Se Hyun-jung remembers when he worried that he wouldn’t have enough money for his next meal.

He was 20 years old and had just started an artificial intelligence (AI) company to help students improve their scores on college entrance exams.

“I was in a lot of debt and had to pay my employees using credit cards,” Sae told CNBC Make It.

Ten years later, the life of a series of entrepreneurs paints a much different picture.

Since it was my product, I was obsessed with making it work.

Se Hyun Jung

Founder and CEO of oVice

He is currently the founder and CEO of oVice. oVice is a virtual office platform created to bring the collective energy of a physical office space to remote teams.

For example, according to oVice, the platform allows casual health check-ups with colleagues without a “formal online meeting.”

The company’s headquarters are in Japan, where Korean Sae currently resides.

Late last month, oVice raised $32 million in a Series B round led by a group of domestic and foreign investors. The latest funding brings total capital raised to $45 million.

According to Sae, the company earns $6 million in annual recurring revenue.

CNBC Make It examines what young entrepreneurs learned from their failures, and how new startups were ultimately born.

Flexibility is Key

The biggest problem with failed AI ventures, Sae admitted, was that he “didn’t find the market.”

“My AI platform is dedicated to one exam that international students need to come to Japan,” he said, referring to the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU).

Sae, who was studying in Japan in 2017, took the same exam and struggled to prepare for it.

“I didn’t have enough books to study for the EJU… I collected exam questions from local universities and generated them with AI, which helped improve my grades,” he said.

“However [at that time]Since only 1,000 people took the exam each year, [a] It’s a really niche and small market. “

Investors told him that in order to invest in startups, he needed to expand the market.

But Sae said she was stubborn. She said, “No. I want to solve this problem.”

Despite his determination, the platform faltered and Sae simply “failed.”

Sae Hyung-Jung is currently the founder and CEO of oVice. oVice is a virtual office platform created to bring the collective energy of a physical office space to remote teams.


“It was my product, so I was obsessed with making it work.”

He eventually sold the company and helped pay off his debts, giving him the ‘reset’ he so desperately needed.

Still, Sae didn’t give up. Because entrepreneurship is a “continuous journey,” he said. And it wasn’t the first time it failed.

At the age of 18, he started a trade brokerage business connecting Japanese and Korean companies with suppliers and distributors. However, a year later she had to close her shop.

“At that time in 2011 there was a big earthquake in Japan.It was crazy…my client [in South Korea] Their purchase price was doubling as they were importing products from Japan. “

Flexibility increases your chances of success.

Se Hyun Jung

Founder and CEO of oVice

Seeing how unsustainable the business was, Sae decided to stop the business and instead pursue a university degree in Japan.

Reflecting on his experience, he realized the importance of adaptability in entrepreneurship.

“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out. Start something else. Flexibility increases your chances of success.”

ideas are born

In college and graduate school, Sae worked as an AI and blockchain consultant. In February 2020, he traveled to Tunisia, about 925 kilometers (575 miles) from Italy, for the role.

At that time, the Covid-19 virus was spreading rapidly across Italy. The epicenter of the first coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

“The Tunisian government said we would have to go out tomorrow because the lockdown would start. rice field.

Trapped in Tunisia, Sae has had to work remotely, with Japanese colleagues working from home.

However, he soon grew frustrated with remote work, as there was little collaboration between employees.

Working remotely… it’s like a power outage and I don’t know what’s going on inside the company.

Se Hyun Jung

Founder and CEO of oVice

“In the office, I could go for project updates and quickly identify bottlenecks, or discover problems from conversations I somehow overheard,” he explained.

“But when you work remotely or communicate via Zoom or Slack, you don’t get the same experience. It felt like a blackout. I don’t understand anything.”

Sae decided to take matters into his own hands and recreated the concept of shared office space. it’s online.

For example, his virtual office platform allows users or their avatars to approach a colleague and initiate a conversation or have a casual chat just like they would in a physical office.

Don’t you want to be eavesdropped? You can “lock” the conversation or bring it into a private virtual conference room, says Sae.

With oVice, employees can approach colleagues and start conversations or have casual chats. Just like in a real office.


After spending two weeks building the first prototype and sharing it with his colleagues, Sae found his work extremely satisfying.

“It was a lot of fun and I think it will satisfy people who feel the need to be in the office.”

oVice launched in Japan in August 2020. Sae said there has been a surge in companies paying for services as they realize the pandemic won’t be over anytime soon.

“Companies started thinking about remote work communication and engagement, and oVice helped them do that.”

Transition to hybrid work

Sae’s new company has enjoyed great success over the past two years due to the pandemic.

But as countries around the world eased restrictions and employees began returning to the office, oVice began shifting its focus to helping companies adapt to what they called the “new normal”: hybrid work.

How remote and hybrid work has changed the office

“A lot of people now think that I like being in the office, but if my company decided to go 100% to the office, I would quit. And companies know that.” added Sae.

“Yes, we’re going back to the office, but that doesn’t mean [online collaboration] Disappear. “

Sae is confident his platform will continue to thrive as workplaces move toward hybrid work and pre-pandemic normalization.

I’m glad I experienced failure. They taught me an important lesson.

Se Hyun Jung

Founder and CEO of oVice

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