10 Things You Do After Your StartUp is Acquired.

John Sung Kim Net Worth

Selling your baby company is somewhat bittersweet. The money and sense of accomplishment with your team is undeniable, but at the same time it’s odd to go from CEO to employee. Half of my former employees kept asking me, “You ok, JK?” and the other half would give me an occasional look like, “Don’t you dare tell me what to do – you ain’t the boss!”

I came into the office on a Thursday evening – first clue we were acquired – no one was in the office at 6:30pm. I gathered all of my belongings in a CostCo box, turned the lights out and left DoctorBase for the last time.

To be fair, the following are the 10 things that I did (a surly Korean-American dude with an endless affection for beer). This article is in no way meant to imply that these are things that normal well-adjusted people do. You’ve been warned about reading further.

1. Said goodbye to competitor. Most of my career I’ve heard VCs say, “We like you, but ABC Co. has raised so much money and there are so many competitors. We just don’t see how you can win.”

So one of the first things I did was gathered my core team and danced in front of the grave office of my closest competitor who had raised 30x more money (yeah, 30x!). At the time of our exit we had almost 3x their revenues.

It’s why as a hobby angel investor, I never underestimate a roomful of creative people who are die hard about winning.  Smart is good, but scrappy often wins the day in competitive markets.

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2. Visit Africa. The first trip I made was to go to Morocco to ride camels and haggle for things I didn’t want.

The pictures look great but believe me, the desert is cold, boring and filled with cats. Yes, cats.

John Sung Kim DoctorBase

Which in a way made sense to me because the Sahara looked like a large litter box. However, the people of Morocco were quite lovely and I highly recommend going shopping through the maze like streets of Marrakech – a bucket list worthy experience.

I returned home to San Francisco after ten days in Africa and ate a super burrito every day for a week.  God is great, truly.

3. Buy a bunch of stuff you’ve always wanted (obviously). In my case, motorcycles. I always wanted a different bike for each day of the week, and a house with a garage in San Francisco big enough to house them all. Dream = fulfilled.

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And if you really like a particular model, why not buy two?

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4. Buy your (ex)employees things that make them happy. Because let’s face it, without them I’d be a monkey with a powerpoint presentation. No offense to monkeys really. I love animals.

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5. Throw fun parties. And this being San Francisco, most of my guests will be smarter than me and way more accomplished. Note the tall handsome dude in my kitchen is Coach Mike Brown (former head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, my Los Angeles Lakers and now with the Warriors).

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Some of my guests (after I explicitly asked them not to) asked him questions like, “Who was worse to coach – Lebron or Kobe? Tell the truth Coach!”

In Silicon Valley for some reason we lack social graces.  #Aspergers

Or have dinner with celebrities. Not because they like you but because you paid for a fundraiser dinner benefitting a charity you actually know very little about. 

“Yo Yao!” I said, but I don’t think he got my sense of humor. Man I love basketball.

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And have a real convo with your childhood idol. When I was a kid I loved Janes Addiction. Being able to talk about the music industry with lead singer Perry Farrell was a dream come true.

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6. Retire your parents. It’s an Asian thing I guess.

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Send family members on vaca. Also, Asian thing.

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My baby cousin and her husband are both so smart and good looking and young they make me want to puke.

7. Speak at your university and drink beer with students like you’re still an undergrad. And actually puke.

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Or people from far off countries will ask you to come speak about startup life, which was also great for me considering I would never had gone to Norway otherwise.

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And for some reason after you have an IPO or exit, people who own boats invite you onto them. I never knew some many people owned boats. And you know what? Everyone is in a great mood on a boat. You never hear of a fistfight breaking out on a boat. Am I right?

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8. Do “VIP” stuff like become a judge for a foreign country’s Miss Universe pageant.

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One of my (ex)employees saw this pic of me “judging” on the event’s Facebook page and she slacked, “JSK, I’ve never seen you look so content.” She was joking I think.


Or get invited to the White House and chill with politicians.

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Charlie Rangel may have left his office with some controversy (after decades of public service) but he’s still one of the best sales professionals to ever pitch. I wish I could’ve gone drinking beers with him afterwards.

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Traveling the world for a year makes you very bereft of potential girlfriends dates (ok, so I didn’t have a lot of dates before then either) so my friend Kyra packed her dress, hopped on a flight to D.C. and came to my rescue as my +1 for the White House gala. Thanks pal – I’m lucky to have friends like you.

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9. Become an angel investor and support other amazing founders by hustling hard for them. Cliche but true, in this town you must add value to get into good deals when you’re writing checks as small as mine.

John Sung Kim investor

10. Start to miss your desk at work. When you had a job. And purpose.

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Also, even your friends at Facebook seem to be working on interesting projects, and so inevitably you get back to fucking work like a real grown up.

