Seoul Space had an exclusive interview with Benjamin Beomjin Kim (@beomjinkim), co-founder of Cizion, a startup company that offers social commenting service called LiveRe (In Korea “Re” is abbreviated term for “reply”), similar to Disqus in the US with different twist. LiveRe is serviced in several websites including Bloter.net (Korean tech news site), ZDNet Korea, Joongang Daily and MK Business News (Korean news sites) as well as other government agency websites and several NGOs.
What is LiveRe?
LiveRe is a social commenting service not dissimilar to Disqus (the commenting system that we use at SeoulSpace!) – which links a commenter’s post to his or her Twitter, Facebook or other SNS accounts. LiveRe has a different pitch from Disqus though: LiveRe commenting system filters out spams and hateful messages.
Previous commenting systems are often flooded with hateful content just because they allow for Internet trolls to have it their way behind the safety of their monitors. Hateful comments and messages in the past caused several societal problems in Korea. Examples include famous cases of celebrities committing suicide from their anti-fans sending insulting hateful messages to them. To address such problems from escalating further, several websites require user’s real name and ID number. This is to ban anonymous posting altogether. This drastic measurement, however, does not necessarily solve the problem of spamming and trolling; instead it just avoids it – people simply stopped posting. Too much transparency decreased interactivity between websites and their readers.
So what’s the best option to combat Internet trolls? Cizion believes their LiveRe is the answer. LiveRe un-anonymous-ifies commenting system by allowing users to log in using Twitter, Facebook, Me2Day or Yozm, and publishing the post to the user’s SNS accounts. People stop trolling because they don’t want to appear stupid or inappropriate in front of your friends and acquaintances. LiveRe not only decreases spams but also allows websites that adopt it to gain more traffic through user’s SNS feeds.
SS: So how effective is LiveRe in eliminating spamming and trolling?
Ben: We observed that LiveRe reduces spamming by 93%, compared to websites that allow anonymous posting. We believe this is more effective than websites that require real names and ID numbers for registration because we found out that people would rather find another person’s name and matching ID number than making a whole set of fake SNS accounts.
SS: So tell us how Cizion got started.
Ben: We actually started Cizion on July 2007. Back then, we were working on another project titled Ontoron, which is an online meeting facilitation and moderation service with video streaming. That service eventually morphed into what we know today as LiveRe, a social posting service. I registered the company in January 2011 with another co-founder.
SS: Who was your first client? And how did you guys market this first?
Ben: In Fall 2010, a congressman came to Yonsei University to address the problem of rising tuition issues. We got a hold of him somehow and submitted our proposal to him. He then started using LiveRe actively and soon enough, a few NGOs and 30 congressmen started using our LiveRe services. At that time we didn’t make any profit. But at the end of last year, we got our service into 110 corporate, media and news websites, which gave us traction. Our cumulative revenue is 250 million Won, and we broke BEP.
SS: So what’s your business model? How do you monetize a social commenting system?
Ben: We license our services out to any companies that want to implement LiveRe in their websites. LiveRe reduces spams, explicit content and hateful messages. And because a user’s comment spreads on his or her Twitter, Facebook, Me2Day or Yozm accounts, any comment generated from LiveRe appears on the user’s friend’s feeds on these SNS accounts. These feeds bring additional traffic to the website. So not only does LiveRe filter out unwanted messages, it also brings traffic. We charge 600,000 Won per month.
SS: So what is your goal for 2011?
Ben: Right now we have 90% market share in social posting. We want to close our first round of funding before the summer. We want to grow the number of websites that use LiveRe such that websites that generate 30% of all website traffic in Korea use LiveRe. We expect 5 billion Won in revenue this year.
SS: What is Cizion’s vision?
Ben: In any website, comments are very important. Comments are representative of how readers are processing the website content and readers’ feedback. Comments also provide secondary content, and are ways to share opinions about text, pictures and video clips. In essence, Cizion’s vision is building an efficient commenting system that can effectively allow freedom of speech in online media.
SS: So what is your exit strategy?
Ben: We can see either a website search engine portal or a media company being interested in future for a possible M&A.