Seoul CEO Raises $63 Million for the "Netflix for Serialized Fiction Stories"

By Adriaan Brits Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The name “Seung-yoon Lee” may already sound familiar to some. In 2016, Lee successfully made it on Forbes Asia's 30 Under 30 list. His previous experience as the President of Oxford Union (the official students' union of the University of Oxford) paved the way to Lee’s bright (and slightly pink) future. During the time spent fulfilling this role, Lee experienced and developed skills in organizing panels and speaker events, including big names such as South Korean rapper PSY, late US Senator John McCain, and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

Lee notes that his experiences as the President of Oxford Union set him on his path to Radish: “Although The Oxford Union is known as a more political society it's more like a content curation process, because you’re running almost like a 200-year-old TED in some ways.” He continues, “You invite speakers every week, you curate the speaker debates, and organize the events, so it's almost a physical content startup.”

Lee’s first attempt at startup success came with co-founding a journalistic startup business. However, this quickly moved over to storytelling due to the unpredictability and difficulty of being in the journalism industry.

What Is Radish?

Radish is a mobile app for fiction written into series which chooses stories from outsourced writers and then produces original content from in-house writers. Radish permits readers to read a certain chapter of a story or a series, but with a catch: they have to wait one hour before they are granted access to the next chapter.

However, should you wish to skip the hour-long waiting period, you may purchase in-app currency (coins) and use them to read the next chapter. For perspective, one chapter has about 2000 words, and a series can have thousands of chapters. It typically costs 20-30 cents to jump ahead to the next chapter.

Lee commented on how frequently Radish publishes content as opposed to its media competitors by saying, “If you go to a video streaming platform you have to wait for a year to get the next season if you’re watching something like HBO it gets updated once a week, but with Radish we update it five times a day.”

Radish generates two different types of content on their platform: self-publishing (writers can apply and potentially earn 50% of revenue made) and original content (where writers predominantly sourced from television or soap opera backgrounds write the stories). In the latter situation, Radish pays the writers upfront, thereby becoming the intellectual property owners. Lee previously has expressed his desire to take this model to Hollywood.

Radish’s Success

The company’s daily revenue has skyrocketed to over $100,000 per day. Radish has been expanding and building its content. Currently, Radish has produced more than 6,500 episodes across 30 original series.

One of the company’s most famous stories is a werewolf-themed story (similar to the popular young adult hit, “Twilight”) with over 1000 episodes created over a period between 7-8 months. This story alone has made over $4 million and has more than 50 million cumulative reads.

The company was started back in 2016, but, according to Lee, Radish only recently took its form to become what he calls “YouTube for serialized fiction to being Netflix for serialized fiction.” Previously, Radish’s genre focus has been romance. However, thanks to this new funding, the company is aiming to expand its content. Focus has shifted to producing content that ranges between LGBTQ, young adult, horror, mystery, and thriller.

Who Are the Faces Behind Radish?

The most recent addition to the Radish team is the ex-vice president of daytime programming at ABC Daytime Television, Sue Johnson, who will take up the position of Chief Content Officer.

Radish’s Multi-Million Dollar Investments

This August, Radish announced $63.2 million in Series A funding thanks to investors SoftBank Ventures Asia and Kakao Page Corp.

With this new funding and following a new system, the process will allow Radish to test concepts — including the cover and title for the story — within one week.

On top of that, Radish can develop a pilot for the story, test it in a matter of weeks, and — in as little as 6-10 months — they could have created thousands of episodes for fans to read. Lee describes the selection and onboarding process: “We combined the Hollywood style writers room model and data-driven Silicon Valley production model on writing fiction.”

Today, Radish employs over 50 people with offices in Seoul and New York.

About the Author

Headshot of author Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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