February 11, 2010 07:31
Lee Eun-chul, the gold medalist in the 50 m rifle prone in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is now a successful businessman. Having swapped a mouse for his rifle, Lee now runs two venture businesses.
The face of Korean shooting for 17 years from mid 1980s, Lee was the first Korean athlete to compete in five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 in Los Angeles to 2000 in Sydney, and won one gold medal. He also won two golds in the World Championships, four golds in the Asian Championships, and five golds in the Asian Games.
Lee, who went to school in the United States when his father was studying there, was offered a place at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and West Point for his athletic ability. But he chose to major in computer sciences at Texas Lutheran University, graduating only in 1997 after numerous leaves of absence.
After he failed to advance past the preliminaries in Sydney in 2000, his passion for shooting died down completely. "I didn't want to look at rifle at all after I came back from Sydney. I thought about becoming a coach, but I decided to quit it all together," said Lee. He said he has not touched a gun for the past 10 years.
While searching for a new life, he was hired by programming firm Wind River at the recommendation of the president of his alma mater and he moved to Silicon Valley with his family in June 2001. After building experience in a network protocol company, he came back to Korea in 2005 and established his own company, Silicon Valley Tech, in the fall that year. It specializes in IT marketing and sales and helps U.S. IT companies to land smoothly when they try to make inroads into Korean market. Last year, it made W3-4 billion in sales, and this year's goal is W10 billion.
Now that his first company has become stable, Lee set up another company that develops modules for communication technology equipment. "The ultimate goal is going into the overseas market, and using my personal network and sales capacity gained in Silicon Valley, I want to win a gold medal in the global IT market." His short-term goal is to get the company listed on the Kosdaq in four years, and achieve annual sales of W100 billion.
Which is harder, being a rifle shooter or a CEO? "I wouldn't say it's hard. Both are fun. As a rifle shooter, you work with a passion for winning, and it's a battle against yourself. But being a CEO, you need something more than passion. You need capital, you need technology, and you need help from colleagues who share the same vision as you. I was able to go to the Olympics five times because I tried hard. But winning a gold medal is a different story. You need luck too. I think it's the same with business," said Lee. "When my company becomes a global leader and gets established in Silicon Valley, I will return to the shooting world with no regrets, handing over the management to professional CEOs. I want to teach students after all."
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