Meet Dongbai — VP of Emerging Commerce Engineering
‘Emerging (business)’ often refers to an innovative model that utilizes cutting-edge technological advancements to provide services. Coupang strives to disrupt traditional businesses and wow the customers with the Emerging Commerce Engineering organization.
We sat down with Dongbai, VP of Emerging Commerce Engineering, to hear about the organization’s vision and how he is taking Coupang’s service to the next level with technology.
Thank you for your time, Dongbai. Could you please introduce yourself?
Hello, I am Dongbai and am Vice President of Emerging Commerce Engineering. I joined Coupang in early 2023.
I was born in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia and our backyard is endless barren hills with a seasonal creek.
I received my undergraduate degree at Jiaotong University, then went across the ocean to Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. for my PhD at Brown. At Brown, I studied Computer Vision.
After playing with voice driven facial animations during my internship, I ended my pursuit of computer vision. I joined Oracle and built a commercially successful medical image management system, reaching thousands of healthcare clients globally. I became an expert of the field and was on the steering committee of DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard.
Then I switched my field again and beginning my adventure of cloud computing in Seattle, first with Microsoft then Amazon. I launched a streaming video for Amazon globally.
Called by waves of Chinese Internet startups and tech giants, I started exploring the other half of globe as a Chief Architect for AliExpress. A year and a half later, I was promoted to CTO and I helped grow the business from 2.4B USD to over 10B USD, building the complete stack of micro services and computing infrastructure.
As the products sold to every corner of the world, I built three R&D centers, in Shenzhen, Moscow, and Madrid. Afterwards, I became group CTO of two other companies, first in Singapore then in China.
When many things changed with the outbreak of COVID-19, I got a great opportunity from Coupang.
Having joined Coupang, I am now on another exciting journey in Korea. I hope it will be just like the successful ones before — as Coupang's business is global, we can all experience technology at the world stage.
You are leading an interesting Emerging Commerce Engineering organization as the VP. Please tell us more about Emerging Commerce Engineering.
The Emerging Commerce Engineering organization, I am managing is the research and development organization behind of three businesses: Coupang Eats, Coupang POS, and Coupang Eats Mart.
Before I joined, I knew there would be great growth potential within emerging commerce. And in the last two months alone, Coupang Eats' market share has grown significantly in Seoul. Our peak time orders nearly doubled within a quarter. This growth rate is rare anywhere.
This growth is not by accident. Every day, we are finding new opportunities for tech impact. We have leading engineers and data scientists from around world helping us cracking the problem of profiling, prediction, assignment, routing, pricing and etc. The exciting thing about these problems are that there are clear short-term feedback signals that can validate our hypothesis, our models and our understanding of the nature of the business. Our insatiable desire for seeking the truth is being rewarded right here and now.
Tech aside, a bigger driving force behind this growth is the extreme extent that Coupang takes customer experience and operational efficiency. I worked at Amazon and Alibaba for more than 8 years, but while working at Coupang, I am still learning new ways to perfect the customer experience and operational efficiency.
Finally, Korean people are open to innovations and experiments and Korea is full of early adopters. It is heaven for an emerging business.
What is special about Coupang when it comes to Engineering Excellence? As a former CTO at big tech companies, you may have noticed a lot.
A distinct characteristic of Coupang is the relentless pursuit of a SINGLE goal at any one moment. This translates into engineering actions almost like precision-guided munition. We mobilize over a hundred engineers to deliver a single project in a fraction of the time that would have taken by other businesses, because we don’t waste our energy on anything else.
This creates very interesting challenges in terms of software architecture, design, data modeling, parallel implementation, large scale integration, Q/A testing, A/B experiments, and BI analytics. In some sense, we are inventing and perfecting a brand-new software development paradigm.
Then, what is the culture of Emerging Commerce Engineering that can even create new software development paradigm?
Our organization is both open and inclusive, not just within our engineering team, but also with our business and product team. Our engineering team is involved in all critical business and product discussions. We work side by side with our business analysts for operational and technology insights. The level of trust and collaboration is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
We also value our engineers’ growth. We are achieving so by giving our engineers the best opportunities and the most difficult challenges while providing sufficient organizational and technical support.
We seek fundamental understanding of consumer demand, merchant selection, courier supply and platform economics.
We study challenging problems such as price elasticity of couriers and the driving force behind a courier’s behavior, not only because it is valuable to our business, but also because it is interesting to observe its dynamics in a highly competitive environment. Through such types of fundamental understanding, we achieve business growth by solid knowledge, not by trials and errors.
With fast business growth, what vision and future do you have as an organization leader?
Coupang Eats is one of the young and growing businesses we support. We are blessed with new opportunities for customer experience and operation efficiency improvement every day.
I see my entire organization as a growth engineering team, with clear success metrics, daily A/B experiments, and real-time insights and feedback to guide our day-to-day actions. Because of it, we have been and will be a learning organization, an organization that gains knowledge of the food delivery industry through the technology product we have built and through the data we have collected.
In the long run, I can see this knowledge transform into a general methodology of how to grow a business in highly a competitive environment through technology excellence.
What kind of talent is Emerging Commerce Engineering looking for? Do you have any advice for prospective new joiners?
We are looking for those individuals who set no limits for themselves, explorers that can find a solution and deliver results with grit.
The relevant experiences are platform model e-commerce, (food) delivery services, pricing and optimization, platform operation efficiency and data driven engineering for consumer growth, selection growth and courier growth.
At Emerging Commerce Engineering, there are opportunities to grow the business from an early stage and finding solutions from scratch. If you are a tech leader who is interested in new challenges, it is time for you join.