When I started working with startups in Korea back in 2012 there was practically no startup ecosystem. There were startups, often founded by engineers who couldn’t secure jobs in Samsung. But entrepreneurship was still ‘underground’.
It wasn’t socially acceptable to work at a startup. There were precious few startup success cases. The investment ecosystem was massively skewed in favor of investors. There was one accelerator. Government support for startups was practically nonexistent.
Fast forward to 2017 and Korea can stake a legitimate claim to be one of Asia’s most promising startup hubs. The country is producing around a unicorn a year. Top developers are leaving Samsung (and other large MNCs) to found their own companies. International VCs are making big bets on Korean startups. At last count over 30 accelerators punctuate Seoul’s dense metropolis. And the government is actively supporting startups to the tune USD $2.5Bn to USD $3Bn per year.
Beyond extensive support for local startups, programs like K-Startup Grand Challenge are now presenting global startups with an opportunity to engage with the massive opportunities for growth in Asia, through Korea’s rapidly maturing startup ecosystem (more on that in a moment).