As Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Noom, a consumer-led digital health platform, Saeju Jeong has spent 15 years building a passionate team dedicated to the mission of helping people everywhere live healthier lives. Through a powerful combination of human coaching, psychology, and technology, Saeju and Noom are empowering “Noomers” to take control of their health and change their behaviors for good.
Saeju Jeong: I’m so honored. Thank you very much, John.
John: Saeju before we get talking about what you and your partner have built at Noom over the last 15 or 16 years, I’d love you to first share a little bit about your background, where you were born, where you grew up, and what got you on this very inspirational and impressive journey that you’re on.
Saeju: Thank you. I’m Korean. I came from the suburb side of Korea, so I’m a country boy man. My father was a doctor, OB-GYN medical doctor, and my entire early childhood I remember that I was playing at my father’s hospital because he was working very hard as a founder and also a doctor. My father found a hospital with his brothers, so they all work hard. We all exposed to medical business somehow. That’s my childhood, and all Jeong family members and my cousins are all medical doctors. I mean, they became a doctor because the way they were influenced and also inspired by the parents. I tried, but I failed to enter the medical college, and then I was [inaudible] a lot and then I got lost because I didn’t go to medical college, and I became like a black sheep in our Jeong family. And then I pursued my interest, which is entrepreneurship. I founded a company in Korea when I was 19, a music record label, an e-commerce business. It was quite fun, and we grew very well by the time. This was before streaming service time. Service grew well. I loved it and then I had a little taste of being an entrepreneur and while I was doing that, I actually, as I was very much occupied for work and I’m busy, and I love what I do in terms of work, it built a big question mark of like, is something missing out of my work? Literally at the end of the day, by the time, I always felt like I’m quite busy and we are making pretty good money, and this was good, but why was I feeling like something was missing? Which is now I know because I did not have a life of purpose-driven life by the time. Why is purpose-driven life, right? And now I know what that means, but at age 19, I didn’t know. I was busy to operate my e-commerce business. I was confused and unfortunately, my father passed away early on because of lung cancer. It was a very traumatic experience because our relationship was very strong. My father was such a good father, a really good man, a philosopher, and very thoughtful.
John: I want to pause you for a second. When you didn’t get into medical school, all your cousins were getting in, your father and his brothers were not only were doctors, but they founded a hospital together. I know you were super close with your dad. What was your dad’s advice once you didn’t make it into medical school? Was he very hard on you or did he encourage you to find your own way?
Saeju: Correct. Wow. Thoughtful question. I actually never received that kind of question, so thank you, John. This is a hard question. I recall my father was disappointed, but I really appreciate that he didn’t say any words. He didn’t even act like he was disappointed, but I could read he was disappointed, but I think he had a pretty good empathy that my father didn’t want to become a doctor, by the way. My father didn’t want to become a doctor. My father wanted to become an entrepreneur and go abroad, be a captain of the cruise business, something like that. He wanted to get out because he was born and raised from a very small town and he wanted to go abroad. But my grandfather, who had a very strong mission that Jeong family to serve for the community health forced him to become a doctor. I think that experience helped him to have empathy with my past, which is none doctor’s past. My father told me a few days after that, we had to admit that I’m not going to try again. I will not try again to go to a medical college and now, I have decided to actually study electrical engineering, which was a very good major, by the way. But in our family, that was a big news because literally there are only two idiots are not a doctor as a man in our family.
Saeju: We have more than 60 doctors. It’s our culture, our family culture, which we are very proud of. At the same time, it also creates a lot of pressure.
Saeju: My father told me, “Saeju, there is a multi-pass of the career, but I don’t want you to think not becoming a doctor is a failure. This is a great opportunity. You may explore what you’re good at.” And he gave me a little hint that, “I think you’re very good at business because you read people well and you do well with the people. You do well, you create a harmony and that’s we call leadership.” Those very short but clear words gave me the light of the tunnel, John, because it’s him, it’s my father. By the time my father was the highest authority in my life, right? And I respect him a lot and I was close to him. Having that short but thoughtful comment gave me the light of the tunnel that, “Yes. Actually, I think you’re right, daddy, and I want to do something.” And he learned that I already found my company. I actually did it all by myself with my friend. I did not tell my parent. But I covered the news because our business was growing as a rising business, so my father learned about it. My father said, “I know what you are doing, Saeju at school. You’re also doing some startup.” My father didn’t either give up compliments. He said, “Bring the PNL chart and I will take a look.” I did it and my father was impressed. He goes like, “Do not miss a class, son, and keep it up.” That was his comment.
John: Wow. Let’s break that down. Your father could have taken, which would have been very culturally appropriate, he could have made you feel very worse than you already felt about not getting into medical school. But instead of that, he took a whole different tack. He not only worked from his heart and was empathetic towards your situation, but he also worked from his brain and he gave you words of wisdom that would encourage you and as you said, showed you the light, so he literally did the opposite of what many other fathers do in that situation, which opened the door for a much different path for you.
Saeju: That’s right, John. Thank you for asking a very thoughtful question. It’s a gift to me, because I haven’t thought about it until you asked that question. But I remember very vividly, because there was a moment that I cannot forget. Now I have become a father of two sons and I have more respect than ever, because the way he handled the disappointing news was so remarkably admirable. I miss him so much. I love him. My father was, yeah, I think you put the very beautiful words that culturally, tiger father, tiger mom is kind of like in Asia, in Korea, that’s very typical. Matter of fact, my uncles were kind of disappointed and they visually and bubbly mentioned that. But my father gave me a space that I can digest. My father trusted in me and this is a very teary conversation. I didn’t expect we’ll have this conversation, John, but I will share. Before my father passed away, my father never smoked. It was unfortunate situation that he somehow had lung cancer and it got him and he left early on, at an early age. One day, he did not know I was at the bathroom at the hospital and I overheard what he was saying to my mom. There was an entail of his life and my father told my mom that, “Give a chance to Saeju. He may ask for help that he needs to go abroad or start his business and just believe in him.”
John: He knew that he had limited time and he was sharing his own heart,
and what he wanted for your future with your mom to make sure that she would carry that on and it continued to encourage you and support you.
Saeju: Right. What an incredible human. I miss him.
Saeju: I miss him so much. Matter of fact, my mother became a great sponsor. Without my mother’s sponsorship, I don’t think I couldn’t come to the United States and even continue to stick with our company, Mission Noom, in the last 17 years. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of ups and downs. There are a lot of bankruptcy moments of companies. There’s a lot of time that my mother could simply compare me to her friend’s son. Like, “What are you doing, Saeju at your age and you’re not making any money? What are you doing? Just begging money all the time to investors?” But she never did that. She never ever.
John: I want to talk about your mom later, but let’s go back to your father before. I don’t want to glance over this. He got lung cancer and he passed at a very young age. Fifty-one, right?
Saeju: Yeah. Right. Fifty one. Unfortunate. Yeah. Very sad.
John: Also, before he passed, when the end was coming near, you also had another conversation with him, and he shared some last words of wisdom with you about what his death would mean to you and your future.
