South Korea has the potential to give Silicon Valley and China a run for its money. The country has ranked as the most innovative economy by Bloomberg, dominating international charts in R&D intensity, value-added manufacturing, and patent activity.
It’s a melting pot of innovation. Think about it: which other country is competing head-on with Apple in the high-end smartphone race? The East Asian nation is also home to the fastest internet on earth and broadband services per capita is the highest in the globe.
Leading the fourth industrial revolution
The world is seeing its fourth industrial revolution, spearheaded by digitization, artificial intelligence, robotics, increased connectivity, and autonomous vehicles. Korea could have a huge part to play.
Smartphone and appliance companies in the country have begun adopting artificial intelligence. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is one example with AI-based voice recognition technology as one of the phone’s new features.
Korea is also a leader in digital banking. The first digital-only bank in Korea, K Bank, kicked off recently. One of its backers include Alipay. The government has also approved the launch of Kakao Bank, created by Korea’s predominant messaging service, KakaoTalk. Users would be able to perform transactions with friends directly without the hassles of typing bank account numbers.
Staying ahead of the curve
To up its IT game, South Korea is harboring partnerships with foreign startups. Attracting ideas from global-minded teams is a step forward in advancing the country’s quest for a fourth industrial revolution. The government-backed K-Startup Grand Challenge is in its second year, and startups all over the world are invited to apply. The top 50 teams will participate in a four-month accelerator program which includes mentoring and sharing sessions.
Teams will also have the opportunity to interact with major Korean companies like Samsung, Hyundai Motors, Kakao, and Naver among others to understand Asia’s and Korea’s business culture, which is crucial to success in the region.
Last year, startup Fingertips Lab emerged as the winner. It has created a rotary dial which allows drivers to stay connected to their phones without looking and touching the screen. Since last year, the startup has already received pre-orders from three of the world’s biggest automotive OEMs.
But just like any tech industry in the world, there are challenges that startups can encounter once they bring their operations to Korea. The dominance of family conglomerates is an issue. The combined revenue of the top five conglomerates formed over half of Korea’s GDP in 2015. Nevertheless, some players like Yello Mobile want to take on the goliaths.
Recently, the Korean government unveiled a comprehensive plan to ease regulations on investments in startups. Foreign entrepreneurs are also welcome to pitch business ideas. The new president, Moon Jae In, is also set to remove policies hindering the growth of IT in Korea.
Startups need not worry about potential language barriers. There are innovative ways like hiring locals who can speak fluent Korean and English as country managers. This will not only help startups tear down the language barrier but will also aid them in networking with local top investors and executives. A local accelerator program like K-startup Grand Challenge can help startups overcome these issues through mentorship and industry guidance.
Any startup that chooses Korea to establish its operations will find itself surrounded by constant innovation and evolution.
The K-startup Grand Challenge allows startups enter a melting pot of technology and innovation. With geographical proximity to China, Japan, and other areas of Asia, the program invites next-gen unicorn startups to Korea. You will enjoy strong government support, business opportunities, and mentorship from industry leaders. Learn more here.
Also, the K-startup Grand Challenge’s organizers will also be at Tech in Asia Singapore 2017 from May 17 – 18. Visit their booth to find out more about the accelerator.
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