On May 30, Dong Hun Kim — the representative of Handstudio — visited the Startup KAIST Studio for a lunch talk titled, “A Story of a Company that Dreams of a 0% Resignation Rate over Sales of 10 Billion”. Handstudio is a digital product agency that develops and provides multimedia, software, and convergence services in South Korea. It is a startup that consists of project planning and user interface/user experience (UI/UX) planning, design, and development — a typical structure of organization for many service startups. However, Handstudio clearly distinguishes itself from other firms with its special focus on employee welfare.
Around 120 students and faculty members gathered over lunch to hear Kim’s startup story. Kim initiated the talk with six key questions — who, when, where, what, how, and why — that one should ask when considering a startup; and of these, he stated that “why” should be the most deliberately inquired. He recounted his school days, when he did not have a clear answer as to why he had to study. His childhood dream was to become the owner of a music store, and when his mother offered to buy him one record for every point he raised in exam scores, the clear sense of purpose improved his next scores by 150 points.
Eventually, Kim moved on from his wish to own a music store and shifted his interests to becoming a radio producer. He got a position at a broadcasting company, and his path looked promising as he received offers from the station and invitations to move to the US. However, with the restructuring of the firm came the sudden suicide of the president. These times naturally led Kim to reconsider the role of organizations and firms — specifically, whether the corporate system requires a sacrifice too big from an individual.
Throughout his experiences in different firms and organizations, he thoroughly felt the need for a people-centered company. Some of the key principles that Kim accumulated over the years are that one should not engage in work that is unrelated to one’s own development, a member of a team is not simply a “resource”, happiness comes before efficiency, production facilities should not be monopolized, receiving investments should be avoided in most cases, and that if any individual is unhappy in an organization, that organization should not exist. Kim emphasized that these rules are not absolute by explaining his background for each.
Currently, Handstudio, for which Kim is representative of, has grown to be an organization renowned for its working environment. The company is characterized by its zero reception expenses, flexible attendance time, a Crazyriding Kartrider league, 10 million KRW of aid for employees who are getting married, and numerous more welfare projects. Even with the focus on employees’ happiness, the firm experienced a 60% rise in sales over two years. Kim also mentioned that his focus on welfare does not spring from specific targets or goals to increase efficiency — but simply because it is fun.
Handstudio now heads towards a new set of goals — decreasing opportunity costs and finding ways to work together longer and more comfortably. Handstudio hopes to show that intense competition and stepping over others are not the only ways to success. More can be found about Handstudio at www.handstudio.net.