Saeju: Right. The reason I have more respect is because I became a father and I wish I can actually in terms of parenting that I wish I can get close to him because the way he handled any matter, for instance, when I made any mistake or misbehaved, my father literally never directly commented on that. My father always asked questions, so I can think about that. For instance, when I misbehaved, my mother is telling my dad and my father came to me, “Your mother seems very angry and upset. I think something, something went wrong.” I want to learn what was the thought behind it, but in a very kind manner to encourage me to think about what truly drove my action. He literally never gave me the answer. What is the right way or wrong way. Similar way he handled the way of his exit of a lifetime. When he, when he told me one day, I still remember very well, John, I guided him to walk because he needed to walk when he did the chemotherapy and I was a caregiver for his activities at our side and there was a beautiful sunset happened and my father just stopped walking and I look at the sun and he told me, “Because you are my son, I will tell you, you need to prepare that my time is ending. I want you to know. I’m a doctor. I know what’s going to happen and you need to understand rather you have to set a false hope, so be a man for the family. You got to prepare for the funeral.” When I heard that I couldn’t digest the big message. It was too much. In a similar spirit in that the manner before he passed away, he couldn’t speak well because he was struggling with the breathing and the last words were like, he had a retrospective, a review of his life as a doctor. My father was a very renowned doctor, was a very famous doctor in our town. It was not like he wanted to give me advice, whatever. I think he wanted to just share his life to someone who’s a son and then he just commented on his life as a doctor. “I worked really hard to save lives and I did it and I’m very proud of that. But I often felt my work is a little like a little hopeless because I saw more and more sick people coming to my office and I told them how to avoid or prevent that or manage the chronic conditions. But I was way too busy to handle a very sick patient so I didn’t have a chance to change that. But unfortunately, a lot of patients returned for the developed conditions.” That’s why he felt like in Korean healthcare [inaudible], I’m a healthcare professional leader, but am I actually healthcare leader? I’m a sick care leader. Then Delta, the procession between the healthcare leaders should be the center of like the evangelists and also spread how to get healthy today and avoid sickness. But I couldn’t do that. I actually manage the sick problem who are at the hospital and let them be discharged from the hospital. But I know most of them will come back again.
Saeju: That was a big topic for us and I was kind of like, I had a wake up call when I heard that from my dad, because I look up to him so much. At the same time, he had a little interesting comment as he closed the chapter of life and he commented [inaudible]. That’s kind of a very provoking comment.
John: Yeah, for him to talk about openly the between sick care and healthcare. That’s a epiphany. That’s fantastic.
John: Especially for a traditional doctor, they don’t like to talk in those terms typically, so a classically trained and traditional and well renowned and respected and loved doctor like your dad. That’s a big thing to talk about and open. Wow.
Saeju: Correct. He predicted the future that the technology will connect the dot between doctor and patient closer. He predicted and also he predicted that the entrepreneurship like now, what I do now, the company can actually support that. It can happen. Why? Ease of access and affordable price to access to the true healthcare services.
John: He knew what had to happen. There just wasn’t yet all the connectivity and the technology available to connect the dots that your father already saw was coming and should come.
John: Wow. Okay. Your father left you with this wonderful wisdom, this wonderful epiphany. You, I don’t want to glance over this in South Korea, you not only created a business, although you didn’t get into medical school, and you started this route of entrepreneurship. Your father looked at your PNL. He was impressed and gave you encouragement. What was the business about? Talk a little bit about your passion and what you followed in terms of what business you started in South Korea before you immigrated to the United States.
Saeju: For sure, John. I still love music. Like many of us love music, but I had a very specific flavor of interest, which is heavy metal music. I know, heavy metal music is not for everyone. But once, once you like it, you become like addicted and you become like the hardcore fan of heavy metal music.
Saeju: Still today, I listen to heavy metal music and I’m a dying hardcore fan of heavy metal music. My success was in Korea. It is so hard to get the heavy metal music in Korea because such as foreign countries for heavy metal music, usually heavy metal is more for European or American music. I initially imported heavy metal music to South Korea, but I adopted e-commerce and because of that, there are a ton of people who want to get the music because it’s hard to get it. But over e-commerce, I was able to monopolize the market in Korea.
John: So you had a heavy metal music label brand in South Korea?
John: Wow. And you were the first?
Saeju: I was the first e-commerce, yes.
John: You put it together with technology, so like you said, it’s e-commerce technology and you curated it yourself from your own tape?
Saeju: Yeah, exactly, John.
John: Wow. How many years did you run this and what was the end result of this first entrepreneurial venture?
Saeju: I did it for three years and then my father passed away and then I also had to serve for the military, so I switched my role. Actually, I did a very provoking decision. I literally contacted my competitor who followed my business and I contacted their CEO and said, “I’ve been watching you. You do a lot of things that we have done. You followed us and I want to say thank you for expanding our market. I will give you our business to continue to service without any hiccups to my client because I’m going to change my career toward something else than music.” That’s what I did.
John: Wow. You did your military service and then talked about the decision to then come to America. Why did you come to America and why did you choose New York when you came?
Saeju: During military service, it was a very good experience for me because I was looking for what should I do and I had a lot of philosophy questions by the time. After I lost my father, I had a question about all the topics that usually the children ask to parents and it’s very hard to answer, and then somehow as children grow up, they don’t ask and then like us adults, we don’t talk about it kind of.
Saeju: It became a very big topic for me, John, because I just lost my father. I was curious about like, “Who am I? Why am I at this time, at this planet as a Korean?” All that is kind of like a very spiritual question. I get stuck with that because I was curious, where’s my dad now? Once I buried him, and I felt very strange because, after the funeral, everything looked like moving as was scheduled, except my father is not here, so it really reminded me about we all die eventually and we live once, which is a very fair thing for every human and we are here and we can make some change. We can actually do something in our will, which is beautiful. I was thinking hard and I was in the military and one of the words my father told me really inspired me. My father said, “By the lives only, I will become very strong.” That’s why he told me, because he said, “Son, most of your friends will still have a father suffer for many more years.” And it was true. My father was the first one that I out of my old group and he passed away, the oldest one. My father says, “I will become very independent, which means I will become stronger.” And he said, “Look for your talent, what you can become and how we can evolve you as a talent and I am certain you will achieve amazing success. The only part that I’m not happy is I will not be able to see you by the time. Otherwise, it’s okay for me to leave early because I know my death will teach you to become very strong.” That strong message was hard and I was thinking and I decided to reset my life based on the priority. That really cleared a lot of mandate, the priority in my life, such as I need to go to medical school. I need to go to a good school like that. That was not my thought, by the way, John. That was kind of a given task. That actually helped me to prioritize what is important in my life. Then, I realized I’m an entrepreneur and I’m going to build a company. At school, I will not be able to focus because it’s not the major that I’m passionate with or love. I dropped out of college, which is very abnormal for a Korean student. That’s very uncommon due to our Korean [inaudible].
John: Education’s first.
