Who we are and why (I think) Google bought us

Who we are and why (I think) Google bought us

by Chang-Won Kim

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TNC (full name Tatter and Company), Korea’s blog specialty company which I’ve been running as a CEO with my partner Chester (who is the original founder of the company), was acquired by Google Korea on 9/12/2008. For those who are not familiar with us, think of TNC as Korea’s Automattic – a company that develops a cool blogging platform that’s favorited by the nation’s A-list bloggers, and also works closely with the open source community.
Despite the danger of sounding too self-important, I would say our company was a fairly good acquisition target for Google. First, we had a killer product: Our previous work, Tistoryblog service (now property of Daum as we sold the service to the Korea’s #2 portal), made to the top 10 Korean web destination in less than a year from launch, showing some 30,000% growth over the initial 8 months. While other blog services seem to be exploringthe idea of integrating social networks with blogs only lately, our new blog service Textcube(link in Korean) had already implemented the feature much earlier. Secondly, we have great engineering talents. Many of our software engineers hail from the nation’s leading comp sci programs, such as KAIST. 



Significance: Google takes Korean market seriously



Some might say what’s the big deal here, as Google seems to acquire companies almost daily. Well, if I may put some meaning to this deal, the notable fact here is that we are a company based out of Korea. To my knowledge, we are being one of the first major acquisitions done by Google in the entire Asia let alone Korea, if we don’t count Austrailia and also exclude share-taking activities in China for licensing purposes. Of course I could be totally wrong, as Google doesn’t annnounce all its acquisitions. 



Speaking of Google in Asia, one piece of fact that my American friends have really hard time perceiving is that Google is an underdog in this part of the globe. Korea is the world’s sixth largest market in terms of internet users, and yet Google has a market share that can only be described as "minor" in Korea. 



Why? Korean web users mostly use Yahoo-like "portal" services and never really venture out. Part of the reason for that is, Korean portals are so good. But portals have built too thick of a comfort zone for Korean web users, leaving little room for startup innovations. Hence less motivation for startups, hence less diversity and more portal domination (in this age of de-portalization, that is), and so on and so forth – the cycle goes on. 



What we will do 



Now as a part of Google, TNC will try to better the situation. We will commit ourselves to increasing Google’s market share in Korea. Of course, Google isn’t entitled with God-given right to become #1 in every region it operates in, just because it’s Google. It’s actually more about the Korean web industry than about Google. I think the Korean web industry needs a player that can, as a balancing force, provide more options to the users and help create a more open web. Well, who can be that player? How about giving a chance to a company that sincerely strives to be "not evil" despite its sheer bigness? 



Perhaps fitting with my personal vision (which is also a motivation behind the Open Web Asia conference and this very blog), we will also try to introduce Textcube to outside of Korea. Textcube was so good that it was called "better than the services in the US in many ways" by some international media like Giga Om, but we were hopelessly behind in terms of globalizing our product, with my perennial excuse that I’m too busy with the Korean market alone. Hopefully Google’s global presence will be of tremendous help in globalizing Textcube and other interesting web services coming from Korea.

 

PS.



1) For the deal specifics, as many of you should know well, by confidentiality agreement I am not supposed to talk anything about the deal, so you don’t have to bother asking. :)



2) I would like to take this opportunity to thank my partner, Chester Roh. He’s been extremely good to work with. If I hadn’t met him back in 2004, I would still be pushing papers at a cubicle nation. Of course I owe the same thanks to all the rest of the crew at TNC, and to our investor Softbank.

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