Editor's note: Originally written by Mike Kim, Senior Director Corporate Development at Baedal Minjok
Facebook. YouTube. Skype. Hard to believe all 3 iconic companies actually got there start in Korea right? While these Silicon Valley heavyweights have roots in the Bay Area, the origin of their concepts actually hatched on the tiny peninsula of Korea first. Years before Facebook there was Cyworld. Before YouTube, Pandora TV - And long before Skype, a company called Dialpad was pioneering Voice over IP technology that would soon become a global phenomenon.
When it comes to internet trends and disruptive technologies, Korea has consistently played a vital role as the bell weather of tomorrow. As the global community now migrates towards the mobile frontier, entrepreneurs should pay particular attention to what’s brewing in Korea. For those seeking to architect the nature of our imminent future, may Seoul be your launchpad.
3 Defining Reasons why Seoul is a Mobile Entrepreneur’s Paradise:
- Hyper Connected
- World Class Engineers
- Investment Capital + Programs
I. Hyper Connected
Nearly 4 in 5 residents of Korea own a smartphone, ranking the country 4thin the world for smartphone penetration rate. Residents traverse around town tethered to their screens; an indispensable lifeline. Close to 83% of those residing in South Korea own a smartphone, besting the U.S. mobile penetration rate which hovers at 75%. In Korea, the smartphone is not merely a communication device, it’s a way of life.
Young children delight for hours as they dive into the rabbit hole of their favorite mobile games, while the elderly chuckle adding adorable stickers into their Kakao conversations. Age is a minor barrier when it comes to smartphone acumen; Koreans are plugged in.
Couple the nation’s extensive smartphone penetration rates with the undisputed world’s fastest broadband speeds and you have reached mobile elysium.
Koreans enjoy broadband speeds of 25.3Mbps, easily putting it ahead of No. 2 Hong Kong with 16.3 Mbps. Coming in at No.14, the U.S. has an average Internet connection speed of 11.4Mbps.
II. Engineering Talent
The Dilemma. Entrepreneur has grand idea. Overdoses on caffeine. Scribbles business plan on napkin. Scours LinkedIn for VC connections. Pitches everyone and anyone for that first check. Finally realizes, “I need an engineer…”
Giving that idea legs to run requires incredible engineering talent and Korea has no shortage of it. Undergraduates in Korea are five times more likely to major in engineering than their peers in the United States. Five times more.
Further, one in four college students in Korea majors in engineering compared to one in twenty within the U.S. There is phenomenal engineering talent in Korea. Spark it with a global vision and the opportunity to universally shift the mobile landscape is inevitable.
This generation of Korean engineers are passionate, hungry to build outside the conventional box, and audacious. Caged stallions at the starting gate; recruit and run.
Save yourself the time knocking on doors along Sand Hill Road and instead, camp outside KAIST ( Korea’s flagship science and tech institution ) and pitch. It may help to bring a box of ramen, soju, and be generous with the equity.
Skip the pitching, and build a world changing product. Trust me, the VCs will come to you. That’s the goal right?
III. Funding + Programs
Seoul is in the midst of an entrepreneurial revolution. Long a corporate hub for the world’s largest technology companies (Samsung /LG), it is now witnessing a new wave of entrepreneurs setting course to construct the next juggernauts of the industry.
There to support these budding pioneers is an ever increasing stable of Venture Capitalists, Accelerators, Incubators, along with an eager government pushing for a ‘Creative Economy.’
The dedication and commitment to develop a thriving startup eco-system is real. In the next 3 years, the government will be dedicating $3.7 Billion into startups through direct grants and initiatives.
There is no other country in the world which has more backing per capita from the government than Korea.
Further, Innovation Centers in conjunction with National Universities have taken shape to evolve the forecast of Seoul. Aiming ever higher to become the premier destination for not only entrepreneurship, but for ground breaking movements.
Korea is going all in. The platform for an entrepreneurial revolution is set. Funding and dynamic programs await. Seat’s open for the mobile entrepreneur. Ready?