SK Telecom acquires shopkick: memorable journey with a great entrepreneur

On Friday, the WSJleaked news that SK Telecom was acquiring shopkick, and it was confirmed over the weekend. I’m thrilled for Cyriac and the team, and believe this is the next exciting chapter in their effort to reimagine mobile shopping; specifically, the interaction between the mobile and the physical shopping world. shopkick is a special company to me and Kleiner Perkins. It’s what we call an “incubation,” where we bring in an entrepreneur and work closely with him or her over several months to develop a compelling business concept. It’s been a trademark of our firm over the years, starting from our earliest days. Genentech was started this way.

A year before we started the iFund, I was hanging around all the mobile conferences I could and kept bumping into an outspoken, insightful, and often contrarian character whom I really came to respect and like. His name was Cyriac Roeding and at the time, he was the GM of Mobile at CBS. Over the course of the next year, we discussed various ideas and I told him that if he ever had interest in being an entrepreneur, we’d like to work with him. Within a few months, he decided to leave CBS and joined KPCB as an “EIR” (entrepreneur in residence) in Sept ’08. We (Cyriac and I, as well as several of my partners – namely Randy Komisar, Chi-Hua Chien, Bing Gordon, and Aileen Lee) had a shared view that mobile was going to dramatically change commerce and we should figure out how to deliver on that promise. Over the course of the next year, the idea was further refined until Mobshop (the original name for shopkick) was born. There was only one major issue—the idea was predicated on partnering with physical retailers. Historically, this was a very difficult bunch to partner with, especially if you needed any kind of POS integration, in-store cooperation, etc. Cyriac’s idea required both! But it was also a time when physical retailers were under the most pressure to evolve and were starting to open up to new ideas. The challenge for Cyriac was to win one national retailer and the company would be funded. After 50+ meetings and several months, he locked down a national deal with BestBuy, and the company was off and running with many other retailers, brands, and partners such as Visa in tow. shopkick has come a long way in the past 4 years with over 20 retail and 200 brand partners.

Cyriac has all the makings of a great entrepreneur… specifically, boundless energy and optimism, immeasurable passion, tenacity, and a genuine appreciation of people and culture. He also has that trademark characteristic of believing in and making the seemingly impossible happen, and through this journey with shopkick, he did it time and time again.

It’s often with mix emotions when one of your favorite companies and entrepreneurs gets acquired, even with a great outcome, and this is no different. There is so much opportunity ahead and Cyriac and his team have great potential, but this will give them a global partner and tremendous resources to allow them to pursue this potential even faster.

Thanks to my partners for helping us get this off the ground, and for help in many ways along the way. Special thanks to Al Gore for his time and passion. Thanks to Reid Hoffman for being a great board member and mentor to Cyriac.

Most of all, congrats to Cyriac. It’s truly been an honor and pleasure working with you. I look forward to watching you and shopkick flourish in the years ahead.