Yunha Kim: Startup Vet’s Risky Road to Success

Yunha Kim: Startup Vet’s Risky Road to Success


According to research firm Dscout, the average person touches their cellphone 2,617 times a day, so it was only a matter of time before someone figured out a way to turn that into a business. That someone is Yunha Kim. While working at a Wall Street investment bank, Kim found that her only connection to the outside world was through her phone. One day, while staring at the picture of a daisy on her lock screen, she wondered to herself how she could monetize that.

With that thought, at the age of 23, Kim already had the idea for her first start-up, Locket. The mobile app allows advertisers to put ads on your cellphone lock screen, and users can then earn money every time they unlock their phone.

Armed with nothing but her big idea and a willingness to take a risk – and with zero background in tech and no salary – Kim left her high-paying job in 2013 to begin working on her idea, living in a Manhattan apartment with her five founding team members, along with three dogs and a hamster.

Locket was launched in March of the same year with the help of $3.2 million in funding from Great Oaks VC and a few angel investors. Incredibly, Kim and her co-founders closed the deal with Great Oaks a mere three days after their pitch. Impressive for their first venture capitalist pitch ever.

In 2015, Locket was sold to popular e-commerce company Wish, with observers estimating Locket’s value at a cool $3 billion at the time. With such a large payout after countless 90-hour work weeks, you’d think Kim would be ready to take a long vacation. Instead, the successful entrepreneur, still in her twenties and attending Stanford School of Business, decided to create another new app.

While working on Locket and attending school, Kim found solace in meditating to alleviate stress. As she told MUNPlanet, “I was inspired to create a meditation app for busy people like me, with 5-minute meditations from a variety of top teachers.” Before long, Kim decided to risk it all again, leaving Stanford to focus on creating her own meditation app, Simple Habit. Founded in spring 2016, Kim raised over $3 million to fund the app. After only a year, Simple Habit was the No. 1 meditation app, with more than half a million users around the world.

Perhaps most inspiring of all is that Kim is motivated by more than just success. She says she only made the decision to drop out of school once she “realized the powerful impact the app could have on people’s lives.” Kim says her ultimate goal is “to change the way the world views and uses mindfulness and meditation” by making it into a daily ritual, like brushing your teeth.

Whether it’s changing the way we use our lock screens or creating “the Spotify of mindfulness and meditation,” Yunha Kim is a shining example of how hard work and taking risks can pay off. Now 28, Kim credits resilience and passion for helping her get where she is today. As stated in Simple Habit’s mission, her goal is to help the world “stress less, achieve more, and live better.”


Laura D’Angelo | Contributing Writer

Photo credit: SARAH DERAGON


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Mary Ito

Mary Ito has been a broadcast journalist in Toronto for more than 30 years, best

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