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Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu aims to rally developers, confident to leave mark on global SaaS market

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Hancom is a reputation ubiquitous to Koreans as Samsung and LG.

As one in all South Korea’s oldest software program corporations, it’s recognized for its Hangul phrase processing utility, the nation’s reply to Microsoft Phrase. Hangul launched in 1989 and is until in the present day the second most used phrase processing utility behind the US firm. Hancom actually stands for “Korean and Laptop.” As of 2021, Hancom was value round $350 million on the Korean inventory market.

In the present day, Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu, has an bold aim: to make the Hancom title ubiquitous outdoors of South Korea as nicely.

“My need is for each respectable software program developer on the earth to know Hancom, even earlier than I meet them face-to-face after I go overseas,” she stated, who grew to become CEO of Hancom in August 2021 and is heiress-apparent to the enterprise group. She joined Hancom Group in 2012 and rose by way of the ranks to take up key govt positions, largely accountable for mergers and acquisitions, in addition to administration of subsidiaries, earlier than taking the highest job of the group’s flagship.

Based on Yeonsu, Hancom has began a shift from its earlier installation-based software program enterprise mannequin to a cloud-based, subscription service enterprise mannequin. The corporate is providing its Hancom Workplace in software-as-a-service (SaaS) format, which is getting used increasingly more by world audiences every day, the CEO stated.

The South Korean software program firm has additionally been aggressive in acquisitions to increase globally. Its Singapore-based subsidiary Hancom Alliance will full the acquisition of Taiwanese SaaS agency KDAN Cellular to increase in North America, Europe and Asia. Hancom can also be contemplating making a strategic funding in Southeast Asian HR SaaS firm Swingvy. “We plan to shortly increase within the world cloud market by way of acquisitions of promising SaaS corporations like KDAN.”

“Hancom is at present valued at round 400 billion gained; my aim is to extend this to 4 trillion gained. I’m assured that this may be achieved.” In her first-ever interview, completely with ZDNet, Yeonsu, soft-spoken but agency, was sincere about Hancom’s challenges forward, but in addition bullish when it got here to the way forward for the corporate.


The CEO and her high executives are planning to participate in Cellular World Congress 2023 kicking off later this month. Yeonsu says she will probably be searching for new enterprise alternatives and partnerships with builders.

And the principle providing will probably be Hancom’s SDK, or software program growth equipment, for all of the applied sciences and software program on Hancom Workplace, the corporate’s personal model of workplace suite that features Hangul phrase processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and PDF editor.

“Our technique since final 12 months may be summed up in a single phrase, progress,” the CEO stated, “and collaboration with world builders is important to that.” To make use of an analogy, Yeonsu stated Hancom will probably be setting a desk full of assorted meals for builders in North America and Europe to decide on every in response to their tastes.

“To go world, we realized that we won’t present software program filled with varied features that prospects could or could not need. So we’re splitting what we’ve got into items of applied sciences in order that the purchasers have the liberty to decide on.”

Final 12 months, Hancom grew to become a shareholder of Taiwanese software program firm KDAN, which gives options for cellular PDF, e-signature, and animation. The Taiwanese agency additionally has its personal AI doc administration service that competes with Adobe Artistic Cloud. “Now we have energy as an editor, however the completely different codecs we’re enhancing, from phrase to PDF, current completely different eventualities. Our experience within the PDF format was comparatively weaker. KDAN had that experience in PDF.”

Roughly 80% of KDAN’s income and prospects are from North America and Europe, Yeonsu stated, offering Hancom with an entry level for these markets as a part of its world enlargement plan. KDAN, based in 2009, additionally has recorded over 100 million downloads for its app in Taiwan and is a well-established model there, she added, permitting Hancom to increase there as nicely.

Hancom’s world enlargement will give attention to North America and Europe as markets there typically have excessive spending in software program, the CEO stated. However, conventionally, Asian markets require quite a lot of customization from the software program supplier to suit the native market, Yeonsu stated, which requires a comparatively giant native crew for system integration. “So we need to present the applied sciences we’ve got first, then discover out what our prospects’ wants are. That approach, we will choose the applied sciences which might be appropriate for additional growth which we will really feel assured about.”