Saeju: Correct. I dropped out of college. I’m very proud of that decision. You know what, John, it was not even hard. It was very easy decision for me. Once I realized it, once I was able to remove all my cloud in my head, you know what, it’s not important to drop out. I did everything, and then I determined I will come to United States, New York City. Why? United States is the biggest market for me. It’s a global market. I loved it because I experienced, as I mentioned, my first business in Monopoly, the heavy metal music scene in Korea and I learned that the TEM is so small. The TEM, Total Access Market, is so small. How many Korean heavy metalers? Not many. I realized if I continue to do this, I will soon, I will hit the ceiling. that helped me to think about go abroad. Also, I was very curious to interact with the diverse, the talents, different background, other than just 100% Korean market by Korean talent. I came to America and why New York City? Because I wanted to start from internationally friendly cities. I don’t have any background. That’s why I came to the United States, New York City. I thought and I think I’m right because I proved it over my life. New York City is such a great city that welcoming any background is very international friendly. That’s how I came to New York in 2005, January 22nd.
John: Did you have any family there, Saeju? Did you have any family or friends that you could connect with?
Saeju: [inaudible] I just want to highlight, no [inaudible]. I came no English background. Yes, I spoke some broken English, still broken English, but far broken English. I knew no human.
Saeju: Trust me, John.
John: You were literally a stranger in the promised land at that point.
Saeju: Yeah, I had a week and I was at the basement, sub-related basement at North Massapico in Long Island. People wonder why. [inaudible]. It was affordable, cheap, $630 per month.
Saeju: [inaudible] I was there and then I remember there were several days I don’t even speak at all. Nobody’s calling me. I’m like that. I remember I walked to Walmart. I just walked to Walmart and spent my time at Walmart and speaking with some cashier there. John, I actually spoke to Sprint customer support because I got bored.
Saeju: 1-800-SPRINT. I called them up.
John: Just to talk to somebody and hear a human voice, you were putting yourself in a position just to have someone to talk to.
Saeju: Yeah, I was absolutely lonely.
John: Was the family that you were living in their house, did they have any relationship with you or don’t discuss anything with you?
Saeju: I found an amazing lady. She’s a teacher at school, a math teacher and I stayed at her basement, [inaudible], but her personality, she’s a great lady, by the way. I respect her and I learned a lot of [inaudible] culture. She wanted to keep the distance. Matter of fact, in the beginning, it was so hard to actually interact with her other than just pay her the rent fee. I tried to be just kind because I was lonely and I’m a kind man. I wanted to be nice and say hi. I even asked like, “Can I have a dinner with you or something?” She goes, “Not really.” Kind of like that, right?
Saeju: You know what I did? I actually cleared the driveway past the snow and also leaves like that because I just have time.
John: Right. You just want it to be friendly and also [inaudible].
Saeju: Yeah, I just have time. I’m a young man. I’m a single. I have time and I’m here to learn American culture, all that. One day the magic happened. The one day her boyfriend opened the locked door between basement and the the first floor. He opened the door, “Hey, come over. We have a beer.” “Whoa.” He was such a kind man. He was a boyfriend of her. And he said, “Come over. I heard about you and now I have seen you for three months. Come over. We have a beer to get.” I have a beer. And then, she buys it for dinner. And I met her friend over the dinner and a friend is operating Verizon Wireless retail store at the North Massapicua. She asked me if I sold any Verizon, the service, the carrier service, then she can write a check as a bonus, so I did it a lot. She gave me a $1,000 check. That was my first paycheck ever in my United States.
John: That’s a nice paycheck in the United States.
Saeju: True story, John.
John: You’re like, say, 2005, 17 years ago, so you’re 24, 25 years old and you’re young [inaudible].
Saeju: Yeah 25, 25.
John: You’re a young guy. Yeah. That’s an exciting moment to get that check. That must have felt like you’re off to the races. You had that check [inuaidble].
Saeju: Exactly. You were actually that was proof of confidence and then I was able to do more side jobs and that was fun. John, they gave me the confidence I can do this.
John: Wow. How long did you live in that in that nice lady’s basement? How long were you there?
Saeju: I was there for almost two years and then I moved to Flushing, Queens, which is close to Manhattan. I started actually new concept and I found a company in Noon [inaudible].
John: Out of your apartment in Flushing, you founded Noon.
John: Would you take the Long Island Railroad in or the subway in to New York City?
Saeju: Subway, of course.
John: You’re a subway guy. Okay.
Saeju: Yeah, of course, subway and found the company. Yeah, like there’s a lot of good people, literally angels. There’s a lot of nice people who…
John: Talk a little bit about New York City and for our listeners and viewers just joined us. We’ve got Saeju Joeng with us. He’s the co founder and executive chairman of Noon to find Saeju and his partner Artem and all the wonderful people at Noon. Please go to www.noom.com. Saeju, talk a little bit about that. I grew up in New York City. I grew up a couple of blocks over from Flushing. I grew up in Little Neck, Queens and with the high school Manhattan, high school college in Manhattan. But talk a little people think New York is a big bad town and everybody’s mean and rude. Talk a little bit about you had a very opposite experience of that and what that means to your journey, to your entrepreneurial journey and into and disavow our listeners and viewers to how nice really people are in New York City.
Saeju: [inauidble]. I do think it is a general like the impression of a city, right? At Boston, New York City has different LSaeju: I get that. My own experience is there are a ton of good people over in my life who assist my business and help my life. For instance, like I constantly pitched our ideas about how Noon can change the world and there are patient people who listen to my broken English plus broken presentation, plus like a very inexperienced ideas about how to operate the business. But there are good patient people listen to. Let me give you an example. I pitched to VCs, bench capitalists, who write a little check for CD stage, right? And because I was so nobody, I remember like having two meetings per week is a good week. If I have two meetings per week, that’s a good week. Other than that, my calendar is completely empty, right? I pitched to bench capitalists in Connecticut and Manhattan. Obviously, because I’m not qualified, I knew it, but I tried my best and then 30% of the time, 30%…, of course, everybody said no, by the way, but 30% of them, because I literally begged them. It’s okay to say no to me, but it’s a great gift if you can tell me why no, why and [inaudible] sir.
John: Right. You want constructive feedback.
Saeju: Yeah, John, because I invest my time and you invest your time and why don’t you just give me the real feedback? You can say like, we suck, but we want to learn. That way, your time is valuably respected and me as well and there are nice people who give a constant feedback with encouragement. I remember one day the Connecticut VC said, “Hey, young man, I got to tell you, boy.” And he was like, “You have an amazing passion, but you don’t know how to present the business.” And he guided the way we need to make, we supposed to make the presentation deck, the way I should focus on building a team, all that. Like, I hope I can find them again. Then I want to say, thank them again that there are nice people, the strangers. But I asked, and when I asked, I get a pretty good response. People actually give me the feedback, which is not a money, but sometimes I think feedback is also the past so I can raise the capital, which I eventually raise the capital because I got better over time.
John: Because you wanted to get better though. You were asking for people to tell you how to get better.
