Startup Stories: Christina Sok, Founder & CEO of ClassBubs

Join us for an inspiring conversation with Christina Sok, founder of ClassBubs, as we explore her journey from Ad Exec and Art Curator to startup founder.

by hao-nguyen on May 2, 2023

Welcome to our latest Startup Stories interview! Today, we’re excited to welcome Christina Sok, the founder of ClassBubs, a platform that helps parents discover, book, and review kids’ extracurricular classes.

Christina’s journey has taken her from being an ad exec in NYC and an independent art curator to building ClassBubs, a platform inspired by her belief in holistic education and her desire to make a lasting impact on education globally. As a first-time mother, Christina’s experiences have shaped the development and growth of ClassBubs, which aims to empower families to take charge of their children’s educational experiences.

In our conversation, we’ll explore how her varied background has influenced her approach to building her startup, the challenges she’s faced along the way, and how she balances the many aspects of running a company as a CEO. We’ll also talk about her vision for ClassBubs in the next few years and her company’s biggest selling points for potential team members.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

Hey Christina, great to be chatting with you again and welcome to Startup Stories. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and ClassBubs?

I wear multiple hats, like many of us do. Of which my fave is mama; however, what’s also just as important is having an identity of my own, separate from my interdependency with my child or partner. Having a strong sense of self should be the core from which the rest of our identities thrive.

I’m an ethnically Korean Global Citizen, having lived in 6 countries. My inclination and interest for art that started in my preteens, fueled by my parents who took me to museums and galleries around the world, led me to a Bachelors and Masters in Art History. The start of my career in the arts has been foundational for me in many ways. Meanwhile, I’m on a lifelong quest for ikigai and I’ve always followed the motto to ‘love the life you live, live the life you love,’ being the master in the art of living. 

This path has led me to found – bringing to life my belief in the importance of holistic education and desire to make a lasting impact on education globally. As a lifelong learner myself who strives for kaizen, ClassBubs is the first step in my long term life vision to evolve education from the outdated behemoth it is today, dating back to the Victorian era, to be more progressive and relevant to the current times. Working in education and the kids’ space further aligns to my current phase of life, raising my daughter, which allows for the ease of work-life integration. 

ClassBubs is a one-stop platform that helps parents to discover, book & review kids’ extracurricular classes. Our vision is to nurture today’s kids to be the next generation of happy, confident, empowered adults. Through ClassBubs, I want to empower families to take charge and curate their own children’s holistic educational experiences.

With your background as an Ad Exec in NYC and Independent Art Curator, how do you think these experiences have shaped your approach to building your startup? 

I can attest to Steve Jobs saying the dots only connect looking backwards. I have a really nonlinear professional background but it all fits together and brings me to this point. Though brief, the experience in the advertising agency has given me a solid foundation in market segmentation and the psychology and language of marketing.

Being an art curator has absolutely given me the confidence and tenacity to bring an idea that begins as a tiny little seed to life, back in those days as exhibitions and art projects living in the real world, and today, as ClassBubs that has now interacted with at least 100 families in Singapore through providing kids’ classes ranging from coding, parkour to yoga. 

I’ve learned business by being in the trenches and just doing it, making lots of mistakes, failing and getting back up. I’ve taken every single experience in this nonlinear path and made use of each skillset to build up to the entrepreneur I am today. Most of all, my why drives me intrinsically, has me excited to jump out of bed 80% of the time, and sees me through extremely challenging times (like now actually).

I love building and executing on my ideas, and this hasn’t changed from those early days as an Ad Exec just learning the ropes in my first corporate job working on brands’ ad campaigns and as an Independent Curator who wanted to talk about important themes and topics through art exhibitions and projects. 

How has your experience as a first-time mother influenced the development and growth of ClassBubs?

As a mom, we just want the best for our kids, and education becomes the single most important part of child-rearing and parenting. Sure, especially in that first year, we are concerned about which brand of diapers or bum cream we buy, or whether we buy organic apples or not, but beyond keeping our babies alive and taking care of their wellbeing, we are concerned in educating them and helping them develop into whole beings.