This blueprint for world enlargement largely stems from Yeonsu’s expertise from Hancom’s acquisition of Belgium-based PDF resolution agency iText in 2015 and later promoting the corporate in 2018 to personal fairness Crescendo Fairness Companions. After the sale, Yeonsu continued to handle iText as CEO and chair of the board for 3 years.

“Throughout my tenure at iText, we tried to discover a function within the Asian market as nicely. What we realized was that we could not simply promote the providers of iText to those markets however wanted to supply consulting providers as nicely. So this expertise formed how I feel a Korean software program firm ought to method increasing globally. ‘Now we have these varied applied sciences; that is our licensing coverage,’ and assist prospects discover what they want.”

Apart from increasing overseas, when it comes to the South Korean market, Yeonsu stated that the corporate was searching for new enterprise alternatives by using the accrued information from offering the Korean language phrase processor utility Hangul for 32 years. “For us this accrued doc, or information, is an asset. We’re pondering of assorted eventualities, corresponding to a comparability of how the Korean language was utilized in an older doc to a more moderen one. We additionally need to enhance the Hangul format itself.”

This utilization of knowledge, which AI can help in, could be very a lot an ongoing homework for the CEO.”We offer an editor: a software to doc data in varied codecs, from phrase to PDF. Now greater than ever, we’re our editor as a container of data.

“So one of many issues we take into consideration is how you can extract what data and how you can apply it in order that we will remedy prospects’ issues. AI is without doubt one of the instruments we use for this, however AI or not, we predict extra when it comes to what worth the applying of a selected expertise can present for the purchasers.” Yeonsu confused that forming SDK collaboration with builders may also give Hancom entry to extra information.


Yeonsu’s expertise overseas and managing overseas corporations has additionally formed her administration model. She sums up her personal model as pragmatic and to the purpose. Her executives that I talked to described her as an entrepreneur who stresses the significance of overcoming challenges, freedom, fast decision-making, and private accountability. Communication appears to be one in all Yeonsu’s high agendas: quickly after she was nominated as CEO, in November 2021 Hancom despatched its first shareholder letter.

Most Korean corporations nonetheless are very hierarchical. Most staff name one another by their final names mixed with their positions, that are normally given primarily based on seniority and age. The Korean language additionally has honorifics, the place somebody speaking to a different that’s older or of upper standing makes use of particular nouns and verb endings.

Hancom underneath Yeonsu has executed away with a lot of this and staff name one another by their full names with out their positions. Yeonsu herself is named Yeonsu by her subordinates. Staff use honorifics between one another no matter place, which is taken into account extra well mannered than not utilizing any honorifics. This units an environment of respect for people however with boundaries.

“My experiences in North America and Europe have modified how I method convincing and changing into pleasant with individuals,” the CEO stated. “That is additionally the identical for my staff. Once I negotiate with them, after I persuade staff to work with me, it’s actually about discovering frequent floor.”

As an alternative of a top-down construction, Yeonsu strongly prefers forming a consensus. “I feel how a lot consensus a aim has inside the firm correlates to how efficiently the aim was achieved.”

Conventional Korean corporations, just like their counterparts in Japan and China, have additionally prior to now demanded staff to place the nice of the corporate earlier than themselves, however this work tradition has shifted tremendously across the previous 5 years by the worldwide debate over work in addition to the pandemic, and Hancom has additionally been impacted by these societal tendencies.

“Since I began my profession in Korean corporations, I’ve additionally had the mentally of ‘the whole lot for the job’ and anticipated the identical from colleagues prior to now. I not method administration this manner.”

“Even earlier than I grew to become the CEO, there was a rift between the older technology and the youthful technology, culturally talking, and there have been efforts to bridge this hole by the corporate even earlier than I took the helm. So I might say the Hancom tradition in the present day was shaped partly from my course and the pure evolution of notion about work in South Korea.”

However Yeonsu additionally stresses the significance of non-public accountability that every worker should have, if they need the so-called work and life stability. “The corporate’s function is to set a transparent customary of method to the worker and between staff. Additionally, an organization should give clear roles and tasks to the person. However after that, it’s as much as the person.”

