effectively and be well heard and understood. The cutting edge part of this is distributing the correct stickers to the right users at the right time, so the experience becomes seamless.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Park and Daniel Cho, founders of Stipop. Stipop helps apps provide stickers for messages, chats, video calls, and live streams. All the stickers are created by global artists and are thoroughly curated by Stipop, ensuring high-quality content in 25 languages. Tony and Daniel founded the company at the age of 25 and successfully ran it ever since with offices in Santa Monica and Seoul.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Tony Park: We met in high school, and by lucky coincidence, we became roommates and then friends. We spent lots of time together and naturally talked about the future and how it would be great to start our own company. This passion led us to brainstorm ideas of what we could do, and this is how we came up with the idea of the sticker platform we are working on now.

That was six years ago. Back then, there were hardly any stickers in global messaging platforms — Facebook Messenger, for example, had less than ten sticker packs, which meant over a billion users had to share the same stickers all over again when expressing emotions online. This, and also the fact that different people like different things, made us gather sticker creators in one place. And this place is Stipop.

Daniel Cho: We witnessed online communication changing and becoming more indispensable for the past years, so we expanded our services and now provide stickers to apps worldwide. Users who use these apps have the freedom to choose stickers they like.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Tony: It happened last year when I flew over half of the globe from South Korea to Santa Monica, where Snap’s headquarters sat. We had been accepted to the Yellow Accelerator Batch 3, which only selected ten companies a year. It was an unforgettable experience, and I had a chance to meet many great people both inside and outside of Snap.

Daniel: For me, it was when we participated in TechCrunch SF.

This was when our ideas got supported not only by people we know but also by various people from various countries and industries. That was such a surreal experience, and it felt as if I am an Olympic sprinter waiting for the run to start.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Tony: I always loved the quote from Charles Bukowski, ‘If you’re going to try, go all the way.’ I like how he speaks the truth in a very bold, frank manner. I believe there are times when all the odds are against you, which will make you doubt yourself, but you have to keep going. This quote was always an encouragement for me, especially when we started this business.

Daniel: I like the quote ‘It matters if you just don’t give up’ by Stephen Hawking. Many people give up too early, so they can’t see where the process leads them to. It’s important not to give up until you try everything.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Tony: Yes, we consider ourselves very lucky — we met many great people on the way. I feel grateful to Mike Su and Alexandra Levitt, who I met in Snap’s Yellow Accelerator. We didn’t have much of a network in the US before, so it wasn’t easy to find where to start. They gave us valuable advice on many things and introduced us to people that we are friends with and who have been helping us learn about business since then.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Daniel: Since we started business at a pretty early age, I am trying to be a good example for the younger generation, so they can see that doing something you are passionate about is worth trying even without having any work experience.

Tony: Being a platform for sticker creators, we have managed to give over 6,500 young creative artists all over the world a chance to share their content with the global audience, get experience even before graduation, get recognized, and grow their fanbase.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Daniel: Technologies made our communication much more convenient and changed our lives. We are talking online more and more, but even though it became an essential part of our daily routine, it is still far from being perfect in expressing emotions and feelings. What we are currently experiencing in the world is what we call communication 2.0. We are provided with tools like GIFs and emojis, which are great for having fun in conversations, but they become less effective when transferring emotions that’s more on the personal level. It’s because GIFs are a product of entertainment — TV shows and movies. But as a communication tool, they don’t cover all the depth and variety of emotions we share while talking online. Stickers, however, are specifically designed to carry an emotional variety, enabling users to share their real feelings online.

Tony: We are trying to help communication services provide better expression tools to their users, so they can communicate more effectively and be well heard and understood. The cutting edge part of this is distributing the correct stickers to the right users at the right time, so the experience becomes seamless.

How do you think this might change the world?

Tony: On the individual level, we are improving the way we communicate. On a larger scale, we make the world a more peaceful place as most conflicts are caused by miscommunication..

Daniel: Additionally, we empower people to be themselves online — everyone can choose stickers they like, send them in messages, use them in video calls, live streams, as profile icons, you name it.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Daniel: We don’t think there are any potential drawbacks. Our team carefully screens all the contents we provide to end-users, so we are sure that our technology is safe for all the parties involved.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Daniel: Until 2019, we supplied stickers through the Stipop app only. During TechCrunch SF, many app owners asked us to provide stickers to their service through API, to our surprise. This is how we realized that there is more to it.

