Miso Chief Victor Ching aims to replicate the success of his home cleaning app to sweep up new business at home and abroad.
Ofor the past seven years, Victor Ching has carved out a place for himself in the home cleaning space in South Korea with an app called Miso. Although a relatively small market compared to online payments or food delivery, the app, which connects cleaners to customers, is the category leader in the country by users.
Miso, which means “smile” in Korean, has handled more than 5 million reservations since its inception in 2015. Of those, nearly 90% are from repeat customers, according to the Seoul-based company. Major startup investors including Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator and Los Angeles-based Strong Ventures have backed Miso, which has raised more than $11 million to date.
After years of steady growth in the home cleaning market in South Korea, co-founder and CEO Ching is taking Miso to the next level. It aims to replicate Miso’s success with the 70 other services it now offers and take its first step overseas. To help fuel its expansion, Miso is preparing to raise $30 million in new funding this year.
“We are focused on creating a platform that makes booking services as easy as buying a product online,” Ching, 41, said in a video interview from his uptown office. from Gangnam to Seoul at the end of May. Miso, which made the inaugural 100 to watch list last year, aims to be the Amazon of home services. “Expanding selection is very important in e-commerce,” he says, pointing to the success of billionaire Jeff Bezos’ business. “We think the same is very important in services because you don’t need many services repeatedly.”
Through its app, Miso offers regular services, such as cleaning, laundry, and pet sitting, as well as occasional jobs such as repairs, moves, and interior renovations. The company claims to have over 500,000 paying customers and over 50,000 service providers on its platform. “You might need a wide variety of different services over the course of a year, so we believe the best experience we can offer our customers is to offer a one-stop-shop where you open the Miso app and we let’s do it,” Ching said. .
Miso has seen sales skyrocket since it began adding to its home services suite in September 2020. Ching declined to give specific revenue figures, but shared that gross bookings have nearly tripled to more than $128 million last year, compared to about $47 million in 2020. He expects further acceleration if Miso’s one-stop-shop plan continues to work. “You have this huge service marketplace where you have billions of dollars worth of transactions, and then you can add a payment layer on top of that,” Ching says. “So there’s huge potential for what we can do in the future.”
While Ching’s plan for an omnibus home services platform is ambitious, John Nahm, co-founder and managing partner of Strong Ventures, has faith in him. “Like many great founders, Victor is very data-driven,” says Nahm, whose firm has invested in second-hand markets like unicorn Danggeun Market and cryptocurrency exchange Korbit. “He is very meticulous in his approach to new ventures. He tries it, does a quick experiment, and then if the data shows it can work, he goes all out,” says Nahm.
“As home services are very local, we prefer to work with existing businesses and founders in the local ecosystem.”
Before launching Miso, Ching co-founded a dating app called Chinchin in 2014 which flopped after nearly two years. “I learned an important lesson that external validation from investors and/or the press is worthless,” Ching wrote on LinkedIn of the experience. “All that matters is that customers love your product.” Before that, Ching, who grew up in Hawaii and studied business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was a product manager and employee #2 at food delivery app Yogiyo.
Miso plans to use its Series B to fuel its growth. “Our core platform is working and significant funding would definitely help accelerate that,” Ching said, adding that the round is expected to be completed this summer. Its last fundraising was in 2018, when it secured $8 million from Strong Ventures and Y Combinator as well as AddVenture, a venture capital firm focused on home services, and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s SocialCapital. Ching says Miso will eventually go public, but currently has no concrete plans to do so.
Ching, whose mother is Korean and father Chinese, has big plans for international expansion and is currently considering Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Instead of just launching Chinese or Bahasa Indonesian versions of Miso, Ching prefers to partner with established local home service providers, for example by sharing its platform and know-how. “When we make the final decision to enter a new market, we will work with a local partner who is already in that space,” Ching says, adding that he has met with a few vendors but has yet to close. Okay. “As home services are very local, we prefer to work with existing businesses and founders in the local ecosystem.”
At the same time, Ching is careful not to rush Miso’s expansion and fundraising. “We’re growing fast while having positive cash flow and we like to be in control of our own destiny,” he says. What’s unique about Miso, Nahm notes, is that while other successful Korean startups have benchmarked themselves against the world’s top players, Miso is poised to become a global pioneer in its own right.