Today we will tell you an inspiring story that once again proves that anything is possible. A story that sweeps away like a storm the limits that our consciousness and fear of failure put on us. A story that will make you feel better and give you a breath of faith and a handful of courage that one day you will be where you’ve always wanted to be and living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

CNBC tells us the story of Yanolja founder and chairman Lee Su-jin, who got his start in the travel industry as a motel cleaner.

The experience inspired him to launch hotel booking site Yanolja, which means “Hey, let’s play” in Korean, in 2007. Now that it’s also a popular travel app, the brand has become a global phenomenon with more than 57 million downloads, according to its website.

This unexpected success helped Lee amass a fortune of his own. According to Forbes, his net worth today stands at $1.2 billion, due to the fact that he, along with his wife and two daughters, owns nearly a third of Yanolja. This spring, he debuted on the publication’s “Korea’s 50 Richest” list.

Despite being among the richest people in the world today, Lee’s childhood was very difficult. He was orphaned at a young age and lived with relatives for most of his childhood, according to Bloomberg. When Lee was 23, he began cleaning rooms at a “love hotel” – a type of motel known for offering short-term lodging on an hourly basis – in exchange for a steady paycheck and a place to stay.

Despite the difficulties, Lee doesn’t give up and is constantly thinking of ways to make his life better. He saves his money and invests in stocks. He even started a salad business, according to Bloomberg, but it wasn’t long before he suffered a setback and went back to the hotel business – but this time fate was smiling on him.

When South Korea passed an anti-prostitution law in 2004, Lee worried that the motels that gave him security would go bankrupt.

So he decided to rebrand the love hotels. In 2005, he set up a hotel review platform, which two years later became Yanolja. His goal was to modernize the hotels and convince young couples and travelers that they were safe, comfortable and cost-effective.
Kim says that Lee’s job as a cleaner, where he was able to observe guests’ experiences in love hotels, was actually an advantage: it gave him the opportunity to adapt the platform to users.

In June 2019, Yanolja became South Korea’s eighth “unicorn” startup, achieving a valuation of more than $1 billion during a funding round.

Two years later, investment firm SoftBank Vision Fund 2 bought a minority stake in Yanolja for $1.7 billion at a valuation of $6.7 billion, according to Forbes.

The SoftBank deal has sparked much speculation about a potential IPO of Yanolja. However, the company has yet to go public, and Kim even stated in a July 2022 press release that Yanolja is in no rush to announce an IPO as the hospitality industry is still recovering from the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2021, the company is launching Yanolja Cloud, a proprietary artificial intelligence software for other hospitality and entertainment platforms. Today, 19 million combined users use Yanolja’s software platforms for reservations, travel and property management operations, according to the company’s website.

Lee is not only proud to have achieved the unachievable, but he has also changed people’s attitude towards this type of motel.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Editor @ DevStyleR