Crossing borders, connecting ideas: Christabel Kim's entrepreneurial journey

Antler was founded on the belief that people innovating is the key to building a better future. In our latest founder spotlight, we explore the journey of Christabel Kim, whose diverse international background and keen interest in problem-solving led her to the crossroads of technology and entrepreneurship. Passionate about utilizing technology to streamline services and solve real-world problems, Christabel delves into her experiences in consulting and product management, and how they guided her to Antler. Today, she shares her insights and the pivotal moments that shaped her entrepreneurial path.

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Antler in Canada

Toronto is Antler’s first location in Canada. Since launching in 2022, our team in Canada has supported over 100 founders who are creating the next generation of startups.

Thank you for joining us today, Christabel. Can you start with telling us something about yourself and your background? 

I was born in Korea but spent most of my formative years in Malaysia, growing up in a diverse, international community. I am a proud third culture kid. Growing up with friends, teachers, and neighbours with different norms taught me at an early age to dissect, question, and (at times) challenge “normal” or “status quo” and seek out alternative perspectives and approaches.

I have been on a journey of setting big goals and going after them since I was 14, which is when I decided I was going to move to North America for university and work. Over a decade later, I am going after another big goal of mine by starting my own company.

How did your career start?

I graduated during a recession in a city with, at best, a sparse job market. I didn’t land my “dream job” right out of school. Eventually, I decided to stop struggling against the gravity problem of a weak job market and bought myself a one-way ticket to Toronto without a job. I found myself a consulting opportunity before my move, but I would like to think I was building my muscle for calculated risk taking.

I graduated during a recession in a city with, at best, a sparse job market. I didn’t land my “dream job” right out of school. Eventually, I decided to stop struggling against the gravity problem of a weak job market and bought myself a one-way ticket to Toronto without a job.

The more linear part of my career started in management consulting where I advised financial services clients in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto on their biggest business problems. Consulting was an incredible training ground for how to leverage data, people, and processes to deconstruct any problem to create anew.

What led you to switch your focus to tech and product management?

During my time in consulting, I actively sought opportunities to learn and grow by participating in hackathons and tackling ambitious client problems. One such opportunity was with a global wealth manager who wanted to figure out how to grow their business to reach the HENRY (high-earning-not-rich-yet) market. Over the next 2+ years, I got to be a part of a team that developed the strategy for the first direct-to-consumer channel and built out the robo advisor product that changed how and whom this institution services.

I actively sought opportunities to learn and grow by participating in hackathons and tackling ambitious client problems.

Helping the strategy become the wireframes that then became the MVP and beyond with real customers, and witnessing the scaled impact of a technology solution to a problem made me fall in love with building products and led me to subsequent roles in big tech companies and as a principal product manager at an insurtech startup.

What inspired you to start your own company?

In each of the companies I worked for and in every role I held, I repeatedly observed the significant resources companies had to invest in both selling and buying technology. Over time, I realized it was a classic information asymmetry problem made more complex by processes, incentives, fear, and shockingly technology. I spent the past few years understanding the problem by talking to customers and sales teams alike, testing different hypotheses in my roles to see what had better results, and finally felt that time was right for me to jump both feet into building the technology to improve the B2B sales and buying process. There is much more we need to test, validate, learn, and refine; but I am immensely excited for the impact the right solution will have in this space.

How did you come across Antler?

I first learned about Antler in 2022 when someone from the team reached out via LinkedIn, but I wasn’t ready to build at that time. When the time came in 2023, I found it difficult to find the right cofounder from my network, as most were already established professionally. I tried other cofounder matching platforms, but found it difficult to find people that were just as committed.

I tried other cofounder matching platforms, but found it difficult to find people that were just as committed.

I remembered Antler, met with some founders who had gone through the program to hear about their experiences, and ultimately joined to meet other like-minded people in Toronto.

Can you share more about your experience at Antler?

Antler was transformative for me. I had been working full-time on my startup for a couple of months before joining Antler, but the additional momentum and energy of the program and the like-minded founders sharing notes and motivating each other helped was unmatched.

The hard skill and experience gaps you have might be easier to articulate, but I think there are a lot of soft skills, nuanced experiences, personality gaps that you don’t realize you need until you try building a company with many different people.

One of the differentiators of the program is the incredibly rare opportunity to really refine what you are looking for in a cofounder. If you haven’t started a company before, it can be hard to really know what you need in a cofounder. The hard skill and experience gaps you have might be easier to articulate, but I think there are a lot of soft skills, nuanced experiences, personality gaps that you don’t realize you need until you try building a company with many different people. Antler provided a rare opportunity to be able to do that in a short and concentrated amount of time with a wide range of incredibly talented individuals.  

What have been your biggest challenges and your plans moving forward?

One of the biggest challenges is constantly pushing yourself to identify the next most important thing for your business and prioritizing progress over perfection. Another key challenge is to not let the busy-ness of everything distance you from the problem and the customer for whom you are building for.

One of the biggest challenges is constantly pushing yourself to identify the next most important thing for your business and prioritizing progress over perfection.

I think the key is to recognize the importance of continuing to ask these questions and critically looking at the impact of what you are spending your time on. Within our team, we work hard to keep us on track by continuously asking ourselves and each other these questions.

Any advice for new founders?

As a fellow new founder, I strongly encourage new founders to find your tribe. Find yourself founders you can commiserate with and share notes with, founders who are a few steps ahead of you that you can learn from, and founders with the experience and the battle scars you can “SOS” in a pinch.

Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights with us. We wish you all the best on your entrepreneurial journey.

Thank you. It was my pleasure.

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