SparkLabs, one of Seoul's leading accelerators, has recently started its fourth session and over the next three months will be assisting in the growth of another ten startup companies. The ten companies range from healthcare to Internet of Things to social enterprise.
“Our fourth class ranges from bootstrapped companies with products at their alpha stage to those that raised a couple million and are shipping their product, but every team we selected is passionate and gritty about their companies which is what we love,” said Eugene Kim, Principal at SparkLabs who oversees the program.
As the program gets under way I caught up with Bernard Moon, Co-Founder at Sparklabs, to find out a bit more about the program and the teams, and also to learn more about how the program is developing.
beSUCCESS: Sparklabs is now entering its fourth batch. What has changed since the first batch?
Bernard: First, we are now housed in MARU180, which is Asan Nanum's coworking space. We provided office space before but a coworking space that is state of the art, such as MARU180, along with the other tenants of venture capital firms and startups outside of SparkLabs has clear benefits.
Second, our program managers, Eugene and Sophia, have operated our program like clockwork and built SparkLabs into one of the best programs in the world. I would describe SparkLabs' operations like a duck floating on water, which looks like it glides through the water effortlessly, but in reality it is paddling like mad underneath the surface. To make SparkLabs a success, our team works like crazy to make our participates and graduates successful. With each batch, we are also getting better at what we do.
Third, we have learned how we need to overemphasize the importance of networking and how everything in business is done through relationships. Our entrepreneurs need to be polite but aggressive when engaging with their assigned mentors (4-6 mentors for each company), visiting speakers, and others they encounter through the SparkLabs network.
beSUCCESS: What are the Sparklabs top three tips to startups in order to achieve global success?
- Focus first on developing and growing your home base, such as the Korean market.
- Research and know your next target market and your customers. You can't always dive into the deep end of a pool without knowing what's in the water, what's around you and who is around you to possibly help you. What works in Korea doesn't always work in the U.S., China or Japan.
- Recruit the best possible people. Not who you're comfortable with or if they speak Korean or if your cousin vouches for them. Hire the best people in terms of talent and cultural fit with your company.
beSUCCESS: What are 2-3 major achievements for Sparklabs companies from the last batch?
Bernard: It's probably too early to speak for the 3rd batch, but overall our companies are doing well. We had our first exit with 5Rocks being acquired by Tapjoy. We've had a few big funding rounds close that aren't public yet, but will soon be announced. Overall, we are very happy with our companies. Summary infographic here.
Meet the Ten SparkLabs’ Companies in the Fourth Class
HUD Technologies: HUD has developed a new technology to render 3D-images of buildings by just using floor plans. They utilize algorithmic modeling instead of other methods, such as using panoramic cameras, to generate an image of the complete building.
Open21: The founder is a serial entrepreneur who has created a potentially revolutionary touch sensor for smartphones, TVs, and other electronics. There is no need for physical buttons with Open21’s electric field that surrounds the device or appliance.
Tree Planet: Tree Planet is a virtual tree planting game that has resulted in real trees being planted in the world. So far over 472,000 trees in 46 forests in 9 countries have been planted.
Beacon Family Doctor: A startup based in Chengdu, China that plans to enhance healthcare services in the region. They have a mobile application that connects urban households with doctors for one-time or long-term medical services.
Vengine: Vengine is building a web platform providing a hiring solution for startups that aims to tackle the lack of trust, insufficient information, and simplicity while building a standard of best practices and encouraging company culture.
Stayes (http://www.stayes.com): The company connects unrented flats with expats on extended stays in Korea. Unlike Airbnb, Stayes is focused on business travelers.
N.thing (http://www.nthing.net): N.things seeks to connect people to the green things in life. Their primary product is Planty, an internet connected flower pot. They have a complimentary app that records your “green life” with a smart gardening diary.
Onnuri DMC: A new data management platform for mobile advertising. Their product, CrossTarget, is attempting to tackle the difficult problem of cross-platform mobile retargeting.
Mobidoo: Mobidoo provides an easy and convenient mobile stamp service to consumers and retail stores.
BuyFi (http://www.buyfi.com): BuyFi analyzes credit card purchasing behavior of customers and automatically triggers a series of 'set-it-and-forget-it' marketing programs to convert one- time visitors into multi-visit loyal customers. Currently the company serves over 10,000 merchants through its payment processor partnerships.
About SparkLabs: SparkLabs is a startup accelerator founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs in South Korea. The focus will be on startup companies from the Internet, online gaming, mobile, e-commerce, digital media and healthcare sectors. The mentorship-driven program will be three months in length and provides funding, office space, a structure program and access to a top-tier network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and executives. SparkLabs seeks to contribute to and help develop South Korea and Asia’s startup ecosystem. For more information, please visit www.sparklabs.co.kr