Miso head Victor Ching is aiming to replicate his app’s success in home cleaning to sweep up new business at home and overseas.
Over the past seven years, Victor Ching has carved out a niche in the home cleaning space in South Korea with an app called Miso. Though it’s a relatively small market compared to online payments or food delivery, the app, which connects cleaners with clients, is the category leader in the country by users.
Miso, which means “smile” in Korean, has handled more than 5 million bookings since its founding in 2015. Of those, almost 90% have come from repeat customers, the Seoul-based company says. Top startup investors including Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator and Los Angeles-based Strong Ventures have backed Miso, which has raised over $11 million to date.
After years of steady growth in South Korea’s home cleaning market, cofounder and CEO Ching is taking Miso to the next stage. He’s aiming to replicate Miso’s success with the 70 other services it now offers and make its first move overseas. To help fuel its expansion, Miso is preparing to raise $30 million in fresh funding this year.
“We’re focused on building a platform that makes booking services as easy as buying a product online,” says Ching, 41, in a video interview from his office in Seoul’s upscale Gangnam neighborhood in late 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’ company. “We feel the same thing is very important in services because you don’t need many services repetitively.”
Through its app, Miso offers regular services, such as home cleaning, laundry and pet sitting, to occasional jobs like repairs, moving and interior remodeling. The company says it has more than 500,000 paying customers and over 50,000 service providers on its platform. “You might need a wide variety of different services in a year, so we feel like the best experience we can provide for our customers is to offer a one-stop shop where you open the Miso app and we get it done,” Ching says.
Miso has seen its sales soar since it began adding to its suite of home services in September 2020. Ching declined to give specific revenue figures, but shared that gross bookings almost tripled to over $128 million last year from about $47 million in 2020. He expects further acceleration if Miso’s one-stop shop plan continues to work. “You have this huge services market where you have billions of dollars in transactions, and then you can add a payments 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, cofounder and managing partner of Strong Ventures, is confident in him. “Just like many great founders, Victor is very data-driven,” says Nahm, whose firm has invested in the likes of secondhand marketplace unicorn Danggeun Market and cryptocurrency exchange Korbit. “He’s very meticulous in his approach to new businesses. He gives it a try, does a quick experiment and then, if the data shows that this can work, he goes all in,” says Nahm.
“As home services are highly local, we prefer to work with existing companies and founders in the local ecosystem.”
Before starting Miso, Ching cofounded a dating app called Chinchin in 2014 that failed after nearly two years. “Learned important lesson that external validation from investors and/or press is worthless,” Ching wrote on LinkedIn about the experience. “All that matters is that customers love your product.” Prior to that, Ching, who grew up in Hawaii and studied business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was chief product officer and employee No. 2 at food-delivery app Yogiyo.
Miso plans to use its series B round to fuel its growth. “Our core platform is working and definitely major funding would help accelerate that,” says Ching, adding 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 home services-focused venture capital firm, and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital. Ching says Miso will eventually go public, but currently has no concrete plans to do so.
Ching, whose mother is Korean and father is Chinese, has big plans for international expansion, and is currently looking at Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Instead of simply launching Chinese or Bahasa Indonesian-language 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 ultimate decision to enter a new market, it’ll be working with a local partner who’s already in that space,” Ching says, adding that he has met with a few providers but has yet to strike a deal. “As home services are highly local, we prefer to work with existing companies and founders in the local ecosystem.”
At the same time, Ching is careful not to rush Miso’s expansion and fundraising. “We are growing quickly while being cash-flow positive and like being 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 top global players, Miso is poised to become a global trailblazer in its own right.
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