In a world driven by innovation and tenacity, it takes courage and hard work to embark on an exhilarating journey of startups and adventures.
We have interviewed Nayul Lina Kim, a member of the alumni of the Startup Program that took place in San Francisco, sponsored by a Shinhan, Korean partner and powered by Mind the Bridge.
Nayul is Co-Founder and CEO at Clika, a cutting-edge Machine Learning Model Optimization tool born in 2021. She shared with us her learning journey as a founder and her motivation and inspiration to overcome fears to shape technology’s future.
Nayul, what attracted you to entrepreneurship?
I have been quite adventurous and stubborn from a young age. I had begged my parents to send me abroad since I was 8 years old. They kept saying no, so I signed up for an exchange student program to a US High School, passed the test, and invited the program managers home to convince my parents. Thankfully my parents finally gave in, and this was the beginning of the amazing adventures of living and working in different countries like the US, Spain, Uruguay and Argentina.
When I want something, I have always found ways to make it happen.
Starting something new and taking the adventure is something that I enjoy, although, I must say, the idea of quitting my job and starting something unknown was the scariest thing I have ever done so far. Ben (the other Co-founder & CTO) had a very promising idea and skillset, and it had to be now or never. I literally thought we would be very dumb if we had wasted the opportunity to make something big.
Who are some of your female mentors/inspirations?
I have yet to have a mentor to whom I look up to, but some of the female leaders I have been recently inspired by were Korea’s SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and Startups Minister Lee Young and Sol Rashidi, the Chief Analytics & Data Officer from The Estée Lauder. One thing I find in common in both of them is their amazing communication skills.
For me, all hardworking women leaders who stand firmly in their everyday leadership positions are living examples and my sources of inspiration.
What was the hardest moment you have had as a founder?
A few months into establishing the company, Ben and I went to a meeting with a VC firm. The CEO talked with us for over an hour with his torso tilted toward Ben. The whole duration of the meeting, he had not bothered to make any eye contact or share a word with me. At the end of the meeting, he asked “What does your wife do other than being a wife. If you put together the team again, I will invest in you”.
Thankfully, I don’t hear that type of comments these days.
What was the proudest moment you have had as a founder?
I have yet to have one!
I think it’s because I have a lot of things I still want to accomplish. Many people may assume my proudest moment to be being able to pitch and hand my business card to Elon Musk at VivaTech or winning several pitch competitions.
But my proudest moment so far has been when CLIKA teammates felt happy to be part of the team.
I’ve never been a team player myself. I had always been an overachiever and my teachers’ & boss’ favorite, mostly disliked by the rest of the team.
By running CLIKA, however, I’ve learnt that we can do more and generate better outcomes through teamwork.
What value did you gain from the MTB program?
I participated in the MTB Korea program, and Alex (CLIKA’s Chief Creative Officer) and Jane (Business Development Manager) were in the MTB Silicon Valley program. Through these participations, I gained valuable networking opportunities and insights into the experiences of the mentors who went through similar challenges when running a company.
How can accelerators and VCs better support women founders?
Generally, women tend to underestimate themselves when compared to their male counterparts. These qualities not only affect female founders when seeking resources, but also limit their ability to reach their full potential. But gender biases are inherent in this type of ecosystem and also hinders many women founders. This is a problem area where accelerators and VCs can help us, female entrepreneurs.
Other successes of your company you would like to share?
We have successfully built a core engine to compress any Vision AI models – automatically reducing the size by 75% and accelerating the speed by 4-10x with no or minimal performance loss. The recent technical breakthrough we had was compressing the infamous “Transformer” based models, also in an automated way. This will serve as a ground basis to start lightweighting Large AI models of billions of parameters.
We are super excited to bring AI into the real world in a lighter, faster and affordable way!