Meet Hansol Hong: Hansol was born in Seoul, Korea and came to California at a young age. He is working hard to assist Robolink students to become like Steve Jobs for the robotics industry. Hansol holds a bachelor’s degree of Management Science from UC San Diego. He runs the San Diego Robotics Club every week for local robotics hobbyists and professionals. Other than raising future stars of the robotics field, he loves playing sports, meeting new people, reading books, and finding good places to eat.
Sarah Nance: What is the name of your business and your website URL?
Hansol Hong: Robolink
http://www.robolink.com/community (Online educational site)
Sarah Nance: How did you choose the name of your business?
Hansol Hong: Robotics is such an interdisciplinary field that needs a lot of collaborations between many fields. Also, that makes it hard to get people started in robotics not knowing where to start. So we wanted to link the robot newbies to robotics field in the easiest way possible, and we wanted to link various fields professionals to robotics field as well in the future, that’s why we wanted to name it ROBOLINK.
Sarah Nance: What inspired you to create your company?
Hansol Hong: We wanted to do something fun. And a lot of my friend and myself are Kidults (Kid + Adult, Adult who has interests that traditionally expected only children have) People who likes to build small robots, or likes to fly drones, etc, would be in this category. But it’s hard to find a place where you can learn this, so we started the business in robotics education.
Sarah Nance: How and when did you start your business?
Hansol Hong: Started in 2012, my father is a serial entrepreneur, so I’ve been raised in the setup where we started talking about business at the dinner table since I was the age of 7 or so. I’ve always wanted create a company, and did right after I graduated from college.
Sarah Nance: Tell me about your professional background and experience.
Hansol Hong: As I mentioned,my father is a serial entrepreneur and my mother also invested in my father’s company when she was in mid 20s, so she is like angel investor for my father. Having this background, I had always wanted create a company, and did right after I graduated from college. My first company went out of business after 1 year since I started the company. It was Sports Media/Education business, but my partners and I couldn’t make it sustainable business.
Sarah Nance: What should your customers expect when they come to you?
Hansol Hong: People will buy a box from us, and learn everything they need regarding that box through our online curriculum and community at www.robolink.com/community .
From one box that’s around $140, people can make 12 different robots that we created, and after that, users can change the design to make limitless models to build and program those.
Sarah Nance: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.
Hansol Hong: My first business was sports media/education business. Three things that we did during my first business:
- Created an educational app for pitchers in baseball (my partner was a former baseball star in Korea).
- Published an educational book.
- Sold Caribbean Winter League media right to a broadcasting company in Korea.
It was pretty fun doing it, but couldn’t make it sustainable.
Sarah Nance: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?
Hansol Hong: It’s not as glamorous as people make think.
You have flexible hours (but probably have to work a lot more than normal people 60 – 80 hours/week).
Until a certain point, you have to live in the fear that you might run out of money (cash flow to the company is crucial)!
Sarah Nance: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?
Hansol Hong: My personal rewarding part is when kids scream something like “Coding is easy!”, “Oh, this is awesome, I love robots!”. The joy of students drive us to make our products and service better.
Sarah Nance: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?
Hansol Hong: Make good product and do your best to small clients that you have. After that, word of mouth will lead you to be successful.
In April, we will be doing crowd funding campaign launching our product to people outside of San Diego. (We’ve been testing our kit in the past three years and have been getting positive feedback 97% recommendation from 250+ users from Groupon)
Sarah Nance: What is your target market?
Hansol Hong: Elementary – College students who want to learn about robotics.
Sarah Nance: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?
Hansol Hong: How to start a startup video series:
Sarah Nance: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?
Hansol Hong: Yes, I love meeting new people, and currently organizing San Diego Robotics Club through Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/San-Diego-Robotics-Club/
We have 500+ members and talk about interesting topic every week regarding robotics. It’s one of the best places to network with people who love robots, and have been hiring through that network as well.
Sarah Nance: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you
Hansol Hong: Didn’t think about anything other than starting my own business since I was very young. So potentially my parents.
Sarah Nance: What are your long-term goals for your business?
Hansol Hong: We will make our kits very simple and affordable so that anyone at school can learn robots without a fear. If all the schools can carry our kits it will give students a hands-on education at early age, I believe the way students think will change, and they can be more prepared to this fast-driven, technology-oriented society better.
Sarah Nance: How can people find you on social media?
Sarah Nance: Share some fun facts about you!
Hansol Hong: I’ve backpacked Death Valley for 27 days straight. It was very interesting and inspiring trip, and made myself very tenacious.
Sarah Nance: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.
Hansol Hong: We have our students participate in some robotics competition throughout the year. And one of the teams, last year, had spent 30 – 40 hours/week working on their robots for last two weeks into the competition. All of the team members were first time doing the robotics competition, and they ended up being 4th best team in the world for (programming aspect) VEX IQ. Many of those students get very interested in robotics and I hear that our students want to be robotics engineers when they grow up. I think it’s very rewarding to hear that we are impacting on many of our children’s future and doing our best that we can make positive impacts to them.
If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah Nance today!