“Now we have to consider the tip aim. The tip aim of setting a piece tradition is to speak and work higher collectively.”

Beginning this 12 months, Hancom can also be planning to implement a brand new course of the place the corporate and staff on a mutually accepted aim that will probably be evaluated at 12 months’s finish. This course of was examined in small models final 12 months however will now be carried out in Hancom headquarters in South Korea.

In the case of tradition and HR, nevertheless, the CEO stated this additionally must be primarily based on the place a sure operation is predicated. For instance, Taiwan can have its personal HR; South Korea its personal as nicely; there may also should be a International HR, Yeonsu stated.

One other change the CEO made was what Hancom’s personal builders give attention to and the way they method work. “Up to now, our personal builders largely centered on applied sciences associated to Hangul. However to coincide with our enlargement, I’ve given them extra freedom to decide on and develop the applied sciences they need that in the end match our finish aim of offering worth to prospects. Failure is OK, so long as there’s something we will study from it.”

“Now we have software program builders with many years of expertise. Now we have legacy property as a software program service supplier that operated for many years. I might say we’re but to totally make the most of these to their full potential and we’re at all times pondering of how to take action.”


Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu Picture: Hancom


Yeonsu stated that Hancom is getting ready for extra acquisitions of corporations that match into the corporate’s total technique. “You need to take a look at what you have got as an organization earlier than you concentrate on acquisitions. What we’re good at and the place that may take us.”

The CEO additionally shared her ideas on how she chooses candidates: “Most essential is the individuals. Who I work with. I additionally keep away from corporations which might be searching for a public sale.

“In the case of acquisitions prior to now, most of it got here organically by our executives working nicely with their executives.”

Yeonsu stated after an acquisition, she provides clearly outlined roles between Hancom and the newly acquired firm. “Generally Hancom will be capable to purchase a brand new enviornment from the acquired firm. Generally Hancom will work with the acquired firm to safe new arenas.”

“For instance, KDAN will probably be utilizing our Workplace SDK to launch a KDAN Workplace in Taiwan. We wrapped our workplace engine and gave it to KDAN, which added UI and UX that match higher with the native market.

Hancom arrange a subsidiary known as Hancom Alliance in Singapore final 12 months in September, an organization that will probably be searching for strategic investments and partnerships with corporations like KDAN.

The Hancom Alliance model will probably be subservient to the model of acquired or partnered corporations which might be nicely established of their respective sectors, Yeonsu stated. “I feel extra model worth is created from having a number of manufacturers, as a substitute of getting completely different manufacturers observe one model,” CEO stated, which is markedly completely different from most South Korean conglomerates that wish to unify completely different corporations underneath one model, corresponding to Hyundai or SK.

She additionally makes it clear that the profitability of an organization is essential. “The software program sector basically will get quite a lot of enterprise capital funding. However to me, how enterprise capitals can spend money on corporations with huge losses is sort of frankly a thriller. I feel it comes from [them] at all times searching for the outlier of their perspective. In that sense, I suppose the margin charge I need from Hancom and the businesses it really works with may be perceived as above the market common.”

On the similar time, Yeonsu says how she appears at profitability, income, and valuation total is nuanced. “Income could also be excessive proper now for an organization. However I feel we’ve got to have a look at future profitability and progress. An organization with a great resume is not at all times worthwhile. Regardless of the state of affairs is, an organization’s worth is decided I feel by the way it convinces its inner employees and exterior stakeholders of its visions and objectives.”

The discharge of SDKs, the cultural shift, and acquisitions all have the tip aim of propelling Hancom’s progress. “We’re recognized for the Hangul Workplace in South Korea. I feel there have been many doubts about whether or not Hancom had room for progress.

“So what we’re altering is promoting our Workplace applied sciences, discovering completely different values from the doc resolution we already posseses, and my job is to persuade the inner employees that we will increase.

“Up to now, since most of our prospects got here from the general public sector, we had little incentive to seek out out the wants of shoppers. However now our precedence is to seek out out deeply and precisely the wants of our prospects. This may assist us construct a wholesome ecosystem round our SDK.”

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