Tony: Also, building partnerships with companies like Google gave us a drive. Since last year we are powering stickers in Android Messages and Gboard, and after just three months, we got 1.5 billion sticker views. It was the biggest traffic we got, and thanks to this, we were able to build a stable in volume product and gather sticker usage data.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Tony: Building partnerships with chat/video SDK companies will give us a leap to reach out to more users. There is a vast pool of clients who are already using a chat/video SDK to build and maintain their services. We can make it ten times easier for them to add the sticker feature to improve user engagement and generate revenue from paid sticker sales through partnership. We recently partnered with PubNub, 2019 AI Breakthrough Awards winning chat SDK provider, and we are looking forward to meeting many new clients and users through them.

Daniel: We also believe that making strong partnerships with artists that create stickers are essential. Stipop is a unique ecosystem that consists of artists, content, technologies, partners, clients, so cherishing all the elements is highly important to provide high-quality content and good services.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

Tony: Before the pandemic, online communication was optional. Now it is pretty much unavoidable. Personal and work-related conversations come in so many different forms — all of them require the right tools, so every message and emotion is well heard. That’s what we are doing — we help people have better communication online.

Daniel: We provide tools that help people feel closer to each other when there is no chance to meet. That is what stickers are for. We want to make an optimized environment for people to communicate online as much as offline by using stickers.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Daniel:

  1. Stop thinking; just do it.

Not long after we started our business, we wanted to make our services perfect, so we spent a lot of time thinking. Looking back now, I realized that rather than overthinking, it is better to try and see where it goes. Making modifications on the way is often easier and brings good results faster.

2. Make fear of the unknown work for you.

Before we got invested, the funds we had were close to zero. This gave me huge stress levels, and I had no other way but to channel this energy into work. This helped us solve the problems one by one, and we could see the growth.

3. It’s not over until it’s over.

Things are unpredictable. You can worry about something, and it will eventually get resolved, or you can be excited about something, and then it fails. We were very close to signing a good partnership with a big company that could lead to many incredible opportunities. However, the partnership got canceled for reasons beyond our control. Thinking about this now, it is better to celebrate the wins when they happen rather than doing it prematurely.

4. Keep learning.

Running a company means doing a lot of different things. It is about the competition on the market and how to survive it, leadership, and not failing people who work with you. The only thing that helps to keep up with everything is learning.

5. It can take longer than you think.

Things don’t always go as we plan, especially in business. There have always been more variables in developing a product than we thought. I have come to believe that this should always be kept in mind. Unexpected situations can happen anytime and anywhere, even if you think you know your business like the back of your hand.

Tony:

  1. Start early.

We started business at 25, but I regret I hadn’t started it earlier. There is no other experience like running your business. It teaches you to look at problems from multiple angles simultaneously, face failures, and try things to figure out which ones will work and lead you to the next step.

2. Learn to code the basics unless you have a founding member who can code.

Not having done this in the beginning has slowed us down in some way.

3. Winning pitches and getting compliments mean nothing.

Unless this leads to meeting your future clients or gives you insights on your customers and product-market fit.

4. Make decisions fast, even if they are not perfect.

Making quick decisions rather than waiting for a perfect decision is much more efficient. There’s no ‘perfect decision’ or ‘perfect time.’

5. Keep studying even after the business is up and running.

When your business is growing and prospering, you need to grow too. There are so many things to learn about everything. You never know what skills you will need to have later on.

You are people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Tony:Everyone is capable of creating something unique and valuable. This is what I learned over the past few years. As we closely work with sticker creators, we realized that there are so many artists who’ve had over a million sticker downloads in just a few months, even though they have never learned how to do character illustrations. But many people never try things unless they are provided with an opportunity. I think this is already some kind of movement. We want to continue making people believe that they can create whatever they want by simply starting.

Daniel: We want to inspire people to share ideas and creativity with the world by making unique content that can change the world one sticker at a time.We also want to encourage apps to help their users with it as the software is the best way to bring people together.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Daniel: Keep your eye on the Stipop homepage and follow us on Linkedin.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


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