South Korea is an emerging hub in Asia for international startups. With many acceleration programs, support from government and large corporates, and hi-tech infrastructure, South Korea offers a great sustainable startup ecosystem. While domestic startups have unprecedented support for growth, South Korea has also opened its doors for foreign startups.
Programs like K-Startup Grand Challenge, the largest outreach program by the Korean government, is proving to be a great opportunity for global startups looking to expand their business in Asia. The 3-month fully paid program has attracted many promising entrepreneurs who have established their businesses in South Korea and are succeeding.
There are many advantages for global startups doing business in South Korea like an evolved domestic market, best internet connectivity, advanced technological infrastructure, convenient geographical location, and strategically beneficial relationships with other countries in the sub-continent. Koreatechdesk.com lists some of the international startups that are tasting Korean success.
1) Rezi (USA): This AI-powered resume service helps job seekers create smart resumes that can optimize their chances of getting the job through the Application Tracking Systems. Rezi was started in 2015 by a group of graduates led by CEO Jacob Jacquet in the USA.
In 2016, Rezi participated in the K-Startup Grand Challenge program and established business in South Korea. Rezi has partnered with JobKorea, a leading employment company in South Korea, to support the increasing number of English speaking job seekers. Rezi has raised a total of 63 million won (about $50,000) of funding over four rounds from three investors that is K-Startup Grand Challenge, Seoul Global Startup Challenge, and Seoul Metropolitan Government. In times of COVID-19, Rezi is the startp offering its Resume service for free.
2) SG Entertainment (France): It is first-of-a-kind music and video label startup combining an academy and a production studio. Founded by two French entrepreneurs in 2018, SG Entertainment is the only entertainment company using a French-Korean pedagogic approach. The startup’s French founders Joon-Hae Woo and Thomas Sommer, are experienced in the entertainment and international trade industries.
The startup trains and manages the next generation of global creators, through its academy. SG Entertainment’s founders aim to promote Korean’s culture abroad and increase its influence internationally. At the same time, they want to bring in a fresh, creative approach to give Korean creators and artists the means to achieve more autonomy on the global stage. SG Entertainment projects that each of its artists will have 100,000 fans, which will enable an advertiser to reach over 15 million fans through their SG International Agency and over 100 million fans globally through its SG Network.
3) Fingertips Lab (USA) : This venture-backed startup’s flagship product is its mobile interface, O6. The all-access controller for the mobile lifestyle, O6, connects seamlessly via Bluetooth to any iPhone, allowing users to browse, operate and toggle between virtually every app and platform at the touch of a finger and completely eyes-free.
— K-Startup 2017 (@kstartupgc2017) April 14, 2017
Fingertips Lab won the top prize at the first K-Startup Grand Challenge program in 2016. The startup received a $100,000 grant and a follow-on investment of $ 1 million in 2017 from 500 Startups and other local angels. The company founders P.K. Mishra and Ben Park had arrived in Korea from San Francisco in 2016 and have been innovating the mobile interface.
4) NR2 (France): The FinTech startup was the winning team in the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2019. Using algorithms developed by co-founders with over 20 years’ experience in innovation investment, their search engine helps investors worldwide find the most promising startups.
NR2 was the first French company to win the prize, beating 1677 other companies that competed in the K-Startup Grand Challenge. The startup’s co-founder Jordan Monnet has been living in South Korea since August 2019 and is optimistic about its growth. “If you can make your startup stand out in South Korea, you have a business that can work anywhere,” Monnet shares.
5) Imagga (Bulgaria): It is a platform of cloud-based APIs for automated image and video tagging that enables developers and businesses to build applications that understand visual content. Imagga’s proprietary technology is deeply rooted in image recognition, machine learning, and deep convolutional neural network algorithms.
Imagga was a 2016 participant in the K-Startup Grand Challenge program. It is currently used by over 6,500 developers and 170 businesses worldwide. It has received multiple worldwide awards, such as Best Technology Vendor at South Summit ’15 by HM The King of Spain, Global Champion in News and Media at World Summit Awards ’16 by the United Nations, and Global Innovator in Image Analytics ’16 by IDC, among others. Imagga’s co-founder Chris Georgiev has been living in Seoul since 2016 and is expanding the startup’s business worldwide.
6) Endor (Israel): Founded in 2014 by a team of data scientists and product experts lead by co-founder Dr. Yaniv Altshuler, this Israeli startup aims to be the best search engine in the predictive analysis area. It provides tools to business owners with automated, accurate predictions in the insurance field. Endor’s solutions are leveraging AI and the idea of social physics developed by MIT researchers based on blockchain technology.
The blockchain startup from Israel got its opportunity to expand for InsurTech to the world market with its participation in the contest in South Korea in 2019. The startup won the top award for insurance company MetLife Korea’s collab 5.0 competition. Endor now will supply $100,000 worth of its Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytic services to the MetLife. Many global corporates such as Coca-Cola, MasterCard, and other Fortune 500 companies are currently using Endor’s services to improve the decision-making processes.
7) is it fresh (Germany): The Food_tech startup from Germany aims to digitalize packaging and integrate smart sensor technology. With the help of printed electronics, ‘is it fresh’ developed ‘fresh-tags,’ NFC-enabled sensors that not just label products (e.g., food and pharma) to track its origin but also provides information about the product freshness (e.g., temperature or pH value). The sensors are used in combination with a cloud-assisted web-service to gain.
The startup won the top award at the 2017 K-Startup Grand Challenge. Since establishing in South Korea, the startup has participated in other Korean programs as well, like the Infinity Challenge, Orange Fab Asia program, Gyeonggi Center for Creative Economy & Innovation, and has won accolades and financial rewards. It has also got attention from other Asian countries. The Seoul-based director of the company, Park Ji-Hyun, said in a media statement that they had decided to launch their overseas branch in South Korea because the country has outstanding digital technology comprehension.