Building a Startup While Going to Graduate School

Part-Time MSIT student John Kuk talks about his budding company and how it's benefitting from his experiences in the MSIT program.

John Kuk spent nearly two decades witnessing technological evolutions around him when he came up with an idea: It's easy to find a freelancer or contractor online who can come in to support a team or a project, but what if you wanted to go somewhere to hire a whole team to come in for support. Where would you go?

Kuk's hope is that his company, Eopsin, can be that place.

John KukKuk launched the company in January 2018, and today the startup is a member of Chicago's 1871 technology and entrepreneurship incubator.

While launching Eopsin, Kuk also decided to enroll in Northwestern's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) part-time program option. After completing his first quarter, Kuk took a few moments to talk about his unique route to MSIT and what he's learning from his experience in the program.

First off, how would you describe Eopsin?

Right now the company is a new startup and a member at 1871. It’s really young and still going through some maturation. My initial thoughts were to create two sides for the company. The first side is to engage in technology or management consulting similar to my consulting roots from Accenture. The second side is to create a platform similar to LinkedIn or UpWork, but instead of focusing on individuals, focus on teams. Then we would build team profiles and a sort of team resume where people can build their reputation. The thought was to create a dual-sided marketplace for teams to match with project opportunities.

At this point in your career, what made you decide to build a startup?

My feeling, in general, is that it was about time combined with a bit of luck and serendipity. The main problem I noticed in the industry is that people are being hired in an individual manner. The process to build a team and culture is what makes a team special. At some point, you gain benefits past the simple "1+1." When this happens it's magical. When a project is over, teams are destroyed and the members feel lost. The question I asked is where can I go to find a whole team? I couldn't find any place, so I decided to set out and make this place. It’s not going to be easy, but someone has to try, right?

Why did you decide now was the right time for you to do the MSIT part-time program?

I consider myself a life-long learner but felt I was never great at school. After completing an MBA, I realized school was something I really enjoyed, so this is what compelled me to seek out something more. The MSIT program was the right thing at the right time.

What was it about Northwestern's MSIT program that stood out to you?

The program stands out because of the people in the cohort. When going through my MBA, the class seemed out of touch with technology when most projects nowadays have a technical aspect. The others in the MSIT program have a technology background and we just understand each other.

How would you describe what your first quarter in the program was like?

It has been amazing. I love the professors and their character. Getting to know others in the classes and talk about class and business is insightful. The rigor of classes each week, the assigned readings, and other projects and assignments have me really looking at things in a different way. For example, in my previous MBA coursework, we learned stats, but it was from the perspective of business and tools. Here in the MSIT program, the principles underlying the tools make me really understand the tools better. I feel I have been enriched with knowledge that I was missing and am filling in gaps.

What has surprised you during this first quarter?

How much I can laugh. I think the maturity of the professionals in the group and all their personalities make the experience so much more fun.

How would you describe the classroom experience?

Dr. Guo and Dr. Twombly have a wealth of experience and have so much character. They both brought a gravitas to the class that I can’t help but respect. They are very human to me, and I hope the rest of the professors will be just as memorable. Both are quick-minded, and you need to be on your toes and prepared to catch their wit.

How important have your classmates been so far during your time in the program?

They are very critical to my learning experience and often help me understand complex topics. The cohort is small, so there is an intimacy you can have where names can be remembered. What was great is being able to call everyone by their names by the end of the quarter, even though we only see each other usually once a week on Saturday class days. There is a sense of something special, durable, and lasting where we will know each other for many years to come after the program.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Northwestern is an amazing university, and I feel very lucky and proud to be part of the community.