Six months of workshops, mentoring, and sponsored trips to Singapore, Israel, or Boston. For 20 Korean startups, these experiences will be the biggest draw of K-App Global Hub, a startup bootcamp organized by the Korean government.
The program is unique in its global outlook: Held in English, teams can pick one week stints in either Singapore or Israel, with the Boston trip having a separate application process, depending on which markets they’re interested in.
It is forward-looking in how it aims to foster cross-border collaboration for Korean startups, situating itself as part of the trend of increasing porousness in the larger Asia tech ecosystem where startups in disparate parts of the region are increasingly connected to each other via networking events, cross-border partnerships, and tech media. Read more
At SXSW 2013, there were three Asian countries with their own pavilions.
Some thoughts about the pavilions at SXSW
1. When exhibiting in the USA and the primary language for your country is not English (like Japan and Korea), it really helps that a member of your team has studied, lived or worked in the USA. The most engaging booths from Korea and Japan had representatives who had spent significant time living in the USA; these representatives excelled in communicating with the attendees.
2. Having said that, do not hire local folks just for the event to pitch your company. While talking to exhibitors, it was immediately obvious to me which booths had just hired folks for SXSW. Usually, these representatives of the company had no passion and knowledge when talking about the company and the company’s product.
3. It was easy to know which booths were part of the Korean and Japan contingent; for Singapore not so much. Maybe there really is such a thing as Cultural Technology. Read more
When Psy horse-danced his way into our hearts and minds last year with the phenomenally catchy Gangnam Style, it wasn’t just a welcome party for the pudgy 35-year-old pop star. The song, while tearing down the glitzy shallowness of Korea’s mighty K-Pop industry, may have ironically increased its appeal.
But don’t be mistaken: K-Pop was already huge before Gangnam Style became the most watched, and perhaps most parodied, YouTube video ever. According to Billboard, the industry grossed nearly USD 3.4B in the first half of 2012, or just under 20 percent of the American music industry’s takings. That’s a 27.8 percent growth from the year before.
The hallyu phenomenon– literally translated ‘Korean Wave’ — is a unique product of a hyper-connected era where an obscure cat video from Japan can gain millions of views from across the world. YouTube has certainly helped popularized K-Pop to people who would otherwise not have access to it.
The genre’s dominance has spillover effects not just for the entertainment industries of film and television, but also fashion and cosmetics, travel and tourism, and even the food industry. It is impacting Asia’s consumer technology sector too, and I’m not just talking about Samsung. Read more
Between's new sticker store
VCNC, the startup behind Between, a popular communication app for couples, has raised a KRW 3B (USD 3M) round from four investors, reported Korean tech blog beSuccess.
The app enables couples to engage in private conversations, share moments and milestones, and create memos for date ideas.
The participants in the round are all Korea-based VC firms. They are: Stonebridge Capital, KTB Network, Capstone Partners, and Softbank Ventures. Stonebridge and KTB invested USD1M each, while Capstone and Softbank contributed USD500k each. Softbank had earlier contributed USD1M in seed money to the startup.
The latest capital injection will be used for overseas expansion and for hiring experienced developers to improve Between’s backend, VCNC founder Jaewook Park told beSuccess. Read more
DocDoc, an online platform that enables patients to make instant appointments with doctors, has announced last week the hiring of Jon Samsel as its new CMO. Jon has been charged with growing the company’s global brand as it expands to South Korea and beyond.
Jon, who moved from Los Angeles to Singapore, was previously a co-founder of Heardable, a big data analytics startup. Prior to that, he was the senior VP of digital marketing for Bank of America, as well as the managing director of Roadloans, a division of Ford Motor Company. At DocDoc, he reports directly to CTO John Sharp. Read more
KakaoTalk, a popular chat app from South Korea with 27M daily active users, now has a new Schedule feature that lets friends make appointments with one another from within the app.
The new capability, announced yesterday, adds to an already extensive feature set which includes games, voice chat, and purchasable emoticons. This raises the stakes in Asia’s mobile chat battle, where Kakao faces stiff competition from Line, WeChat, and Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger. Read more
Rocket Internet is a Berlin headquartered company that is well-known for cloning successful online startups (usually from the US), replicating them elsewhere, and turning them into million-dollar businesses. It was founded in 2007 by the Samwer brothers — Alexander, Marc, and Oliver, who have together created and sold a number of successful Internet businesses before starting Rocket Internet. Most of their businesses are e-commerce related.
The company tends to hire MBA-trained executives and management consultants to become ‘founder’ and ‘managing director’ of its businesses. However, unlike startup founders, they do not hold as much equity or have as much decision-making power to shape the direction of their companies. They are primarily executors who could be fired for underperforming.
Rocket Internet has polarized observers in the startup and technology community for its practices. Critics pour scorn on the company for blatant copying, mischaracterizing its ventures as startups, an over-aggressive and results-oriented corporate culture, and rapid turnover rates. At the same time, it is widely admired for its rapid execution ability. Read more
The winners for the Global K-Startup Competition, which aims to help Korean startups go global, were announced in December. From an initial application of 250 teams, 30 were selected and are now in the midst of building their businesses. Earlier in October, 5 teams left for London and Silicon Valley to network with VCs and startups.
1st Prize Winner
In a nutshell: KnowRe develops adaptive learning applications for the web, tablets, and mobile devices. It believes that technology can improve the educational experience of every student by providing assessments of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses; personalized adaptive curriculum, and gamification and social features to motivate user experience. Read more
JFDI.Asia held its first bootcamp in Asia. The question remains whether it and Asia's other startup accelerators can keep the momentum going.
Asia has become a much friendlier place to do a startup. That’s because throughout the region, more startup accelerators have been launched to provide aspiring entrepreneurs some handholding as they search for the next big idea.
In 2012 alone, at least 4 startup accelerators have begun their inaugural bootcamps. Singapore’s JFDI.Asia held a successful one from January to May, while South Korea’s SparkLabs unveiled their first batch of startups in August. Philippines’ Launchgarage and Hong Kong’s AcceleratorHK too have started their programs.
A startup accelerator, essentially, is a type of seed startup funding (see: stages of a startup) vehicle that offers a structured mentorship program and support services over a fixed duration of time — often from 3 months to a year. Investees typically have to go through a rigorous selection process. Read more
Kakao is a South Korea based company founded in late 2006 that is recognized for KakaoTalk, one of the most popular mobile chat apps in Asia. It has built an ecosystem of apps around KakaoTalk, giving users the ability to access a variety of services with one Kakao account. The company’s other products include:
- KakaoStory, an Instagram-like photo sharing social network,
- KakaoLink, an API that lets phone users sent links to friends on KakaoTalk, and
- Kakao Game, a platform for game developers to publish their games on KakaoTalk, and Kakao members to play games with one another.
- Kakao Page, a content and media publishing platform that pays content creators.
As of May 2012, the company is valuated at about USD 454M. In December the same year, it reached a staff strength of 280, up from 14 exactly 3 years ago.
Kakao has more products in the pipeline for 2013. That includes Story Plus, a marketing platform based on Kakao Story, Chatting Plus, which enhances KakaoTalk with third-party apps like maps and music players, and KakaoPage, a micropublishing platform that enables authors to monetize their content. A PC version of KakaoTalk has also been planned. Read more