5 Tips for Korean Startups


South Korea, Seoul

So you have a brilliant idea but don’t really know how to take it to the next level?  That is the main problem for most early startups.  In Korea there has been a huge growth in startups.  Korean startups are springing up weekly and sometimes daily.  Here are some tips for early Korean startups to get them from point A (idea) to point B (launch).

 1.  Start as soon as possible.  

Korean startups are growing fast and if you think your idea is original think again.  There is another young Korean entrepreneur waiting to beat you to it.  Especially in Korea, ideas are easily stolen (maybe they learn from Samsung) so it is better to start asap.  Get the first line of code, sketch the design and make a prototype, and get the domain name.  All that shouldn’t take more than a few weeks and will cost very little money.

2.  Get a competent Korean Attorney.  

Korean law is very different from laws in other countries so it is very important to find a smart Korean Attorney right away.  Korean Attorneys are more helpful and are willing to work for a small percentage of the company.  They expertise in Korean law loopholes will come in handy in navigating through the Korean business world.

3.  Hire remote contract workers.  

Korean startups look outside of Korea to hire staff early in their startup.  Why? Not only are they cheap but you don’t want to focus too much of your companies assets on staff.  Why not hire 2-3 workers in India or China rather than in Korea.  Also remember to make them contract workers which will lead to less headache when you need to let them go.

4.  Find at least one Co-Founder that is fluent in Korean.  

Korean VCs are more likely to invest in a TEAM not an individual.  2-3 would be ideal (with at least one being able to speak fluently in Korea)… as long as their is some short of hierarchy.  Cofounders can also give different perspectives and analysis.

5.  Don’t focus on money.  

If your product or service is good.  Money will come.  Korea is the perfect place to start a startup because there is money everywhere.  The Korean Government, investors, VCs, accelerators, incubators, you name it.  Startups focus should be on everything except money.

Korean Startup 500 Videos makes videos for just $200


500videos startup in Korea

Many consider the #1 problem of online platforms is the mistrust in verification since most of the online information is created by their users. 500videos offer a verification service, which makes the videos they receive more reliable.  500videos also provides professional intro videos For only $200! For $200 a business can have professional grade intro videos quickly and more importantly cheaply.  All videos are filmed at client businesses that last only a few hours, with post production completed by 500videos.  These videos usually last about 15 seconds but that is plenty of time to get the company’s message across.  

500videos are having more than 19million transactions per day and they continue to grow.

500videos have made videos for Naver, KOCCA, and Cardoc, and have recently signed a deal with Baedal Minjeok, one of Korea’s largest food delivery smartphone app service.

500Videos is currently looking to expand to other Asian markets like Japan as well as expanding to the US market.  They recently got a $40 million investment from Goldman Sachs.

500Vidoes Startup in Korea

Their major drawback is their lack of English Fluency.  Ho Yang, the CEO of 500videos feels that expanding to the US will require actual face to face discussions increase global exposure.  They have noticed that emails can get lost in translation and need to misunderstandings.  Which is why they have been getting in startup events like SXSW in order to have real face time with big companies like Yelp, or advertising agencies.  Using the same concept with Baedal Minjeok in Korea, Yelp would be the obvious choice for market expansion into the US.


Korean Startup Tripino Turns Your Trips into Stories




Everyone wants to share their trip experience with their friends.  There are so many ways to do that from Facebook, apps, to snapchat.  However CEO of Korean startup app Tripino, Youm Kwangyun, felt there was a better way to that.  People would rather see a story than just pictures.  Tripino turns your collection of pictures into stories to share with your friends.  Therefore your friends will not just be looking at picture after picture, but they will be reading a story that they will actually remember.  A picture is worth a thousand words however that still doesn’t give you the full story.

Tripino Korean App

When people go on trips they tend to take a lot of pictures.  Sometimes too much to the point that it is impossible to remember where you were or who you were with.  Tripino allows the user to instantly add comments to each and every picture as you publish your story.  The app allows you to add notes, photos, videos, and the ability to share it on Twitter and Facebook.  Just swipe and touch.

Tripino App

Here is how it works.

Just click on the dates on the Calendar section, and the rest, Tripino will take over.  It will start to gather all the content from the start of the trip to the end and package it into a beautiful story and publish it.  It will be like a journal from your trip.

