Just over a month ago 10 Korean startup teams departed for Singapore on a month-long acceleration program jointly organized by NIPA (National IT Promotion Agency) and beSUCCESS. The teams were based in the well known Singapore startup hub of Block 71, where they were able to tap into the advanced startup community surrounding local stars like JFDI Asia, Singtel's investment arm Innov8, and South East Asia's startup media heavyweight, e27 which also organizes the annual Echelon conference in Singapore.
On arrival in Singapore the teams spent a week assessing their businesses in tandem with a number of local experts and established startup mentors, and were given several opportunities to pitch to audiences around Singapore, where they aimed to attract potential partners and investment.
Another key aim was to provide the teams with opportunities and support in communicating concise information (both in elevator pitch and full investor pitch format) about their businesses in a range of situations, in English. As this is a skill that is essential in building any effective global business it was important for us to nail this early on in the program, said Hugh Mason, Co-Founder of JFDI, where the teams were based. While some of the teams struggled at first they all came through and were able to both communicate and sell at a much higher level than when they arrived.
The third and fourth week saw a continuation of group sessions aimed at providing the teams with the tools required for growing their businesses outside the Korean market, an ambition all teams shared, though their stage of development and industry focus were quite different. Additionally the teams set up many of their own meetings which resulted is some very positive results, including the conclusion of partnership deals, and advanced discussions with local investors around the funding of global expansion outside Korea.
"What we tried to do through this program was to provide a framework within which the startup teams could explore the opportunities for their services in South East Asia, through Singapore," said Nathan, Director at beSUCCESS. He went on to say that, "many of the teams spent the first week determining their specific aims for the program in Singapore, but all came out with valuable experience and connections that will to varying degrees shape their global growth strategies over the coming year."
The program aimed to address a problem in the Korean startup ecosystem of startups being unable to conquer overseas markets, despite traction at home. For example despite being the No. 1 dating app in their niche, IUMSOCIUS have struggled to acquire users outside Korea. A program like this helped them understand the South East Asian market much more deeply, and as a result they will be focussing more resources on expansion into the region in the coming year. VCNC, the team behind hit couples app Between, also used the program to more firmly entrench their growth outside Korea and to build their Singapore office, where they already have one permanent staff member.
It is likely that programs similar to this one will be used in the coming year to consolidate the learning of the past 12 months, since the Korean government started its 'Creative Economy' drive.
Here are the ten teams:
1. Appknot: A digital publishing system that deepens customer engagement while reducing cost and time involved in sharing rich media with potential customers
2. Enkino: An Android app that lets users create and share favourite smartphone home screens with friends
3. IUMSOCIUS: Its product IUM matches users every day, if both agree to chat
4. Lee & Company: Its service Waffle allows simple authentication for free Wi-Fi
5. Love Is Touch: Near Field Communication (NFC) platform provider which transforms the real world into media
6. NF Labs: Its product Peloton gives data scientists an easy way to analyse big data sets in real time
7. Starindex: Creates a private social space for K-wave fans and artists to connect on mobile devices
8. Stubbyplanner: Helps backpackers organise their itineraries according to what other users have experienced
9. TNT Crowd: Its product Learnyware, which is an open market, gives users the opportunity to learn or teach
10. VCNC: Its platform Between is a couple app which gives lovers a private space