Founder of multimillion-dollar dating app Coffee Meets Bagel: ‘Being an immigrant had a huge impact on my identity

For Dawoon Kang, co-founder of dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, entrepreneurship is in her blood.

Both her parents started their own businesses in Korea, even though that wasn’t typical there, Kang tells CNBC Make It.

Kang emigrated from Korea to the U.S. when she was 12 with her twin sister, Arum, and their older sister, Soo. A family friend looked after the girls while their parents stayed in Korea to run their business.

“Being an immigrant had a huge impact on my identity,” Kang says. That and being a woman “really shaped my world view,” she says.

In the U.S., the sisters overcame challenges together, including acclimating to the U.S. and learning English. It bonded them, and as adults they became business partners.

Arum had the idea to create Coffee Meets Bagel in 2011, and the following year Kang quit her job at JPMorgan to launch the app with Arum and Soo.

“It just felt natural,” Kang says.

Kang originally took on the role of COO, then became CEO in 2016. Today, she is the chief dating officer, focusing on “the science of dating” to improve the app’s user experience and match results.

Here, Kang shares her experience adapting in the U.S., leaving her job at JPMorgan to start Coffee Meets Bagel, her daily routine and more.

On immigrating: ‘I was very quiet for a long time’
I was a very vocal, outspoken child when I was in Korea. That was such a big part of who I thought I was, and not being able to [speak English and] do that, it really shook me to the core. Because I was very embarrassed about speaking up and making grammatical mistakes, I was very quiet for a long time.

It took me a very long time to get over that and be able to even think about actually running a company and to articulate my vision to people. It takes a lot of courage.

At the end of the day, I realized it didn’t really matter if I was making mistakes. The emotion that I was having, it communicates. If you believe [mistakes matter], then it’s going to become an obstacle to whatever you want to do.

Coffee Meets Bagel co-founders and sisters Arum (left), Soo, and Dawoon Kang (right).

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