COMEUP 2023, South Korea’s premier international startup festival, kicked off with great enthusiasm on November 8 at the iconic Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. The event witnessed a grand opening as hundreds of participants, including startup founders, venture capitalists (VCs), investors, and key business stakeholders, eagerly anticipated a three-day extravaganza filled with innovation and opportunity.
Organized by the Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups in collaboration with the Korea Startup Forum, this fifth-year festival has significantly expanded in scale, with 60% of participating startups coming from countries outside South Korea.
The theme for COMEUP 2023 is “We Move the World,” emphasizing the importance of global startups, entrepreneurial challenges, and creative solutions to address global issues.
A Grand Opening: Minister LEE Young shares vision for future
During the festival’s opening ceremony, Minister LEE Young of the Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups welcomed participants and distinguished guests. She highlighted the global nature of the event, with delegations from various countries, including Saudi Arabia, France, Japan, and the US, participating. Minister LEE Young expressed the ambition to make COMEUP one of the top startup festivals in the world by 2027 and stressed the importance of global collaboration among startups and industries to solve humanity’s problems. “The ultimate goal is to harness the collective power of startups and industries to address global challenges and solve problems for the betterment of humanity,” LEE said.
The Minister shared her visionary perspective on embracing the borderless digital era and strengthening global connections. She emphasized that many companies have shown a strong interest in participating in the Korean startup festival and ecosystem. To further enhance international participation, the organizers introduced the K-Global Cluster along with COMEUP this year, which extended invitations to global companies to join the event.
The Minister highlighted the significance of their visit to Saudi Arabia earlier in the year, underscoring the meaningful engagement with the Saudi Arabia delegation, which has become a major contributor to COMEUP 2023 festival. Looking forward, the Minister expressed the intention to replicate this approach, with many other countries, working towards the establishment of a global entrepreneurship cluster by 2027.
In addition to the international focus, the Minister shared the Korean government’s plans to actively improve its domestic startup ecosystem. LEE Young announced that the government is creating a new global tech incubation program to encourage innovation with a budget of 10 trillion won ($763 million) to support startups by 2024. The Ministry aims to establish a bigger entrepreneurship cluster by 2027 and develop more global startup hubs to facilitate networking and growth for domestic founders, venture capitalists, accelerators, and global companies, LEE shared.
Strategic Partnerships & Distinguished Speakers
In his keynote address, Jaeuk Park, Chairman of the Korea Startup Forum, emphasized the increasing need for innovation and the evolving the landscape of entrepreneurship. He highlighted COMEUP’s role in strengthening its position as a global startup festival, bringing together startups, investors, and stakeholders from various regions. Several other dignitaries, including YU Eui dong, Chairman of the PeoplePower Party, Khalid al-Falih, Minister of Investment from Saudi Arabia, and Lee Jae-jung, Chairperson of the Energy, Trade, SMEs, and Startup Committee also shared their thoughts and welcomed the festival’s global engagement and innovative solutions.
Aamir Altaf, the assistant deputy of service sectors, spoke on behalf of Minister Khalid al-Falih and highlighted the vibrant atmosphere and enthusiasm that permeated the corridors of COMEUP 2023. “The energy and excitement is palpable when one walks the corridors here in COMEUP festival. Saudi Arabia is excited to be a strategic partner and share the thought of the need for innovative solutions,” he stated.
YU Eui dong, the Chairman of the PeoplePower Party, underscored the critical importance of addressing the global crises facing the world during his address at COMEUP 2023. He particularly highlighted the pressing issues related to the environmental and energy disparities between the wealthy and the less privileged. Chairman YU Eui dong stressed that innovative startups should take a leading role in tackling these challenges.
Entertainer to Entrepreneur: Zior Park’s Vision on Future of AI
Last but not least, in the opening ceremony, Zior Park, a Korean musician and entertainer, made an impactful presence at COMEUP 2023 as he shared his personal journey from entertainer to entrepreneur. During his keynote address, Zior Park introduced his lifestyle brand, SYNDROMEZ, and provided valuable insights into his entrepreneurial journey. He discussed the inspiration behind starting a brand that represents the future of innovation and prosperity, particularly in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) and the evolving world.
Global Community Engagement & Future Talks
COMEUP 2023 introduced a new feature this year, the “Global Community Zone,” which drew active engagement from attendees. In addition to showcasing startups from South Korea, the event featured companies from the United States, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Indonesia, Cambodia, Senegal, and Uganda, all presenting their innovative ideas and solutions to COMEUP attendees.
The Global Community Zone’s first day hosted a series of engaging in talks and presentations by startups and companies from various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. The event also featured a session dedicated to the K-Startup Grand Challenge program, an annual accelerator program organized by the Ministry of Startups and SMEs.
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza hall served as a central hub for global and Korean startups, providing two different platforms for discussions, conferences, and competitions. On the first day, various “Future Talk” sessions covered a wide range of topics, such as the future of IPOs, fundraising essentials, organizational culture, startup development, and the dynamics between founders and venture capitalists. These talks offered valuable insights into complex subjects for startups and entrepreneurs, aiding their growth and expansion.
During the “Future Talk” session titled “Decoding the Founder-VC relationship,” global investor Troy Malone, CEO of Relevant, led the discussion. Richard Webb, CEO of Catallyze, an Australia-based VC, shared insights into various aspects of startups and investment. Jacob Jacquet, CEO/Founder of Rezi, a leading Korean startup offering resume software services, provided a startup’s perspective on investment, the relationship with investors, and strategies for overcoming obstacles.
COMEUP Stars Initiative: Rookie League Startups Showdown
One of the most intriguing events was the competition among startups participating in the COMEUP 2023 “COMEUP Stars initiative.” This program, designed to support early-stage startups from both South Korea and overseas, offered a platform for mentorship, networking, and investment opportunities. It featured two leagues, the Rookie League and the Rocket League, with startups in the Rookie League engaging in friendly pitching competitions on the first day. This competition allowed early-stage startups to take center stage, sharing their innovative ideas and receiving feedback from a panel of esteemed judges, which included leading venture capitalists, mentors, and business experts. This showcased a dynamic and informative platform for emerging startups to demonstrate their visions and solutions for the future.
Remarkable Opening & More Exciting Events to Follow
The first day of COMEUP 2023 has set a remarkable tone, serving as a catalyst for the future of startups and industries. This international festival promises even more exciting programs for the upcoming days. On November 9, the festival will mark the 20th anniversary of the Open Innovation Concept by designating it as “Open Innovation Day.” This day will spotlight successful collaborations between large corporations, medium-sized enterprises, and startup companies. More than 20 global companies, including NVIDIA, Dassault Systèmes, Hyundai Motor Company, BMW, and Naver Cloud, will showcase collaboration models that envision the future coexistence of startups and established corporations. Attendees can anticipate insightful panel discussions and practical knowledge about open innovation.
Moreover, COMEUP will host its first-ever “Global CVC Conference,” featuring the participation of over 160 venture capitalists (VCs). This conference, a collaborative effort between British media company GCV and the Korea Venture Capital Association, will take place on November 9-10. Its primary objective is to facilitate significant investments and international market entry for startups, further enhancing opportunities and support for the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
With such dynamic initiatives, COMEUP 2023 continues to be a driving force for innovation, collaboration, and the future of startups and industries on a global scale.
Read more about COMEUP,
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