Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu goals to rally builders, assured to depart mark on international SaaS market


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

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

At present, Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu, has an bold purpose: to make the Hancom identify ubiquitous outdoors of South Korea as nicely.

“My need is for each respectable software program developer on the planet to know Hancom, even earlier than I meet them face-to-face once I go overseas,” she mentioned, 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 means of the ranks to take up key government 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 an increasing number of by international audiences every day, the CEO mentioned.

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 rapidly increase within the international cloud market by means of acquisitions of promising SaaS corporations like KDAN.”

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


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

And the principle providing shall 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 yr might be summed up in a single phrase, development,” the CEO mentioned, “and collaboration with international builders is important to that.” To make use of an analogy, Yeonsu mentioned Hancom shall be setting a desk full of varied meals for builders in North America and Europe to decide on every in keeping with their tastes.

“To go international, we realized that we will not present software program filled with varied features that prospects could or could not need. So we’re splitting what we have now into items of applied sciences in order that the shoppers have the liberty to decide on.”

Final yr, Hancom grew to become a shareholder of Taiwanese software program firm KDAN, which affords options for cellular PDF, e-signature, and animation. The Taiwanese agency additionally has its personal AI doc administration service that competes with Adobe Inventive Cloud. “Now we have energy as an editor, however the completely different codecs we’re modifying, 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 mentioned, offering Hancom with an entry level for these markets as a part of its international growth 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 international growth will give attention to North America and Europe as markets there usually have excessive spending in software program, the CEO mentioned. Alternatively, conventionally, Asian markets require loads of customization from the software program supplier to suit the native market, Yeonsu mentioned, which requires a comparatively massive native group for system integration. “So we wish to present the applied sciences we have now first, then discover out what our prospects’ wants are. That method, we will choose the applied sciences which are appropriate for additional growth which we will really feel assured about.”

This blueprint for international growth largely stems from Yeonsu’s expertise from Hancom’s acquisition of Belgium-based PDF answer agency iText in 2015 and later promoting the corporate in 2018 to non-public 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 position within the Asian market as nicely. What we discovered 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.”

In addition to increasing overseas, by way of the South Korean market, Yeonsu mentioned that the corporate was searching for new enterprise alternatives by using the gathered information from offering the Korean language phrase processor utility Hangul for 32 years. “For us this gathered doc, or information, is an asset. We’re considering of varied eventualities, akin to a comparability of how the Korean language was utilized in an older doc to a more moderen one. We additionally wish to enhance the Hangul format itself.”

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

“So one of many issues we take into consideration is how one can extract what data and how one can apply it in order that we will resolve prospects’ issues. AI is among the instruments we use for this, however AI or not, we predict extra by way of what worth the appliance of a selected know-how can present for the shoppers.” Yeonsu careworn that forming SDK collaboration with builders will even give Hancom entry to extra information.


Yeonsu’s expertise overseas and managing overseas corporations has additionally formed her administration fashion. She sums up her personal fashion 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 every of Yeonsu’s prime 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 below Yeonsu has finished 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. Workers 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 mentioned. “That is additionally the identical for my staff. After I negotiate with them, once I persuade staff to work with me, it’s actually about discovering widespread floor.”

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

Conventional Korean corporations, much 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 traits.

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

“Even earlier than I grew to become the CEO, there was a rift between the older era and the youthful era, culturally talking, and there have been efforts to bridge this hole by the corporate even earlier than I took the helm. So I’d say the Hancom tradition immediately was fashioned partly from my path 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 steadiness. “The corporate’s position is to set a transparent customary of method to the worker and between staff. Additionally, an organization should give clear roles and duties to the person. However after that, it’s as much as the person.”

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

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

In the case of tradition and HR, nonetheless, the CEO mentioned this additionally must be primarily based on the place a sure operation relies. For instance, Taiwan can have its personal HR; South Korea its personal as nicely; there will even must be a International HR, Yeonsu mentioned.

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 growth, I’ve given them extra freedom to decide on and develop the applied sciences they need that finally match our finish purpose 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 belongings as a software program service supplier that operated for many years. I’d say we’re but to totally make the most of these to their full potential and we’re all the time considering of how to take action.”


Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu Picture: Hancom


Yeonsu mentioned that Hancom is making ready for extra acquisitions of corporations that match into the corporate’s general technique. “It’s a must to have a look at what you have got as an organization earlier than you consider 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 necessary is the individuals. Who I work with. I additionally keep away from corporations which are 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 mentioned after an acquisition, she provides clearly outlined roles between Hancom and the newly acquired firm. “Typically Hancom will be capable of purchase a brand new area from the acquired firm. Typically Hancom will work with the acquired firm to safe new arenas.”

“For instance, KDAN shall 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 yr in September, an organization that shall be searching for strategic investments and partnerships with corporations like KDAN.

The Hancom Alliance model shall be subservient to the model of acquired or partnered corporations which are nicely established of their respective sectors, Yeonsu mentioned. “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 mentioned, which is markedly completely different from most South Korean conglomerates that wish to unify completely different corporations below one model, akin to Hyundai or SK.

She additionally makes it clear that the profitability of an organization is essential. “The software program sector normally will get loads of enterprise capital funding. However to me, how enterprise capitals can spend money on corporations with large losses is kind of frankly a thriller. I feel it comes from [them] all the time searching for the outlier of their perspective. In that sense, I suppose the margin price I would like from Hancom and the businesses it really works with might be perceived as above the market common.”

On the identical time, Yeonsu says how she appears to be like at profitability, income, and valuation general is nuanced. “Income could also be excessive proper now for a corporation. However I feel we have now to have a look at future profitability and development. An organization with a very good resume is not all the time worthwhile. Regardless of the scenario is, an organization’s worth is set 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 purpose of propelling Hancom’s development. “We’re identified for the Hangul Workplace in South Korea. I feel there have been many doubts about whether or not Hancom had room for development.

“So what we’re altering is promoting our Workplace applied sciences, discovering completely different values from the doc answer 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 can assist us construct a wholesome ecosystem round our SDK.”


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