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Foreign entrepeneurs: diversifying the Korean startup ecosystem Updated: 2016-06-07 04:08:58 KST

The Korean government has spent some 3-billion dollars since 2014 to develop the startup ecosystem, from support funding to innovation hubs and facilities.
But one area that has not yet been addressed is diversity.

"Silicon Valley, London, New York, Berlin, all of these cities are very cosmopolitan, and the startups within these cities are also global. I think this is an incredibly powerful asset that startups elsewhere in the world have, that at the moment we're not seeing so much of in Korea."

"I'm here at the newly built Pangyo Startup Campus, just outside Seoul, which is set to house dozens of Korean startups. But now, the government is also looking to bring in foreign startups, by launching the K-Startup Grand Challenge."

The program plans to incorporate 40 startups from overseas, among the 200 to be based at the campus.
Each company will receive flight tickets, office space, visa support and a piece of an 833-thousand dollar prize pool.
It's the first program of its kind, and as well as helping the local economy, it's expected to be a learning opportunity for Korean startups as well.

"There have been cases where Korean companies have tried to go global, but failed. To be better prepared, they need to meet other foreign startups and understand the overseas market better."

Critics argue that whereas Silicon Valley grew organically, government programs such as these are too forced, and the environments may not work in the long-run.
But Lee Sang-won, a Silicon Valley tech entrepeneur, says for the startups themselves it doesn't matter.

"The startups need every help they can get. Whether it's coming from the government or VC or from the private sector it doesn't really matter. As long as we're getting all the help that we can get, to make this business successful, that's what we're looking for."

The K-Startup Grand Challenge may only be a small step toward diversifying the Korean startup eco-system, but it's a step in the right direction to fulfill Korea's ambition to become a leading tech hub in Asia.
Kwon Jang-Ho, Arirang News.
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