The app is currently in beta and they are constantly looking for ways to improve your travel/trip experience.  Look for Tripino to launch in early 2016.

Top 5 Venture Capitalists Korean Startups Need to Know


Startups in Korea need to find the right contacts in order to survive.  Knowing which VCs can help you is the key in any early success for Korean startups.  Here at the top 5 Venture Capitalists that every Korean startup should know and get to know.

John Ryu

5) John Ryu is a seasoned startup operating executive with a lot of early stage investment experiences, John has been a Partner at Scout Ventures since 2011.  Before that he was a product manager at WebMD.  At Scout Ventures which is based on New York City, John is in charge of the east coast, focusing on tech startups in the early seed stage. What makes him a great investor is his extensive operator background as well as his experience in large corporate tech companies.   John received his B.A. from Yale, and MBA from the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley.  He is looking to expand from the east cost of the United States to the Asian global market.  If that happens Korean companies need to keep an eye on them.

Richard Jun

4) Richard Jun is the Managing Partner at BAM Ventures, renowned for their successful ventures with startups such as Shoedazzle and Honest Company.  BAM Ventures is based out of Los Angeles, California and was found by Brian S. Lee.  These Korean Americans are always look for creative and innovative startup companies.  They focus on early stage venture investments across all sectors.  They currently mainly focused on Los Angeles and Southern California based companies, however because of their Korean American background and a large Korean/American community in Los Angeles, they should be open to Korean startups that want to go global by first testing the market in Los Angeles.  Richard Jun was a transactional attorney who graduated from Harvard College, and received his J.D. at Columbia Law School.

Hyuk-Jeen Suh

3) Hyuk-Jeen Suh was hired by Samsung Ventures in 2012 and is now the head of the Samsung Ventures East Coast office. Hyuk-Jeen Suh has worked with J.P. Morgan investment banking, MEMSIC (a startup in the automobile and consumer electronics industry), Sequenonm (a biotech startup).  Hyuk-Jeen holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering, B.A in economics and M.E in electrical engineering, all from Cornell University.  He earned his MBA from Yale School of Management.  Finally he earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering, focusing on Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He looks for Korean startups with promising technologies that can be used with Samsung’s own products.

John Nahm

2)  John Nahm is the Managing Director for Strong Ventures, a seed fund that finances, supports and mentors global entrepreneurs.  They have funded over a million dollars so far.  John grew up in Spain and can speak, English, Spanish, and Korean.  He focuses mainly on investments directly into Korea, and those that have Korean founders in the United States. John has had a successful career in many sectors such as the high-tech industry, the public sector, and the financing world.  A Korean startup in the high-tech industry can benefit greatly from Strong Ventures.  John has a passion for high-tech and venturing and is the perfect person to launch products globally a key difficulty with Korean startups looking to enter the global market.  John earned his M.A. in International Business and Finance as well as his B.A. in Economics from Columbia University.

David Lee

  1.  David Lee was apart of the first 200 employees at Google.  He was hired in 2000 and was the very first executive in charge of overseas business development, sales, and operations. He was responsible for international ads as well as opening Google offices in Asia.  David is also the co-founding partner of SK Telecom Ventures, a $100M corporate venture fund based in Silicon Valley, and was in charge of investments in internet and mobile sectors.  Korean startups are largely in the mobile app industry.  Therefore David Lee co-founded KStartup, the first Asian startup accelerator funded by Google to try and find the latest mobile/internet startup company in Korea.



Chinese IT company to open an IT (R&D) center in Seoul



iSoftStone is one of the hottest IT companies in the world.  The Chinese based startup had just $20,000 in sales in 2001 and but by 2014 they had over $440 million.  They are now looking to expand to Seoul and hopes to open an IT Research and Development center.

iSortStone has already promised in August that they will invest 10 billion won (US$8.58 million) in startups and small firms to nurture the IT industry in Seoul.  What can they bring to the booming Korean startup industry?  They have a deep industry knowledge in Technology, Communications, Insurance, Banking and Financial Services, Retail, intersected with technology service offerings in Data Analytics, Digital Experience, mobility, Enterprise Application Integration, Portals and Collaboration, Cloud, and Quality Assurance.  However the main strength they will bring is there ability to help take startups global.  With their Worldwide Business Processing Services, offshore delivery, and go-to-market support, they will help Korean startups accelerate into the global market.


