Student starts photo-mosaic business with help from RIT
May 21, 2009
by Zach Myrow
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Seong Yup Yoo knows about details. The 24-year-old fifth-year computer science major at RIT is also the founder and CEO of Mosaically Inc., a company that takes hundreds of user photos and makes them into one larger photograph. He then ships a large, detailed photograph to the consumer.
Yoo originally came to RIT for his major and the cooperative- education program, but he attributes his recent success to Venture Creations, RIT’s business incubator. “The incubator is a great place for students, especially international students,” Yoo says.
The incubator is an RIT-affiliated program that helps students, faculty and staff with entrepreneurial ventures. For Yoo, this means he is able to hold a job while he’s in school. As an international student from South Korea, he is restricted from working outside of institute-affiliated organizations.
Yoo got the idea for the company after he looked for a mosaic to give as a gift. He was unsatisfied by the quality and speed which companies could supply mosaics and thought he could do better.
With some advice from Delmonize Smith, assistant professor in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, Yoo presented his business idea to Richard DeMartino, the director of the Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“His drive, intelligence and savvy make him a natural entrepreneur. He has made fantastic progress since he joined the program,” DeMartino says.
Although Yoo started the company to provide a better service, his real motivation was financial. His family has struggled to pay for his education and he saw the opportunity to help them.
During the last year, the company has grown. Today, Yoo employs 13 people. Although many would advise not starting a business in this economy, Yoo looks at it from a different perspective.
“Human resources are vast and available,” he says. “You’ll never find more talented people that need work than now.”
Not only does he employ other students, he offers them stock options too. As for his original goal of bringing in financial support to his family, Yoo is proud to announce the company will be making a profit within the month.
Some would be satisfied with the success he has seen, but Yoo is thinking ahead. Next month he will be launching an entirely new program which allows users to use an automated mosaic program online using existing photo albums. People can zoom into the digital files and see each individual one.
“We want to get people involved, let them be creative and share with their friends,” Yoo says. The best part is it’s free and integrated into Facebook. After uploading photos, people can buy prints directly from his Web site at www.mosaically.com.
Yoo still has another year as an RIT student, but he’s thinking about graduation on a daily basis. He hopes to apply for a green card after graduation to stay in America. If he does not receive one, he will have to return to South Korea, where he would be placed in the army. Yoo hopes his business success, the fact he employs 13 people, and that he pays taxes will help him in the application process.