Saeju: Correct. And also New York City, I get it. People think that New York City is kind of like tough. I agree. New York City is hard to live, tough to live. Like, everything is expensive. There’s a reason why. And I say this, because like me even say to you, I came from Korea, I’m an immigrant, right? A lot of people are, people come to New York because they chase a dream. Right. So they are busy and there’s a lot of competition. But the thing is, from my own experience, I always believe in good intention and I try to be polite, respectful, and sincere and I do my homework, by the way, John. I do my homework, meaning like I prepare the most thoughtful question in order to respect someone else. Then, I believe that effort speak over non-verbal energy to someone else. That moment, I have seen a lot of cases, where people raise hands for help. They want to help me and they help me. They don’t use the flower words, but in New York often because they’re busy and have a lifestyle, but they help.
John: I want to go back just two steps. Talk a little bit about your aha moment. You’re living in Flushing. How did you dream up? Was it in bed, in the shower, just walking on the streets, getting some exercise? When did you put together, and I give your father credit for the seeds of this, because obviously your dad was a brilliant man, like you said, a philosopher with a big heart. He set the seeds in you as you shared a little earlier about the difference between sick care and health care. When did you have your aha moment and said, “Okay, I know what my next business is.” And you dreamed up the business concept, the original business plan of Noom. When did that happen? And how did it happen to you?
Saeju: I had, because I had a very somewhat successful e-commerce business. I made like a few million dollars at age 19, 20. That gave me a chance to taste of the entrepreneurship and know some money. At the same time, as I mentioned, I was seeking for the fulfillment of my life. And now, I know what that is. Purpose driven life is the answer, but it’s very difficult to actually purpose driven life. Why? Because I had to find where I can fully dedicate and devote my life. In other words, I need to find a target. I need to have a mission and that was the most difficult part, John. To answer your question, and hopefully it’s a good tip for the listeners, what I did because all I had was time and my good energy and curiosity. I tried to wake up early to be a disciplined man. Then, I take the questions and I went out for walk at least four hours, sometimes seven hours.
Saeju: I try not to just ask around my question that what I have to figure, which is my own calling. What is my mission? This is my homework. I have seen from many early stage in the founders and probably it’s also my mistake when I was much younger. A lot of inexperienced founders ask too many questions to others to get either confirmation or they don’t know where to start. I get that sometimes. My humble recommendation is you got to figure your own question by yourself. Although even if it’s very lonely and tough and you may feel completely got lost, but that’s very natural. That’s very normal, so I go deeper and deeper like a meditation, but I did the walk, think, walk, think, take a note. I read a major book is called Good to Great written by Jim Carlson and that book is describing why several companies are growing over 100 years, which is longer than man’s life by the time. I love the concept and that book answered my question. It’s not about idea. It’s about the mission because either can be changed or either can be copied. What I did beginning the first vision, I found a company based on my ideas and I made a little money, but it’s not a company sustainable growth. But when I figure the mission, which is less to use the science and technology to deliver healthy outcome for and do just how nice is that and also I learned this is the part that you mentioned very beautifully, John, as an immigrant. Immigrant has a benefit. What benefit? We see a lot of problem in the United States. That problem is an opportunity to improve. Immigrant is always a little more awakened than just American. The reason is not because we are better human, because we got to learn about this new culture and why we adopt and learn new culture, American culture. We have a question. Why in America is this normal? To me, it’s not normal. That’s an opportunity.
John: Also, I agree with you for 100%. But as an immigrant, there are two things, A, your dad told you that when he passed, it was going to be a very difficult time for you, but it was going to make you tougher and better to go make your future because of the difficulty of his passing.
John: The passage also from South Korea to New York was not easy and it’s not easy for any immigrant. It’s just not easy to be the first. A lot easier to be me, the third generation of an immigrant family, but my grandfather is really you. You came over. You did the hard work. You lived in a very lonely situation and had to keep your willpower, your vision, your drive, your sanity while you found your way. Ultimately, isn’t resilience and flexibility and grit three of the biggest pillars of immigrants that are able to push through every difficulty because there’s no entrepreneur or immigrant or entrepreneur, whether they’re immigrant or not, that doesn’t have massive amount of difficulties. Being an immigrant, weren’t you better prepared because of your toughness, because of what you’ve already had endured through your father’s passing, through the passage of South Korea to New York to be ready for this what’s new journey but very difficult journey?
Saeju: Extremely well said, sir, and thank you so much for commenting and summarizing it. I agree with you. Actually, this reminds me of one of the amazing episodes I want to share with you, if you don’t mind, John.
Saeju: In 2019, I know now I’m skipping the time.
John: Yeah. Go ahead.
Saeju: But 2019, Sequoia Capital, which is one of the most prestigious bench capital firm in the Silicon Valley, so they contacted us and then they followed us and we were invited to present our company to their 13 partners.
Saeju: That was kind of final meeting, right? We understand this is kind of very important to me. We flew over and a day before the meeting, I got a call from the partner who advocate our business to their partner. He goes, “Hey, Saeju, you know what? We want you to present your story. How did you survive?” Because we found company in 2008 and by the time we met them in 2019.
John: Eleven years later.
Saeju: Yep. They want me to present that story. What happened? How did we not bankrupt or basically they were curious about the story of perseverance instead of the business model or product presentation or that.
John: [inaudible]. They were more interested in you.
Saeju: Founder’s story.
John: Founder’s story. I love it.
Saeju: We did it. We shared after my co-founder and I flew over and we shared our story. I started from my personal beginning and how I came to United States, why I came to United States, and why it has to be healthcare and how we discover, how we define our mission and how we explore the ideas, the product, the features. Again, I just want to highlight one more time. We did not found the company with amazing idea. We had, “Oh my God, this idea, I got to found the company.” No, we found the company once we figure the company mission and then we look for the ideas.
John: Got it. Go back. Now, you came up with the idea. You’re getting turned down by VCs when and how did you meet Artem?
Saeju: I met Artem in 2006 and then 2007 we started to talk about opportunity. I actually convinced him to get out from Google.
John: He got a big job at Google and you convinced. By the way, I don’t want to give short shrift to Artem. Artem is obviously not an American name. He has to be from an immigrant family too. Where is his family from?
John: He’s Ukrainian. You’re South Korean. You’re both immigrant families. You’re an immigrant first generation. He’s also first generation I take it.
John: Okay. That’s important. Two immigrants are getting together.
John: Just like the Google founders and many other founders, there’s two great immigrants coming big mission together.
Saeju: Correct. Exactly.
John: Okay. Now, you meet him, talk about meeting him and talking about how to decide what the mission was going to be. Artem’s approach was different than me because I’m kind of like an intuitive man. I always started my business. I’m kind of like a go-go-go guy and Artem is a very thoughtful man and product-driven thinker, so he did a lot of research and I give credit and I was so inspired. We debated a lot to figure out why is the company mission and we figured out the company mission and then I convinced him to get out from Google. He was tech leader of Google Map by then and I remember his parents, and his grandma hated it when I convinced him to get out from Google because they gave up their life from Ukraine for his education. They were very proud of him. He got a job at Google and then I [inaudible]
John: Who’s this guy, Saeju? Who’s messing up all our dreams for our young boy here? Who’s this guy, Saeju?
