What Start-Up Experience Taught Hillstone Partners CEO Rayol Hwang


What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I’ve always been interested in what is new. When I was at Seoul National University, I alternated between going to school and working to pay for school. After eight years, I realized that I was more excited to start businesses and bring innovative ideas to whatever I was doing. So, I quit school and got started with my first business venture in fashion design. Then I got involved in music, dance, cosmetics, IT, game design, and finance. I’ve been involved in eighteen start-ups over the last 20 years or so. Some succeeded, some didn’t, but they were all exciting to be a part of. For me, being an entrepreneur has been about being a pioneer. I want to bring something new to people and I’m excited when I see people connect with that product.

How does your experience in start-ups help you at a well-established firm like Hillstone Partners?

Hillstone Partners has been around since 1993 and has always done traditional investing. Having worked in start-ups, I know that the most crucial ingredient to their success is finance. At Hillstone we invest in start-ups, as well as big companies, because of my experience in start-ups. In Korea investment experts don’t usually have an understanding of how start-ups work, so my knowledge gives us an advantage in that space.

If you could go back and do something differently, what would you do?

I have had to work very hard over the last 20 years to get to this point in my career. I have been involved in a lot of businesses over the years, and I don’t think I would do much differently. I think that all of my experiences – both successes and failures – have led me to this moment. Leading Hillstone Partners requires all of my knowledge and experiences to make the business successful, and I’m excited about that opportunity.

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