So why are they coming to Seoul?

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said, “Seoul is a city where over 10,000 IT firms, together with high-quality human resources and optimal infrastructure are located.”

“Many outstanding overseas companies, including those from Russia, Japan and Belgium, already have their R&D centers here.”

Seoul Mayor

iSoftStone can help not just IT Korean startups but with their proven track record of providing solutions to hundreds of clients across key industries including telecommunication, banking, insurance, utilities, transportation, manufacturing and retail, all Korean startups will be able to benefit.

Korean Government to Place Startups in Global Accelerators


Korean Promotion NIPA

Korea’s National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) is government organization that looks to advance and promote Korea’s technology industries.  Korea is already known for their strong hardware (Samsung, LG) however they are also gaining much ground in software technology.  NIPA provides training and support for startups as well as provides policy research.  They help establish new global markets for Korean startups as well as offer support for overseas marketing.

NIPA sponsored the K-Global Startup Engine which was designed to help 40 Korean startups prepare for the global market and place them into global accelerators.  These 40 Korean startups were selected with the help of 8 highly respected accelerators such as:  Chinaccelerator, Alchemist, Open Network Lab, Techstars, 500 Startups, Seedcamp, HAX, and Startup Bootcamp.  They will be in charge of selecting the finalists from the 40 to join their 3 month programs.

K-Global Startup

All 40 will get their chance to pitch their ideas in front of Korean government officials, the 8 partner accelerators, and the onlookers at the Demo Event.  Getting into this global accelerator program will help these Korean startups succeed outside the Korean Market and into the global market.

That is the main problem for Korean startups.  They don’t have the ability to expand to the global markets.  They might have the best technology in the world but no vehicle to take it to bigger markets.

Last year NIPA was able to organize Startup Engine in a much smaller scale.  Through this they were able to put 3 Korean startup companies in overseas accelerators.  This year they are looking to at least double that.

Korea the Hottest Startup Ecosystem?



Is Korea the hottest startup ecosystem in the world?  That is a serious question.    We are not talking the best or the biggest….but rather the hottest.  Korea is on fire right now.  Korea has around 20 well established accelerators and over 40 high level Korean investors.  Compare that to even 3 years ago and it is mind blowing.

Why is Korea becoming such a hub for startups?  Look no further than the Korean Government who are going out of their way to help these up and coming startups in Korea.  The support they are showing in Korean startups has never been seen to this point.  They helped provide funds and investments without the startups having to lose any equity which is huge in the early stages of development the main contributor being Tech Incubator Program for Startups (TIPS)

This April Google opened Campus Seoul so young entrepreneurs can come and learn and share new and innovative ideas.  This really started the boom and startup frenzy in Korea.  Seoul is also growing their networking events which are held monthly.  Events held by Startup Alliance and Startup Weekend help connect entrepreneurs with investors and partners.  Add that to Yellow Mobile’s acquisition of over 70 startups, it looks like the arrow is pointing up.

global entrepreneurs

Korean Startup 04Master The Uber for Bulldozers/Cranes


04Master Logo

They are doing an “Uber” for everything!  When I say everything, I mean everything.

A Korean startup called 04Master has made an Uber for the bulldozers, cranes, and excavators.  How does it work?  Their platforms match construction companies with heavy equipment owners based on the location of the job site. This solves a huge problem in that Korean companies now don’t have to go only for brand name equipment renters.  The competition from private Korean heavy equipment owners alone should drive competition which in the end should lead to lower prices.  This is a great idea because many companies that rend these big machines don’t need them from time to time therefore they can be rented out to a third party which again would save them money.

You can find 04Master on the web and on the Android App which is great for contractors that are always on the move and in different locations.  Contractors usually don’t have an office, their truck is often their office.  After you download the app or visit the site, search for the machine nearest to your location.  Most rental requests can be made 24 hours a day.   Depending on how 04Master does in Korea, they will be looking toward heading into the US Market sometime in late 2016.

04 Master Korean Startup