Saeju: Exactly, John. That’s what happened.
John: Oh my God. Wow. That’s fascinating. Now, you have two guys and so what was, what did you decide? How did you eventually agree upon the mission?
Saeju: Yep. Then we built the product ideas that what we thought and now like from today’s view, it’s very cute ideas, but we develop a lot of product portfolios that we thought it would deliver our company mission. In other words, using science and technology, we can deliver great outcome, healthy outcomes. Not really. Believe me, our first prototype, one of the prototypes that we really battled was very much like Peloton Cycle.
John: Really? Wow.
Saeju: Our first product. We had a hardware, we had interactive screening attached to Cycles and the Gamify did everything. And with that prototype, we could not raise a single dollar for two years. We faced bankruptcy and then we realized we got to drop the hardware vision because it’s so expensive to carry on. That challenge actually, that challenge helped us to figure what we are good at. We figured we are good at making software. If so, and we need to make a very, we need to develop the product that we can prove how good we are and that’s how we entered App Market, the application.
John: Before we get to the App Market, where were you building this together? Was there a rework yet or were you working out your Flushing apartment or Artem’s apartment or where were you building this together?
Saeju: We didn’t have a rework concept by then, right? We worked all that is kind of ladies concept. By the time Artem’s apartment and then we, and then actually I found the Columbia University PhD student dorm, and I feel sorry to Columbia University at this moment. But I actually kind of smuggled in there. We actually convert that dorm as our office, we work at there. We eventually moved to Harlem, 138th Street and Lennon Avenue, Harlem, and the two bedroom, we stayed, we work and stayed and there’s no work-life balance. We just we became one.
John: Artem lived with you? Or Artem came to your apartment? Or how did that work?
Saeju: Artem was working for Google, but I started a company, so I came from Flushing. By the time I moved to Flushing garage, I moved even because I became so poor. I found the one illegally renovated space in the garage and I stayed at garage.
John: You were like Google and HP. You were doing good garage entrepreneurship, just like Google and HP.
Saeju: Correct, in Flushing.
John: Wow. Then, Artem would come to Flushing or you would go to the city and you would code together? How did that work?
Saeju: In weekend, he comes to Flushing, weekdays, I go to Artem’s apartment, Artem go to Google. I worked during daytime and then eventually we convinced him, so he got out and then we moved to Columbia University and then we got, we moved to Harlem, the apartment.
John: I know you apologize to Columbia. I want to give a little shout out to Google because I want to talk a little bit about how you guys kept your bellies full while you were coding together.
Saeju: Actually, I feel also immensely thankful to Google because Google feeds employee and Artem was able to collect some leftover sandwich and the yogurt from Google and he fed me overnight and we worked until like 1 a.m. every night.
John: Shout out to Columbia and shout out to Google for supporting our great young entrepreneurs in America. That’s okay.
John: You’re going to do software and an app. Now, how does it go from there?
Saeju: We built the software and an application business and God helped us. Once in every decade there’s a change of transformative technology, right? And then, as you do know, like a hyper growth arrived. Like an Airbnb, Spotify, Uber all came out of this transformative time and the mobile ran innovation time. We were lucky enough that we launched a service and we became quite popular and maker developer because within six months we had a five million download. It’s called Cardio Trainer. We launched five million. By the time it was a lot, we were number one in fitness category.
John: What year was this?
John: Okay. Now that takes off. It gets scale and usage. Not only eyeballs and clicks, but people are using it. Yep. That was that it? Were you guys high-fiving each other and think this is it? [inaudible]
Saeju: As a 3-day company, we had a lot of users and the app market was growing so fast and the adoption was so great and we became known company, the best fitness tracking application maker. But remember, John, we did not make that much money because the service was free.
John: You had eyeballs, you had the users, but you had to figure out a way to monetize it now.
Saeju: Correct, John. The business model, we were naive. We didn’t have a business model, but because our traffic was so great, we were able to raise the capital from Clannad Perkins.
John: Okay. Another big firm, another great big, just like Sequoia, one of the granddaddies of venture capital.
Saeju: You can say that, John, and that convert our company to become a real company because they put the real dollars and that helped us to recruit talent and we speed up our R&D and then we raised capital from Series A, from RRE Ventures based in New York City, which is an amazing venture capital firm. Since then, we started to build a business model, Series A, but we could not figure the great product market fit. They can scale well, John, meaning we had like very, it’s a contract theory, right? We had an amazing user base, but we didn’t have a business model. Does it make sense? So that was kind of a common problem for many end makers by the time. Amazing user base, but business model. We couldn’t figure and we tried, but it didn’t work. At the same time, we also learned a surprising lot of our users are using service for weight loss. That’s how we figure weight loss, John. Like our product is designed for fitness tracking, but people are not using, they don’t do exercise, but they’re still using them for parameter, which is one of the bonus feature. What is this? [inaudible]
John: Were they overly telling you that or were you asking them? Because
I know you like to ask for constructive feedback. Were you and Artem asking them for that feedback or were they just telling you we’re using this for to lose weight?
Saeju: Yes, John. What happened was as a product company, we always survey our users. User feedback is often the past we can see here, right? Right. We also monitored our usage and majority of our usage, our app was not the way we designed. People didn’t do cycling. People didn’t do marathon, but people just used for working parameter. Can you imagine, John? Like that’s what I’m saying. We actually asked, we asked users, why did you not run? Why did not also using for cycling that 90% of people said, because I don’t do that. I said, okay, then why do you use our service? Because we have a best parameter and you can count calories. We asked again, why do you do that? I want to lose weight and it will get a hard moment. John was, ‘Oh my God, people want to lose weight.” But they don’t want to exercise.
John: Right. That is interesting. What year was this now? What year was this approximately?
John: Where was your first one? You raised the money from Kleiner and some other New York VCs. Where was your first office? Where did you put your first office?
Saeju: Once we raised capital from our ventures, we moved down to Chelsea, 25th street and 8th Avenue. We moved the gallery town, Chelsea, and then we keep grinding to build a product. But 2012, we have an aha moment about the weight loss and nutrition. We pivot a few times. Then current Noom arrived in 2014.
John: Wow. Okay. I know. Talk about now the current Noom. What was your new iteration now that you had that aha moment of that day, people want to lose weight, but they’re really not too excited about exercising. What was that your, what was your new iteration on Noom?
Saeju: The iteration goes like since then it became more straightforward and easier. Meaning easier means we discovered by remember well that Artem and I, we chat like, “Oh my God, we figured something mega big problem, mega big business, but it’s not going to be that easy product.”
