I am extremely privileged to be one of the startups from all around the world selected for a programme called In2Korea in South Korea.
In2Korea is a programme that enables fast-paced collaboration and creation between domestic and foreign startups. With the continued growth of Korea, it is the perfect launch pad into the Korean and the Asian market as a whole. The programme will provide us with one-on-one mentoring, office space, networking events, and more.
There has clearly been a huge injection of finance from the Korean government into startups. The government last year pledged US$3.2 billion in investment in startups and the ‘Creative Economy’ for the next three years. This is a significant investment from the government, and it’s clear they see the future landscape being as much about SMEs and startups as the large corporations.
Interestingly, local players lead the local market. It has been very hard for the Internet giants to establish themselves in Korea. It appears local leadership of local companies have the most success. We learnt about the Korean Unicorn Club – Korean software companies valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors – the big ones being Kakao, the most popular messenger app in Korea, and LINE, the most popular messaging platform in Japan, both having wide global adoption.
For startups, Korea has become a new hub in Asia, offering a safe, stable environment, the world’s most connected technology infrastructure, world-class talent and a wealthy population of early adopters. Korea’s high tech ecosystem is equally attractive to investors and job seekers. But getting started in a new country is always a challenge. That’s why Korea’s National IT Promotion Agency (NIPA) created In2Korea, which kicked off in August 2017. Government support means that In2Korea takes no equity and offers all of its services free of charge.
About the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA)
The National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) is devoted to enhancing the competitiveness of Korea’s technology industries, in order to contribute to overall economic growth. Formed from the merger of several governmental organizations, NIPA participates in policy research related to technology. It provides training and support for technology companies, students and employees. It helps establish new distribution channels and markets for Korean companies, and offers support with overseas marketing. NIPA further supports international exchanges, cooperation, and overseas expansion related to Korea’s IT industry.
My upcoming plan will be opening a branch office in Korea and In2Korea offers the easiest path for the selected startups like us. The programme help us to localize our product so we can better cater for Korean’s needs. In the future, it will be crucial to the Korean economy for international companies to set their business up in Korea.
Additionally, it was interesting to think about the speed in which Seoul is growing and the way the people we met view tradition and globalisation. The comparison with the Malaysia is pertinent as we’re trying to find our own identities in a global world. However, as I mentioned at the beginning, local companies have the most success in Korea. Fuel for thought.
I believe Seoul is poised to become the hub of concentrated tech startup activity in Asia in the next 3-5 years, much like Silicon Valley in the US.
I will write more about how the programme application works and share more about what I wrote and how to become qualify for this programme as well as another similar programme from Korea called K-Startup Grand Challenge in the next article.