THE BOB JOHNSTON PODCAST
By Bob Johnston
July 20, 2020
SEASON
1
EPISODE
21
Startup Stories – Noom CEO, Saeju Jeong

Imagine moving from South Korea (where you decide to quite engineering school) to NYC with no job and without speaking English. Now, imagine hustling to stay afloat by selling everything from 99¢ trinkets to cellular service on the streets of NYC. Then…imagine that same person deciding to launch a startup just a couple of years later that, through sheer humility and grit, is now valued over $1Bn.

Today’s podcast dissects the inspiring story of Saeju Jeong, co-founder and CEO of Noom, arguably the most important weight loss app on the market. Saeju is a witty, soulful, exceptional leader. It was such a joy talking with him. It was also truly moving, particularly how his Dad’s inspiring words before his passing was a key factor in Saeju moving to NYC.

Saeju and his co-founder, Artem Petakov, have brilliant chemistry as co-founders and they both iterated – and iterated some more – until their business model was sound. This included a significant (and risky) pivot in year 6 of the business, which worked out due to their determination and perseverance.

Of note, their very first investor, Jim Robinson IV at RRE Ventures, didn’t waver and, in fact, tunded the pivot – a sign of a great VC, not just a merely good one.

As a fun fact, despite Saeju being soulful and humble, it turns out he’s a big fan of heavy metal music!

SELECTED QUOTES
We manage the four pillars – diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management – we then harmonize with AI technology and human expertise led by passionate coaches.
on their pivot to focus on "behavior" change not tracking calories
I love heavy metal music because of the high energy!
on his love of European heavy metal music to give him high-energy
EPISODE MARKERS

The problem of poor health and highhealth care bills and how Noom solves that. [0:13:08]

What separates Noom from other playersin the healthcare space. [0:17:44]

Focusing on behavior change, weightloss, and building a real community of users. [0:20:08]

The use of human coaches and technologyin Noom’s holistic approach to health. [0:24:41]

How to manage the four pillars of goodhealth and how Noom’s approach can help. [0:25:00]

The secret sauce in Noom’s approach; thepsychological, human element. [0:29:02]

When Noom discovered the psychologicalpiece of weight loss; what occurred after. [0:35:44]

How investors reacted when Noom pivotedto human coaches six years ago. [0:38:29]

Insight into Saeju’s entrepreneurialvision: His culture, childhood, and doctor father. [0:45:18]

Why Saeju came to the U.S, hurdles heovercame and how. [0:52:53]

How Saeju transitioned from menial workto the startup world by hustling and learning from others. [0:58:43]

How Saeju met Artem Pekatov and the roleof their relationship in their business. [1:03:02]

A contrarian belief of Saeju’s: Hisbelief in the need for preventive care in The U.S. [1:06:44]

Main websites on Saeju’s browser and whyhe loves to get info from his partners. [1:10:23]

GUEST FOOTNOTES
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