Over the last year collaboration between the startup ecosystems in North and South Asia has seen greatly increased velocity as resources come together to enable the rising tide in Asian entrepreneurship to accelerate. And in recent days Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI), an accelerator based in Singapore, and the Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs (Banks Foundation) a community centre for Korean entrepreneurs in Seoul, have announced a partnership. This formal collaboration aims to boost the skills of first-time entrepreneurs across language and cultural barriers and to help established startup companies from Korea and Singapore expand beyond their home markets across the Asia Pacific region.
As well as providing office space in Seoul (D Camp) and Singapore (JFDI) for member startups from each organization the partnership intends to co-develop an education tool for first-time entrepreneurs that will reflect Asian culture and be multilingual from day 1. Many people see the power of techniques like Lean Innovation but aspects of it are very culturally specific to the west, believes Hugh Mason the Founder and CEO of JFDI Asia. For example, asking people about problems they face is considered normal as part of lean startup methodology in the west but it's also considered rude in certain Asian cultures. So we need to adapt the approach to work here.
In order to meet the specific needs of Asian entrepreneurs / markets the organizations will share networks and know-how to support startups venturing out from home and co-develop a multilingual joint education program to get first-time entrepreneurs ready for the international market from Day 1. It will also ensure that entrepreneurs based in Singapore now have a 'home away from home' in Seoul, and vice-versa, that is backed by a strong network of mentors, investors and fellow entrepreneurs.
For JFDI This partnership begins to establish permanent representation across the region and builds on JFDI’s positive experience helping a group of ten Korean entrepreneurial teams to ‘go global’ last year.
And for the Banks Foundation, "I believe there will be a huge synergy as both organizations are leaders in Asia’s startup ecosystem. We will put our utmost effort into supporting Korean startups entering a Southeast Asia market that grows more competitive day by day," said Naree Lee, Managing Director.
Hugh Mason, Co-founder and CEO of JFDI said "Korean startups are capable and aggressive in their passion to go global. This partnership is an important first step that helps to build a regional ecosystem in Asia that learns from the collaborative spirit of Silicon Valley." He went on to explain that "we are JFDI.Asia, not JFDI Singapore. We are located in the south of the continent in a technologically advanced country that has made a real commitment to supporting entrepreneurship and Korea feels very much like a peer in the North of the region." he believes that there is a shared ambition and a sense of urgency about achieving results together.
Korea has seen great growth in the startup ecosystem recently and has a huge opportunity ahead. Hugh believes that beyond the specific Korean companies he has met, it's the ambition of the Korea as a country that has impressed him the most. "That's what I think is hot about Korea - this is a nation that is hungry for success and which is putting the resources behind achieving it. I want JFDI to be part of that," he said, and believes that as well as a passion for success, not seen elsewhere in Asia, there are many resources in Korea that have now aligned to really make things happen, from the ground up.
JFDI has also recently accepted the first Korean startup into their three month program which takes startups from around the APAC region from idea to investment in 100 days. "Our first Korean startup going through the main JFDI Accelerate program is called Celuv. It has developed an entertaining way to create 'stickiness' for a women's apparel and accessories e-commerce app. I have been impressed by the way that the team has been very focused in trying to understand the psychology of what will make that 'stickiness' - creating something that users will want to come back to every day, so giving them 'eyeballs' to sell to e-commerce vendors. It's an ingenious way through the 'chicken and egg' problem that every 'platform' business faces."
Another facet of the partnership will mean that both parties will engage in recruitment program supporting startups from Korea and Singapore, resulting in even closer collaboration between the two nations that will support mutual growth and increase opportunities for both job and wealth creation.
The Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs was established by 20 members of the Korea Federation of Banks in May 2012 with an initial contribution of 100 billion won (around $100M) and the aim of helping to address one of the most critical issues facing Korea today: worsening youth unemployment. The Foundation offers both financial support, including guarantees and investment, as well as non-financial support such as office space, mentoring programs, and financial and marketing education.
The Foundation has a maximum budget of 500 billion won for the 3-year period following its establishment. Beneficiaries are either entrepreneur hopefuls or entrepreneurs with businesses less than 3 years old, and who are in their 20s or 30s. In addition to delivering numerous events and operating the D.Camp coworking space in Seoul’s Gangnam district, the Foundation has directly financed promising startups and established partnerships with Bon Angels, renowned Korean VC and Altos Ventures from Silicon Valley.
JFDI is Asia’s #1 startup business accelerator programme, the first of its kind in the region and first to join the Global Accelerator Network set up by US accelerator pioneer Techstars. It takes teams of entrepreneurs from validated ideas to investment readiness in 100 days. Since 2012, more than 60% of the 27 teams completing the JFDI programme have succeeded in raising an average S$650k per team.
Details of the accelerator programme and the terms under which JFDI.Asia invests in startup businesses are set out at here. Applications are open now for the next program.