Saeju: We knew it. Then we continue to develop how we can make it easy experience to actually change the behavior to lose weight. 2014, we figured, and then we work really hard to actually have laser pinpoint to improve the product. Then we, long story short, we had to drop all the rest of the business in the product. We focused only on one product, which is by the time Noom weight loss app. We relaunched the product in 2016. And it came with the human coach part. It’s hybrid service, human coach with the technology support of the coach and also delivered through mobile platform. And we grew really well, John, from that time. We grew really well from 16, 17, 18. From 19, we entered hyper growth mode. Now, we became nationwide renowned, that household brand Noom.
John: First of all, you’re not only an extraordinary entrepreneur, Saeju, but you’re one of the most humble human beings I’ve ever met and had the honor to meet. Talk a little bit about that. First of all, to date, and I don’t want you giving away any secrets, obviously, but two things. How much money have you raised to date for a guy who was, many VCs said no to, which is very much like the entrepreneurial journey others have. And now you’ve had a lot of success with VSCs in fundraising. How much approximately have you raised to date?
Saeju: We raised around $670 million so far.
John: Let’s talk about valuations. Again, don’t give away any secrets, but unicorns are a billion dollars or more. Is it safe to say you’re a four, five, six billion dollar valuation company, seven billion dollar valuation company?
Saeju: We were valued last value when we raised capital led by Silver Lake that we were near $4 billion.
John: Four billion dollars. This is the great journey. Now that you and Artem have had this since from 2016 to 23, these seven years of unbelievable growth, talk a little bit about the growth prior to COVID and now coming out of COVID. How has things changed and have you had to do new iterations or resets prior to COVID? You were being massively successful post-COVID. How are things changed? Explain a little bit the two bookends of pre-COVID, post-COVID success.
Saeju: Great question, John. We are very proud of the way we figured the service that using psychology and approach with a behavior change method, we deliver sustainable, healthy outcome. A lot new users appreciate our approach is not the weight loss, it’s about how to build sustainable, healthy habits. Then the result is a managing weight better and we deliver good outcome. That approach has been incredibly well received in 2016 when we launched and that’s why we did a very good growth prior to COVID-19 time. Again, prior COVID-19 time, we were already growing well because the market has changed. The market was looking for how to improve overall health and Noom was the answer. We were lucky, timely correct, and our approach was very modern. It worked. During the COVID-19 time, as you remember, people were looking for how to improve the one health while they are stuck at home. Then, Noom service was well received because it is very innovative way to approach to handle chronic care or preventing the chronic disease. We were able to build our brand awareness very strong, build our trust score from the end user base, also build awareness through so many millions user base. That helped us the networking in fact, meaning a lot of we call Noomers. Noomers are spreading their own experience of changing behavior. Can you imagine if you actually manage your weight by change behavior and you have a healthier lifestyle? You become naturally ambassador of our brand because you want to share the good experience because your people, your friends or spouse and co-workers will ask, “Wow, you look great. What happened?” It’s such a nice thing. This is the power of sharing the positivity.
John: But they become your Noomers and I assume Noomers was taken out of Googlers. I assume that’s a bit like that.
Saeju: You can say that, John.
John: Yeah. But then what you’re saying then, “Let’s tie this back.” Your clients have so much success using Noom, they become great ambassadors and evangelists for your brand.
Saeju: Correct. We appreciate the community.
John: Which goes back to your good to great because Jim Collins would call that the flywheel effect.
Saeju: Exactly, John. That’s what a beautiful, powerful theory and we firmly believe it. It’s very straightforward, simple. Company Noom should deliver our company mission to our users. We deliver a very healthy outcome, which is very, very priceless value for most of us. We tackle one of the most difficult challenges that we face, which is lifestyle problem, which leads to weight problem. We are using technology and science to make sure that holdup can be easy to accomplish. Also we learn by monitoring millions user base, so we can improve our technology and algorithm. Your question post COVID-19 time. Obviously the post COVID-19 has arrived and the way we live the world has changed a lot. For instance, very much hybrid culture in terms of work. People continue to look proactively how to improve their health because they understand the importance of the health has been rising. I think it’s very good. Because the consumers, the end users are raising their voice to how can I get, how can I invest into me or improve my overall wellbeing? When I say that, that is your physiological health, your mental health, your relationship health, and also your financial health. It is far more holistic health people are looking for. This is a change we monitor. These days, today, 2023, people are proactively looking for how can I improve my overall wellbeing? It’s a trend. It’s a very important trend.
John: Is that a trend Saeju in your mind that Artem’s mind that came out of COVID because people saw the death and destruction and tragedies that COVID basically thrust itself upon us, unexpectedly, and now want to be better prepared and more resilient as people and as healthy people to, if that ever happens again, they want to be more prepared by using a great platform like yours so they can just live healthier and better lives?
Saeju: You are such a great, like the teacher, actually, John, because you summed it very well. True. I cannot agree with more than what you just said. The thing is, it’s a tragedy that what we have witnessed and experienced indirectly or directly seeing the COVID-19 impact to this world is this tragedy for mankind. But that really alert the importance of oneself health and also family members. People start to raise their voice about, “Hey, dear healthcare, what do you do for us?” Meaning healthcare industry is so big and we are paying a lot of dollars to insurance and also to get the service. Now, they’re asking, “Can I get some help today before I get sick?” Meaning we are talking about preventative approach. This is exactly what we shared early in our conversation. Now, I can truly see the focus from sick care management from healthcare became a little shift over prevention care. How nice is that, John? Because people are asking, the health industry is also paying attention. This is a very positive move.
John: Well, it’s not, that’s not only powerful, but it shows how impressive and visionary your father was because he had it right. You were able to take his wisdom and put it into real life action because the technology now exists and you had the vision to take that technology and make it a reality now.
Saeju: Thank you so much, dear. That means a lot to me. Thank you so much, John.
John: It’s the truth. It’s just fascinating, but it’s absolutely the truth. What your father did, your uncles did, and your grandfather’s dream was your family became great healers, but I call their time of healing and taking care of sick people retail, their retail time. You, with the power of technology, with Artem and all of your colleagues, are able to exponentially take that and now make it that during your wholesale time, the time that you’re having this conversation with me, the time that you’re with your wife and children, the time that you’re sleeping, your app, Noom, is able to bring health care delivered to millions of people around the world while you sleep. You don’t have to now spend your retail time doing it one by one. You’re doing it on a wholesale democratized basis, which is the whole beauty and elegance of Noom.
Saeju: Incredible, John. You actually quite speak similar like my father, because my father told me, “Hey, Saeju, I did all my best to help the lives, but once I got sick, I couldn’t practice more. Basically, I realized I was highly paid manual labor job and my knowledge and experience cannot be passed it down.” In other words, not scalable. He encouraged me to think, apply the entrepreneurship, build a system that can actually continue to grow and serve for the people who need the help over the night time and against the clock. That’s exactly what he said, John.
John: And you did it. Literally, you did it. You put his words into action. That’s an unbelievable story and why I was so excited to have you here.
