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10/18/2019 Interview > Alumni

Title

No Seung-chul, a Millennial CEO of a Niche Market

The young company leader’s travel app was not born overnight

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Single life has created a booming business in Korea with many young Koreans embracing single status. These people are referred to as the “sampo generation,” which means a generation that has given up on three things: dating, marriage and children. One place profiting from this phenomenon is the traveling sector. According to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, the number of people traveling alone in Korea is increasing in average at a rate of 54 percent per year. For Hanyang University alumnus No Seung-chul (Department of Industrial Engineering, '18), this was a great opportunity to offer services that no one else was offering.
 
No Seung-chul (Department of Industrial Engineering, '18) is the CEO and a founder of Tripbuddy, a solo traveler matchmaking app.
"My company is called Optimize, an information technology company that offers solo travelers a way to find a travel buddy called Tripbuddy,” said No. Tripbuddy is a location-based service that helps solo travelers find people with similar interests. Through the application’s algorithmic matching system, users can find people who plan or are traveling to a similar destination. This service is especially useful for those with a budget, and for those who travel alone but want to participate in partner-only activities. Through the app, users can pay for various activities and restaurants and split the bill amongst themselves.
 
Tripbuddy's official website at web.tripbuddy.im.
(Photo courtesy of Tripbuddy)

Inception of the business model for Tripbuddy

“Creating a start-up was a dream that I have had since I was a freshman in high school,” said No. “For three years, I created a portfolio of over 300 pages and thought of how I could use this to create my own business.” Already from high school, No had around 11 patents in his name. He focused most of his time on finding new business opportunities and decided that he would pursue more throughout his university years as well. Soon, he found the best university to achieve his goals: Hanyang University.

“Hanyang is the number one university in creating start-ups, so I thought going to Hanyang would be a good opportunity to create a good foothold for my objective,” said No. He made use of several government support policies when he was applying for patents during high school. Although high school students today have a one patent-per-year restriction for free patent application and lawyer fees, there was no such restriction when No was in high school, and he was able to apply for several, including patents for business models.
 
No thought of creating a location-based service when he was in the army. As a driver, he needed to report his location back to the base, but sometimes this was difficult to explain and troublesome. Thus, he thought creating an easy way to locate one's whereabouts would be high in demand. However, No soon found out that he was the only one interested in the idea.

However, it did not stop him. When No became interested in the idea of creating a location-based service, traveling was a big issue, but one service that was not on the market was solo traveling. No started to travel by himself around Korea for four months to see if this market was pursuable. He talked with some 400 people and conducted interviews, which were all recorded and used as a database for his new business. Then, No incorporated the technology that he envisioned into this new platform. When he went back to school, he created a club with like-minded people. In 2017, the club entered a start-up competition sponsored by Hanyang University and SK Telecom. They were awarded the grand prize. With funds from both Hanyang and SK, No was able to create Optimize and rent out an office.
 
No said he plans on expanding Tripbuddy globally and offering it in several languages.

No has a busy schedule ahead of him as Tripbuddy is about to launch its own iphone-friendly application. In early October, the travel reservation platform, WAUG Travel Incorporated, proposed a partnership with Tripbuddy to introduce its reservation services in Tripbuddy’s app. "Optimize is a word that means making everything in the world as good as possible,” said No. “Within this definition, focusing on our customers, we think of what a good service for them is and what will benefit them. With consumer-based thinking, we try to offer our customers the best service we can by solving technological issues and creating services.”



Jung Myung-suk        kenj3636@hanyang.ac.kr
Photos by Lee Hyeon-seon
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