When you're thinking about tech giants and billion-dollar startups, the places that come to mind are Silicon Valley, New York and Singapore. While these places are home to some of the biggest tech communities, you might simply overlook South Korea, a tech giant on the rise. For the past few years, the local government has made efforts to build startup hubs and increase opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, and it certainly shows.
The country boasts of the world's fastest average internet speed at 29.0 mega-bytes per second (Mbps), with peak speeds at 95.3 Mbps. In addition, the country's Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST) recently announced their $1.5 billion plan to create 5G technology. If this news becomes reality, then citizens can expect an internet connection that's 1000 times than their 4G.
Are you interested to learn more? Here are three things you didn't know about South Korea's thriving startup industry:
1. Startup campuses are on the rise
For the uninitiated, campuses are community hubs where entrepreneurs develop their ideas and launch their own startups. In Korea, these campuses are the home of some of the country's next-billion dollar startups. For instance, Maru 180, is a startup incubator based in Seoul. The six-story building is a venue where entrepreneurs can access mentors and network with members of the local tech community. In addition, it houses Accelerators Sparklabs and FuturePlay, investors Capstone and DSC investment and it is the venue for Startup Grind Seoul.
Another famous campus is the Google Campus Seoul. The 21,000-square-foot hub has hosted more than 300 demo programs and has built a community with 12,000 members. It's not surprising why. There are weekly campus mentoring sessions with industry experts, and a startup school dedicated to enhancing the skills of its members in product management and UX design.
To bridge the gender gap, the campus' recent program is Campus for Moms. It's a 10-week program where moms can learn the basics of business, UX design and venture capital. Plus, moms are also welcome to come with their babies!
2. The Korean government pays entrepreneurs to move to Seoul
President Park Geun-hye invested $3 billion to transform South Korea into one of Asia's most promising tech hubs. This year, the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, launched the K-Startup Grand Challenge. The all-expense paid program will allow 40 startups travel to South Korea and to network with Korea's biggest corporations (Samsung, Hyundai, LG, SK, KT, NHN, etc.). What's even more amazing is that selected startups receive $4,100 per month, free flights and office space in its $160 million Startup Campus.
With this kind of government support, it's no wonder that the challenge had more than 2,400 entries from around the world!
3. There is strong support for Korean startups that plan to go global
In Korea, chances are your level of success is measured by your academic achievements and your ability to get a corporate job. So, chances are everyone wants to be a part of Samsung. However, with programs dedicated to helping early-stage startups go global, the culture is definitely changing.
Accelerate Korea, which launched last 2015, has worked with 90 early-stage startups. They provide business services and consulting to startups in the areas such as Public Relations, Client/User Acquisition, Global Market Entry & Support, and Fundraising. Plus, they teach startups how to communicate effectively in the English language. With Accelerate Korea, the startups don't just have a strong local network, but they can also partner with international accelerators.
Last July 2016, Sparklabs' demo day was jam-packed with more than 1,500 attendees! Of course, everyone wanted to watch some of the most successful Asian startups like MyFitness Pal and NYX cosmetics. With an overwhelming number of attendees, the startup culture is definitely on the rise.
Got any more interesting facts about South Korea's startup scene? Comment them down below!