By Yoojung Lee
When South Korea’s Pinkfong released “Baby Shark” in 2015, the song and video turned into a global viral hit that enthralled kids and inspired dance frenzy online.
Parents who danced along with their children to the tune will tell you it’s no surprise that a song targeted at kids with a cute animated video was the first in history to cross 10 billion views on YouTube. They know the magnetic pull “Baby Shark” exerts on their young ones.
It’s that allure that Pinkfong is hoping to capitalise on even more. The company is now developing a movie of its famous shark with Nickelodeon Animation and is exploring ways to use non-fungible tokens after its first NFT collection of “Baby Shark” was sold out in 30 minutes in December. It’s also planning to start digital comics and launch products for the older fans who grew up obsessing over the tune.
“Our competitiveness lies both in content and technology,” Kim Min-seok, who co-founded Pinkfong, said in a video interview from Seoul. “We’re interested in products and businesses that create synergy between the two.”
Kim, 40, had always wanted to become a developer. After winning a computer-science contest in high school, he got into Seoul’s prestigious Yonsei University, where he studied chemical engineering. He then started developing games for giant Nexon Co. and later joined Samsung Publishing Co., the family business his grandfather founded. There, he helped create English content for kids.
In 2010, Kim and two partners created Pinkfong, then known as SmartStudy, to tap into the market for mobile apps that emerged with the iPhone. “Baby Shark” came after the company produced a string of educational content for children, experimenting with melodies that get stuck in people’s heads.
The rest is history — the song went viral, making its way to Billboard charts, live concert tours and becoming the unlikely rallying cry for the Washington Nationals through their World Series win in 2019.
“It was more about securing new audiences and promoting ourselves rather than expecting revenue creation,” Kim said about the success on the video-sharing website. “YouTube has made its own growth as a platform, and we’ve gotten much help.”
The song has even made Kim and his family wealthy. Pinkfong is valued at about 1 trillion won ($1.1 billion) as per local media reports, and the family, the biggest shareholders, is worth around $US300 million ($404 million), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Kim didn’t comment further on the company’s valuation.
Pinkfong’s revenue climbed 4.8 per cent to 51 billion won in the first nine months of last year. Thanks to its YouTube channel and its 96 million subscribers, almost 65 per cent of its sales came from outside of South Korea.
Kim said he’s just getting started with Pinkfong, which is planning to go public at some point. Whether they’re just dreams or not, he has big ambitions.
“I want to make theme parks where families can enjoy together,” Kim said. “Disney is really good at it. If we last for 10 or 20 years, we might have a bigger opportunity.”
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