This is always at the back of my mind with everything I do for ClassBubs. Of course I build this platform for myself and for my family, but I’m excited about the potential to really impact families around the world. I definitely wouldn’t have started ClassBubs if I wasn’t a first-time mom who faced the problem in navigating the fragmented kids’ extracurricular space. I wanted to discover the classes available for my daughter around us and have an easy way to access them with the flexibility to try different classes often. 

Can you discuss the challenges you have faced in starting and growing ClassBubs, and how you have overcome them?

I can’t list all the challenges I’ve faced but I can group them into 3 phases. First, just starting the idea and bringing it to life. You don’t know what you don’t know right? So when I hadn’t started a startup before and when I didn’t have any knowledge of how tech is built, I didn’t even know where to begin.

In those early days in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, I spent most days on Zoom calls from morning to night, reaching out to my network to seek advice, learning, experimenting, talking to potential customers and thinking (a lot). From there, I got into action in 2021, activating those networks, taking baby steps forward to take the learnings, advice and mentorship and applying this new knowledge to launch a proof of concept. 

Secondly, moving from a solo founder with limited resources to the next stage with a technical co-founder and more resources in 2022. Starting out with the lean startup approach, bootstrapping and being a super scrappy little startup where I did absolutely everything, I got to a point where I realised that in order for ClassBubs to really be what I envision it to be, we need technology and I couldn’t do everything alone.

This is a very common challenge non-technical founders face. I did what I knew to do until my vision and some level of results attracted others to join me in building ClassBubs. I had to be an effective storyteller, get uncomfortable and be bold, reaching out to people to share that story, which led to finding a cofounder, getting investors and recruiting talent. 

Lastly, navigating building a pre seed stage startup as the economy took a nosedive and the entire tech sector is going through a lull. We were lucky to have raised a bit of money in 2022 before the investment landscape dramatically changed in the latter part of the year. Fundraising can be sometimes seen as a necessary evil if you want to grow a massive business that will eventually scale and if you don’t have millions of dollars of your own to self-fund.

However, this economic downturn is a blessing in disguise for us, as we can be prudent and use this time to get our fundamentals right work on our unit economics, talk to our customers and build a strong business that has the right foundation for long term sustainable success that is not built on vanity metrics, hype and over-inflated valuations that is riding on a bull market. 

At every phase, there will always be a myriad of new challenges, but as a founder, if our why is strong enough, nothing will truly deter us from continuing to build what we believe in; it’s not that things get easier, we just get better, stronger, more resilient, more thick-skinned, more experienced, more brave. 

How do you balance the various aspects of running a startup as a CEO, from product development to fundraising to marketing?

It’s not just balancing the different elements within the startup, but balancing life, parenting and the startup right? Time management and prioritisation becomes so critical. I apply the Eisenhower Matrix to everything I do. 

As for what to prioritise in the startup, I ask myself what will move the needle forward right now? And that will constantly change. Discerning what are the truly important tasks/projects is not always easy, but figuring that out is part of our job as founders. It’s easy for multiple distractions to creep in at any one point in time. Especially in the early days, everything can seem important.

I often have FOMO on not reading every bit of content that gets sent my way, attending workshops on different elements of business, talking to another potential mentor. But what will make the startup grow? Talking to one more customer, one more sale, one more partnership? Or another tech conference, networking event, a social media post, an online course, talking to another founder? 

In addition, when you have a trusted co-pilot next to you, who’s skills complement yours, it does get a bit easier, especially when they can be in charge of an area of the startup that is not your forté. Finding that partner I’d say is an important step in the startup building process. 

If you were hiring new team members to join ClassBubs, what do you think are your company’s biggest selling points?

We are very much driven by our vision to impact the lives of the kids we serve and help shape their futures. If there are people out there who are excited about contributing to this vision, they’d be excited to join ClassBubs. At the same time, we strive to build an inclusive, parent-friendly work environment that cherishes work-life integration and the spirit of kaizen.

Lastly, my co founder and I believe in a peak performance organisation that is likened to a professional sports team; we want to build a culture of excellence and attract talent who continue to strive to be the best at what they do, so there’s efficiency at every level. When work is done at a high level, there’s much more time left over in the week to be able to enjoy life with our families and be there for our kids. 

One last question before you go, where do you see ClassBubs headed in the next few years?

We are going to dominate the US market and be the go-to place for all things related to kids’ enrichment, entertainment, holistic development and wellbeing.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

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