Saeju: I’m honored, John. This is the beginning. Kudos to all the digital health care companies and founders. I think we together, we are making a positive dent to this health care system. I believe there’s a lot less we learn from COVID-19. I believe there’s a very positive movement has happened and will continue to be evolved that people are now actively looking for how to get healthy. Because of that, the world will pay attention to prevention. I think that’s a good thing.
John: Let’s talk about the beauty and the scalability of your app. Today, are you allowed to discuss how many millions of people use your app approximately or in a range? I don’t want to give away any secrets. Obviously, that’s not the purpose of this show in this interview. But how big is it in terms of millions of users?
Saeju: We don’t provide a supposed number, but we have millions of paid users, active users. Also, the North America is our primary market. We’ve been expanding our service to international service such as UK, Australia. We plan to go more overseas. Our service has been serving for 20s to late 60s. It’s really like wide, the demo, the age, the coverage that we have. Our brand has been well recognized as one of the top, the customer facing healthcare companies. We became a nationwide like household brand and I’m very proud of that job.
John: You are. Today, mostly in the United States and Canada, and eventually UK, Australia, and around the world.
Saeju: Correct. We care about our brand awareness and also trust core[?] because it’s a healthcare company will make sure to deliver great outcome. We are paying attention with the strong investment into R&D to make sure that we deliver great outcome by investing into the core R&D product.
John: Let’s talk a little bit more about the core service and then we’ll talk about the future a little bit. How many, how many folks do you have working with you as coaches for your wonderful base?
Saeju: We have nearly a thousand employees. It consists of like the lifestyle coach and also product people and obviously business, finance, marketing, customer support. We are based in New York City, but we also support the remote world. We have a lot of very strong talent from nearly 40 states in the United States who support this new platform.
John: Being the co-founder and executive chairman of a brand that’s now very large with many large employees, how has that role in managing employees changed pre-COVID, post-COVID?
Saeju: Pre-COVID, we had a very tight culture that we all work from office in New York City. I think during COVID-19, we had to adapt the remote world and we were even growing even faster than most of companies. We had a double challenge, such as like in remote work plus, like growth, the hyper-growth mode. That helped us to expand our architect, how we can serve for millions of users and millions of users and also set for the next level growth. People are often commenting like zero to one. I think we are now entered one to one hundred, the scale in that game. Post-COVID-19, we are trying to figure the best hybrid working culture. Also, as the company has grown, we constantly invite very experienced executives and experienced talent. That way, we can embrace the experience from outside and continue to be ready for the next growth, so that’s where we are. That is one of the main reasons that I also stepped down from CEO to chair after I served for 17 years. I recently stepped down to chair as the executive chair. I’m very thankful. I embraced the experience found the CEO who has managed bigger business than ours and also public company so we can get some help. Now, the leadership is building next level partnership and I believe that the company adaptability is the most important muscle for the company. I believe that is so critical and we are constantly looking for how we can evolve.
John: I take it then, you and Artem never go to bed thinking, “It’s all built, it’s all complete, our masterpiece, tonight we could rest, tomorrow is easy.” That’s never the way it goes, right?
Saeju: No, John, you know it. Not even one person of that feeling. Matter of fact, we have a lot of ideas. Because of that, we get frustrated why we don’t have enough time.
John: Do you ever enjoy thinking back to your original business plan, the first business plan on this, and do you marvel at how much you’ve iterated it and changed it and where you are today from that first business plan that you started pitching to the first VC?
Saeju: Yeah, actually I used to print it out and frame it and hang next to me because I wanted to remind my day one how much I did not know to remind myself. Also, I think that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship like you, John, that a lot of ideas are often not working. I think over years and years what I learned is that we put the best effort to figure and deliver better outcome, but sometimes not working, but it’s okay because eventually we’ll figure. But it’s not okay to not change the ideas and not admitting the failure. It’s not okay.
John: I agree. I mean, but some people aren’t. They get stuck and they never change and their businesses go away that easily. I mean, you and I know that. That’s the difference. I keep over my shoulder here this little sock puppet of Pets.com that’s been in my office since 1999. My partner and I started a .com, Mike O’Brien, back then and when Pets.com was launched and raised billions and went out of business, we bought all their furniture and their servers. Mike was the genius behind for pennies. We always bought, we bought these sock puppets then from their liquidation, just to always remind us that if we don’t stay vigilant, if we don’t stay flexible, if we don’t stay ever changing, we’re going to go the same way as Pets.com, so I keep that as a constant reminder.
Saeju: It’s such a powerful way you can remind yourself. I agree that, sir.
John: Every day. Talk a little bit about your partner. Over your shoulder is a beautiful picture of you and Artem in your…. I love that. Talk about adaptation and ever changing. Partnership is like a marriage. You and I know we’re married. I’m married to my wife almost 40 years now and we’re not the same people we are when we got married. We’re always having to change and adapt to keep making the marriage work. Marriage, partnership, and entrepreneurship is a marriage. Many of those marriages break up. It also destroys or diminishes the brand. How come you and Artem are the anomaly or not the anomaly, but you are the opposite of what’s happened to many other brands. You two are close. You’ve been close for all these years. How do you keep making sure that that partnership, that business marriage continues to work and you continue to help the business thrive as your friendship is also grown?
Saeju: We try to, thank you for asking. We try to think the company first, then, then even if we have any like disagreement, that becomes like a tiny matters. We also spend a lot of time to chat. That way we can reduce the opportunity that we are in a different place. Meaning we purposefully put some time together. We chat about topics that we care. That way we are naturally aligned. It’s easier to actually have the consensus then. We also proactively run the session that we call clearing session, clearing the chest. If something stays in the chest and something bothers, then we encourage… we actually have a bi-weekly meeting and we, that’s a dedicated session that we talk about it. That way we can reduce that uncomfortable feeling or unresolved matters. We prevent that growth bigger.
John: You nip it in the bud before it festers and becomes something bigger than it should be anyway?
John: Wait a second. That’s a very modern, almost therapeutic way to manage a partnership in marriage. Most people can’t do that in their own marriage, nonetheless a business partnership. How did you and Artem come up with such a healthy way of interacting together?
Saeju: We had a lot of trial and errors. Also, we have seen the pattern that if we don’t proactively invest into partnership, then the little miscommunication here and there can pile up and it can cause the bigger impact on when we needed to have some tense conversation to make the decision, which we are not aligned. Because we’re human, and because we’re passionate, we tie our opinion to the decision. We don’t want that. We also invited a CEO coach, the Eagle Jacket to coach and then guide can guide us. That was one of recommendation. We want to invest into partnership by having a clearing session, so we can move forward. And it’s very nice. It’s nice to have that cadence that way you can prevent unnecessary tense conversation in the future.
John: I take it that you both are outside of the business, very close otherwise in terms of friends, and your wives and your children, you’re very close and you feel very spiritually and from a friendship basis, very close.
Saeju: Right. Because we care so much and Noomi is our baby. That’s the way we feel about it. It’s often easy to have a conversation over the weekend. We don’t have to talk about the work, but it’s a time that we can chat about the life. I think that also fulfill the other pillar, which is likeability each other, likeability and caring each other.
