Do you remember the jellyfish living with SpongeBob in the sea? It used to be unthinkable to imagine living with jellyfish. However, this is no longer true. Now is the time when jellyfish can be our friend. The sight of jellyfish swimming peacefully in a shining tank in a room makes many people who are tired of their daily lives feel happy. SMT would like to introduce a new pet that can calm and heal us. SMT met "Jellyfish Lab," which studies and sells pet jellyfish.
Please introduce yourself and your 'Jellyfish Lab.'
I'm Lee Yoonsoo, the CEO of Jellyfish Lab. I majored in business administration in college and my hobby was breeding pet fish. Before I started this job, I worked for a trading company dealing with pet fish supplies. Based on the overall process of the trade I learned at that time, I founded the Jellyfish Lab. We specialize in jellyfish as pets and fish tanks for them. Our jellyfish and related goods are sold not only to large aquariums and research institutes in Korea but also to the general public. Aside from these, we are also researching and developing jellyfish farming methods ourselves, and related products have also been patented or remodeled to improve the existing products.
Jellyfish that can be bred at home look somewhat strange, and we wonder why you came up with this business idea.
As I was interested in pet jellyfish-related products, I saw a video introducing pet jellyfish produced by an American company. Watching the video, I decided that pet jellyfish could be commercialized in Korea, where the ornamental fish market is growing significantly. Of course, I didn't immediately decide to start a business with jellyfish from the beginning. Originally, I was going to import the jellyfish from abroad and sell them through an agency. However, while preparing for sales, I thought that creating and selling a brand myself would be a better way in terms of price and service. I've always wanted to have my own brand, and I thought jellyfish would be a great product.
As there has been no pet jellyfish business so far, you must have pioneered this field yourself. It would have taken a lot of effort to study. What kind of efforts did you make to study jellyfish?
There is almost no data or information on jellyfish in Korea, so I had a hard time from the beginning of my business. It was difficult to find information about jellyfish breeding as well as basic information. In the early stage of the business, I mainly got information from overseas articles, and gradually could get help from overseas jellyfish-related companies. After starting to obtain basic data, I ordered myself jellyfish tanks for breeding from abroad. Also, in the beginning, live jellyfish were difficult to obtain, so I even went fishing myself to collect them from the sea. After developing a basic set-up, I signed an MOU with a Chinese jellyfish company to start up domestic breeding facilities. Based on this, we began technology research to stably raise and reproduce jellyfish and finally developed the technology to reproduce jellyfish in large quantities.
You have successfully done crowdfunding. Could you explain in detail the situation at that time?
When we launched our first product, we tried to raise initial capital through crowdfunding. The amount of primary funding was not large, but it was a good opportunity to publicize the Jellyfish Lab. The second funding was launched for an additional jellyfish tank, and the response was considerable. The target amount was achieved in a day — 2300% times the target amount. Because I hadn't even imagined that kind of success, I had difficulty supplying jellyfish after the funding. We sell three jellyfish per tank, and there was a delay due to the sudden increase in demand. Even if mass breeding of jellyfish is successful, the availability of the supply depends on the time it takes to raise them in addition to the marketability of the jellyfish. Eventually, I asked an aquarium for help and solved the supply problem. That's how successful it was.
Then, what do you think is the most important thing in funding?
First of all, I'd like to say that crowdfunding is not a place to start a large business with a lot of effort and capital. I think it's a space where you can try to launch a product or service or solve an inconvenience that you are experiencing in your life. It's just a platform that can test marketability without much effort or capital. If you have deep concerns about the product, funding could be the right thing to do. If it's a good item, consumers will agree with it.
You probably had a lot of difficulties while running the business. Please tell us about the difficulties you have had.
The most difficult part of starting the business was to produce and sell products and services without violating government regulations and laws. The field of jellyfish was almost the first of its kind to be introduced in Korea, and it was not easy to find the related laws or regulations. While carrying out jellyfish-related projects, there were a lot of related laws, including the Quality Control of Industrial Products Act, animal protection law, etc.
How did you overcome that?
Accurate understanding and mastery of related regulations or laws had to be carried out first. Also, collaboration with related government ministries was really necessary. It was not easy to get answers from the government, but I solved them one by one through many calls, written inquiries, and complaints.
On the contrary, there must have been many happy or rewarding things while working. Could you tell us about it?
There were many happy moments, but if I have to pick the happiest moment, it was the time I succeeded in breeding jellyfish on my own for the first time. Although it did not succeed in breeding in large quantities, I still remember the moment I saw a few very small baby jellyfish. Since then, I have succeeded in breeding various species of jellyfish, but I have never again felt joy as great as the first time.
Is there any new item you are preparing regarding jellyfish?
I'm studying "Rhopilema esculentum." This is edible jellyfish species but I'm working on it to keep it as a pet. Originally, edible jellyfish were caught in the sea, but our lab has succeeded in breeding edible jellyfish to some extent. So edible jellyfish species will be coming soon.
What is the next goal for you?
Although I have succeeded in finding and commercializing jellyfish, Korea's fishing and coastal industries are still damaged by jellyfish. However, most of the domestic jellyfish research is focused on the "trend of jellyfish occurrence." Only research is underway on "where jellyfish occur and appear a lot", and the research on "how to systematically eliminate jellyfish" is insufficient. Especially in the field of jellyfish research, there is a lack of knowledge about the ecology and breeding process of jellyfish because there is little experience in watching and raising them. Therefore, using my knowledge, the Jellyfish Lab wants to work with domestic and foreign institutions to discover effective damage control through research on jellyfish as well as commercialization.
Are there any words you want to say to future startup CEOs preparing for crowdfunding?
When starting a business, I think it is necessary to have expertise in related fields. If you have expertise that differentiates you from other competitors, you can have the courage to create competitive start-ups and challenge yourself to pursue new opportunities when you have sufficient support. I think it's worthwhile to build a small company first with your own differentiation, even if it's not grand.
Lastly, please give some advice to Sookmyungians.
Of course, studying is important, but I think it's good to have at least one favorite hobby that you can do with passion. My Jellyfish Lab was something that started with a hobby related to ornamental fish. Even if it's not related to a start-up, the hobby of being passionate at a young age can help you unexpectedly in your life.
-Bachelor of business administration Inha University
-CEO of Kolletion (2016.01~)
-CEO of Jellyfish Lab (2018.01~)
Sang Lim Hyeji / Editor-in-Chief
Oh Song Minyeong / Reporter