Still, my year off the grid was memorable and I’m glad I had it. Whenever people say bullshit like, “I wish I could have a year like that, JK,” I always tell them that if they quit their day job, then –

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How I Used Email Tracking to Sell Our StartUp

When I was the CEO of my second startup DoctorBase, my sales team used email tracking to figure out who in their pipeline was reading their emails. This helped them focus on who to target and when to contact potential customers.

My marketing department used pixel retargeting so that when people came to our website they would see our ads across Facebook and other websites.

And that’s when I had my big idea on how to get people interested in buying our startup.

By combining pixel retargeting with email tracking I could send emails to executives and not only see when they opened my emails but automagically “pixel” them so even if they ignored me (which they did) they would see my ads across the web.

“You guys are blowing up,” one CEO said to me when I finally got him to respond.

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This was a solution I had our engineering team hack together (internally called “Project JetBridge“) because a solution that combined email tracking and pixel retargeting for Gmail didn’t exist.

That’s why we built JetBridge – it’s a simple plugin for Gmail that lets you have unprecedented visibility into how recipients read your emails and attachments, and depending on their actions can automagically send them to the most relevant retargeting campaign.

For example: It’s easy to connect your Facebook ad campaigns to JetBridge, and when you email prospects:

  • Those that didn’t open your email can be automagically shown generic brand messages on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Those that read your email but didn’t respond can be shown more granular retargeting ads since they already got your initial message and know what you’re about.
  • Those that read your email and responded can be shown case studies since they’ve indicated interest and need social proof from other customers.

But I wanted Email Tracking to do so much more –

  • I’m mobile a lot, and I didn’t always get the important desktop notifications on my Macbook. I mean, Tim Cook could be reading my cold email (he wasn’t) and if I was on my iPhone I’d have lost the opportunity to dance dance revolution with him.

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  • We also wanted to know exactly how much time on each page of our attachments people were spending in minute detail, especially for important financial documents and VC presentations.

Don’t you want to know if a VC is forwarding your deck to someone else, or an executive at that Fortune 500 company is sharing your powerpoint presentation with their colleagues? I certainly do.

  • We needed to track email forwards, not just opens! An email forwarded clearly has a higher level of intent (like someone is sharing your email with fellow colleagues at their company. Or forwarding your emails to their lawyer 🙂 ).

Business can sometimes feel like war, and I want all of the intel possible.

So after I sold DoctorBase to the leading digital health company in our space in a mostly cash deal, I went to work with my core engineering team to build Project JetBridge as a commercially available free(mium) tool.

As is designed, JetBridge becomes increasingly more accurate over time gauging how interested your recipients are. And of course it’s super simple to connect your Facebook ads account and start pixeling your recipients.

It takes time for JetBridge to get smarter, but that’s how we designed it from the ground up with Dr. Scott Locklin (well known in the Machine Learning and AI space) and our two technical co-founders Mischa and Adam.

I want to hear all your product bitches and ideas for how to make Project JetBridge better for your startup or team. Email me at john.kim@jetbridge.com or catch me at any number of Mexican restaurants in San Francisco or bars in Kiev.

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Bye Bye, Panda

DoctorBase Founders

In 2009 my buddy Mischa and I wanted to make a ding in the healthcare universe. We were both pretty fed up with the status quo for consumer health, and felt like we could build a communications app that made it much easier for doctors and their patients to communicate digitally.

Man, we learned some really harsh lessons about the American healthcare system. Namely, the folks who control our national healthcare policies at the highest levels make Russian mobsters look like pussies.

  • If you work for the Russian or Ukrainian mob, please know that I have the highest respect for your craft – no insult intended.

DoctorBase was also a lesson in competing with better funded competitors by sticking to your passion for building the best damn product and ignoring the VC hype machine. Our closest competitor HealthXXXX had raised 30x more money than we did, but at the time of our acquisition we were a totally employee-controlled company and was doing almost triple their revenues with nominal churn.

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This took 5 years to build out completely, and by then it was one of the dominant apps in the market with very little funding or marketing. Of course, VCs passed on us because, well HealthXXXX had raised much more money and that meant they were going to win. A very famous VC said he felt that “HealthXXXX is going to run away with the market.”

At the time I sold the company we had about 13,000 doctors communicating electronically with nearly 7 million American patients. We were small, but we were a bad ass gang. I mean, not as bad as Russian mobsters, but still.

“I’m Searching for a Co-Founder”

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I hate hearing this as an angel investor.

It’s often said by the same people who don’t want to tell you too much about their idea because the idea is “Secret.”

There are passionate, competent software and hardware engineers all over the world. The world. If you can’t find one, you’re not looking hard enough or you’re a shitty salesperson.

If you can’t find one engineer to work with you, how the hell are you going to build a company full of them? Finding great talent (technical, operational or creative) gets harder after raising money, not easier.

And duuude. No one cares about your fucking idea. Now go find a good technical partner and treat each other like gold.

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  • These two are the co-founders of a startup that was a copycat of my second company (but in Singapore). They cold called me and asked to meet for some advice, which tickled me pink.  One is the business person, the other person technical. Can you guess which one is which?