How Korean startup ecosystem succeed with virtual events amidst the COVID-19 crisis in 2020? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the events industry worldwide, with thousands of startup events, tech conferences, and meetings canceled altogether, postponed, or turned into virtual events. At the beginning of the year, Asia was a Coronavirus hotspot leading to the cancellation of major events across the continent, such as the Mobile World Congress due to public health concerns and a large number of dropouts from the event’s partners and exhibitors. Because of the pandemic events across Europe like the world’s topmost tech conference Slush, America, Canada and other parts of Asia were canceled.

In Korea, the situation was the same, with COVID-19 deterring venture capitalists, investors, and businesses from investing in the Korean startup ecosystem. As of February 2020, the country recorded a massive drop in investment deals to a fifth of January’s deals the same year. The main reason for the decreased investment was the drastic reduction of “face-to-face meetings” between investors and startups. 

Banking on online events

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of public health recommendations, the Korean administration decided to turn its startup events into virtual events to boost its startups’ investments and exposure. The government saw the COVID-19 era as an opportunity to showcase its technical prowess while also marketing its startups to the world. 

“The non-face-to-face sector is expected to emerge as a promising industry globally as the transition to the digital economy accelerates after COVID-19,” said Lee Soon-bae, director of the startup policy division Ministry of SMEs and Startups in a media statement, “The government will provide policy support to help Korean startups in untact sectors lead the global market.” 

While nothing can replace the value of attending a physical event and holding face-to-face talks, planning engaging, virtual events have become the new norm in Korea, with online event platforms such as Hopin, zoom, and Demio paving the way for events in the post-COVID era. Check out some prominent events the Korean startup community held virtually during the COVID-19 crisis.

1) COMEUP 2020

COMEUP 2020 is the largest event of Korea for small businesses and startups hosting startups, investors, and companies from all over the world. The objective of the event is to support startups to expand globally. Startups can also use this as a platform to grow their business in South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, and a global leader in ICT, home to tech majors like Samsung, LG, Kakao, and others. 

COMEUP 2020 November 20.

Its 2020 edition was live-streamed to viewers across the globe from Seoul, Korea, from November 19-21, 2020. The Ministry of SMEs and Startups, the Korea Institute of Startup and Entrepreneurship Development (KISED), and the private startup ecosystem hosted COMEUP 2020 using the Hopin online event platform. The event saw 700 investors, 400 startups, and more than 10 000 global viewers. Through the Hopin platform, viewers, companies, and investors could tune in to different event stages, including special sessions, side events, and the event’s eight themes. Additionally, viewers also tuned to online pitches from the 120 COMEUP 2020 stars.

COMEUP 2020 also included the Demo Day for the K-startup Grand Challenge, a Korean government program for international startups that helps to set foot in the country. 

2.) NEXTRISE 2020

NEXTRISE is a two-day global startup event aimed at connecting Korean startups to the global startup ecosystem. KITA and KDB hosted NEXTRISE 2020, which took part both online and offline (COEX). In the two-day event, 186 promising startups made their pitches to over 100 foreign investors, 21 multinational companies, and C-level representatives from large organizations. 

NextRise 2020

The COEX platform organized 48 online conference sessions, 236 consultations, and 1500 1:1 meeting. The 1:1 meeting saw startups looking to partner with big companies sit down with key members from either side. Furthermore, there were speeches, panel talks, seminars, and lectures to provide an excellent opportunity to gain insights on Open Innovation Strategies and the global startup ecosystem.

3.) Launchpad Virtual Demo Day USA, France & Indonesia 2020

KOCCA – Korea Creative Content Agency, the agency charged with supporting Korean creative content internationally, completed it’s Launchpad Virtual Demo Day USA, France and Indonesia 2020 through Zoom.

Joseph Guzel (On Screen), FinTech and Commerce Investor at the KOCCA Launchpad Virtual Demo Day.

The event was organized in collaboration with Strong Ventures and BAM Ventures to promote technology startups to various VCs, investors, Angel Investors, and companies looking for partnership deals. This year’s Launchpad event promoted Korean content startups, including AKA AI, DamoGo, Gwabba, GED, Let see, and many more. The Launchpad Virtual Demo Day Dubai will be organized virtually in early 2021. 

4.) Invest Korea Week 2020

The 16th Invest Korea Week (IKW) 2020 was successfully held virtually this year from November 11th to 13th, 2020. The IKW is the largest promotional event for international investments in Korea and has been held annually since 2006. This year because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the IKW 2020 was held virtually for global investors, startups, companies, agencies, and media. The event was broadcast online on ArirangTV, IKW Website, and YouTube.

Invest Korea Week 2020 was held on Nov. 11 to 13.

“Through IKW 2020, we want to showcase Korea as a great place to do business,” said Pyung-oh Kwon, President & CEO of KOTRA, as he welcomed the global corporate and media world to attend engrossing sessions about industries, investments, and economy. The IKW 2020 introduced nine promising industries of Korea to potential investors, which are Bio/Medical/Pharmaceutical Industry, Private Equity, Cultural Contents, Semiconductor, Future Car, Business Service, ICT, Chemical industry and Robot industry.

In his message to IKW participants, Sung Yun-mo, Minister of trade, industry & energy said, “Despite Covid-19 pandemic and predictions of low economic growth, the IMF has given a positive feedback for Korea’s economic growth. The Korean government is dedicated to balance the prevention measures for the pandemic with economic activities without a shutdown.”

5.) TIPS X beSUCCESS Korean Startup Showcase

The 3rd edition of “TIPS X beSUCCESS Korean Startup Showcase” was held successfully from September 23 to September 24, 2020. Promising Korean startups pitched their products and services to a panel of esteemed judges, including mentors, venture capitalists, and corporate strategists across the world through Zoom. The “TIPS X beSUCCESS Korean Startup Showcase” is hosted by South Korea’s leading startup media company beSUCCESS and South Korean government-backed incubator TIPS (Tech Incubator Program for startup Korea). The first 2 editions of the startup showcase were held in San Francisco and Palo Alto.

Korean startup Seeso pitching at the TIPS X beSUCCESS Korean Startup Showcase

TIPS is a Korean government initiative to support the startup ecosystem in the country. It is basically an Accelerator Investment-Driven Tech Incubator Program for Startups. It is designed to identify and nurture the most promising startups with innovative ideas and groundbreaking technologies. 

What’s Next?

The Korean startup ecosystem sees COVID-19 as an opportunity to increase the need for alternative low-cost labor value chains. Following the government’s National strategy, startups are emerging from the industrial sectors of AI-applied systems, healthcare, biomedical services, robots, and online platforms. Korea is currently in the top 20 startup ecosystems with more than 8708 startups, 11 unicorn companies, and 85 accelerators. With plans to increase the number of unicorn companies to 20 by 2022, the Korean government will continue banking on online events to grow their startups. 

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