John: But what if I was to ask you, what’s the secret to motivating people to make healthier choices in life? People listen to this podcast, and they want to take away some action steps. Of course, we always encourage them to sign up to Noom, www.noom.com. But what are some of your takeaways that you’ve seen now that you’ve served millions of people? You’re really the health care advisor to millions upon millions of people. You have a unique position and a unique information base that you and Artem now have gathered over all these years.
Saeju: Thanks for asking, John. I always recommend it’s okay to reset the goal, meaning in January, we often see the New Year resolution.
Saeju: It’s a great move. People are trying to become better, which I like. They try. But we often see the New Year resolution does not achieve the success. Because often, the people set a little unrealistic goal, or a little like challenging target. Let’s face it, building a healthy habit. What is a healthy habit? A little better choice than what you used to do. A little better choice, better choice for nutrition choice, exercise or activities, stress anxiety management, sleep resting, your relationship. All you need to do is a little better choice. Try again. If it’s okay, if you somehow miss your great streak, or you’ve been doing good for three days, but today it did not work, do not judge yourself that it was a failure. It’s okay to start again, now or tomorrow. But the thing is, do not give up on keep trying. Remember, if you try New Year resolution, every week, let’s say, right? Theorically, if you think about today is a new day of this year and try it. If it’s not working, try again. Today is the new day of New Year.
John: Your advice is stay on the journey. If you have a slip up, it’s okay. That doesn’t destroy all the hard work you put in, just keep moving forward.
Saeju: Correct, John.
John: You and Artem are always watching what’s going on and and late later latest trends and things of that such. Talk a little bit about the future of new might heard you have something coming out if you’re allowed to talk about I’d love to hear about it called new med. There’s all this new and there’s new technology out there. Obviously, we know 23andMe has become very popular. These peptides, ozempic and semaglutide have become popular. Soul cycle peloton, the ice bath and ice plunges. Talk a little bit about what’s to come for new besides spreading internationally and continuing to grow your great brand. What are you excited about in 2024 and 25 and beyond?
Saeju: We are excited about how new can provide service beyond wellness service. New med is a great way to introduce doctors to our users. New med is the bridge between wellness and health care service. Meaning now through new med we embed telehealth and telemedicine. We can now provide a doctor’s opinion, doctor review and also doctor’s recommendation and prescription. That way, we can even care of chronic care management or chronic prevention service, including medically assisted weight loss such as GLP-1, ozempic like that. We believe this will cover greater ways to present health care service. Also, embracing doctors into our platform, we can go deeper level intervention service for our patients. Because of GLP-1 service, such as semaglutide, the drug like ozempic, wegovy, [inaudible], it’s a very sensational drug. It’s a great discovery. But as you may know, it does require lifestyle change. Lifestyle change must be accompanied with a GLP-1. We believe as people now have more choices getting a GLP-1 support, we want to make sure the new product is a great way to build healthy habits that become a good digital companion.
John: You’re really taking it to the next level. You’re really making sure that new is not only well situated for the future and it’s open. You’re building a bigger tent, but you’re also becoming much more integrated. You’re now covering different parts of people’s needs and wants from the medical profession so you can be more and more preventative and health care oriented than sick care oriented.
Saeju: Exactly. That’s our vision, John. We hope we can contribute well that we move the focus from sick care to preventative approach in health care.
John: There’s new med already launched? Has that come out yet?
Saeju: Yes. New med is available. We help to connect the doctors to our users numerous.
John: Wonderful. It’s not only just coaches you have anymore, but now you have real medical doctors.
Saeju: Yes, sir.
John: Wow. You’ve really you’ve gone the full circle and you’ve gone right back to the Jeong family roots.
John: Talk a little bit before before we say sign off for today. Talk a little bit about your mom. Your mom has been a big supporter of yours. From the beginning, she took your father’s words of wisdom and put them into action and supported you. She said something at one of your dad’s memorial services that honored him, but also honored you. I’d love you to share that with our listeners and viewers before we have to say goodbye for today.
Saeju: Thank you, John, for your very thoughtful questions and also the kind words and also encouragement of our journey. I appreciate that. It took years that how much my mother sacrificed for our business and our for our success. My mother dealt with the loneliness as he she lost my father. Was not easy to let it let me go to United States, but she believed in me and she want me to have a chance to live life fully with the risk that I want to I want to fully take on and it is not easy to sponsor that because she knew it is not going to be easy past, but she truly believe in me. I think that is incredible as a parent. If I may comment on her because now, I’m a parent…
John: That’s a gift. She could have been selfish. You have two sisters. You’re the only man in the family left. She made you stay back home because of she didn’t want to be lonely. She didn’t want to be without that support.
Saeju: Correct, John.
Saeju: My mom told me at my father’s anniversary said, says, “Saeju…” it’s powerful comment. Actually, this kind of connect linked with my father’s comment. My father told me before he passed away. If things are difficult “Saeju, you can always go back to your mom. That’s what his either last word. When things are difficult, find mom. Mom is like an ocean. She will embrace it. You will be able to be charged and my mother.” The other day told me, “I’m here all the time, Saeju. Whenever you have a problem come to me.” I’m like, you’re the bus and I’m a bus stop. I’m here all the time. You can travel. You can come back. I’m here all the time. So powerful. The commitment and also sacrifice.
John: The whole she always wanted you to make make you feel welcome that you always could come home, no matter what.
Saeju: Correct. That’s great love is my shield is is very powerful.
John: I’m your the the wisdom and the love of your parents and the vision of your parents have to not only have informed you so wonderfully and your success is just a living testimony of it for your entrepreneurship journey, but I’m sure for your marriage journey for your fatherhood journey. It also has so informed you and prepared you like nothing else could have.
Saeju: Thank you very much saying that John it means it means a lot to me. Thank you.
John: Saeeju, you and I know entrepreneurship. There’s no finish line. It really is a journey. I want you to know that having you on was a special honor to me today. I get to interview lots of wonderful people. You rank in the top 5% of people I’ve ever interviewed. Your story is unique. It’s special, but it’s also important that others hear it and you taking time from a very busy life as a not only as a family man, but as a very successful entrepreneur. To share with our audience and our listeners your history and your journey and some of your thoughts and wisdom mean the world to me. I want you to know that you’re always welcome back on the show to continue sharing the success of you and Artem and all of your colleagues at Noom and to find you at noom.com. I want all of our listeners. If they’re so inclined to go to www.noom.com and get a healthier life be better and keep moving forward in the journey. Saeju, I just can’t thank you enough and I hope one day our paths cross in person and I get to meet you in person and shake your hand. You are just really a special human being and I thank you for not only making the world a healthier place, but a better place. You are unique and you’ve made a huge impact on me and inspired all of our listeners today.
Saeju: Thank you. What a beautiful words. I will continue to thrive, deliver our company mission. I will do our best. Thank you. It was my honor that very kindly and thoughtfully guided by you to remember and recall all the memories of the past 17 years. I want to say thank you. This is a great gift to me. Thank you, John.
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