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Korean Government Is Supporting Startups

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Founding and establishing a successful business in your home nation is an exceptional achievement. Taking your business global, securing partners, hiring a local team and navigating unfamiliar legislation is even more challenging.

Hedging ambitious bets on global success, an army of Korean startup founders forged overseas business expansion missions in 2015, betting big on overseas opportunity. While the odds were against them (around 90% of startups fail in the first two years alone) Korea’s relatively small domestic population of 53 million means that for many local startups global expansion is the only option to achieve massive scale.

In 2015 many of Korea’s global focused startups had an ace up their sleeve. The country’s Institute for Startup and Entrepreneurship Development (KISED), an organization funded by Korea’s Small and Medium Business Administration, selected and supported fifty startups for three months of total immersion overseas. Partnering with 12 accelerators across the globe, KISED’s program aimed at providing financial and practical support, as well as local connections overseas.

Several in this group are now putting down roots in their respective locations or have established overseas partnerships. For some KISED has even provided additional financial support to cover expenses like overseas incorporation and establishment of local operations.

While support that ultimately plants some of the most promising young companies overseas may seem counter intuitive for the Korean economy, the hope is that these ambassadors will increase the global network value for Korean entrepreneurs. As success often comes down to who you know, KISED’s strategy looks likely to pay dividends.

The initiative also addresses another problem. The pool of experienced entrepreneurs locally who have the skills and knowledge to coach their compatriots to overseas success is small. While there have been several examples of recent startup success in the local market, like Coupang, Baedal Minjeok, Memebox and KakaoTalk, international startup success cases are hard to find.

By supporting Korean founders to expand overseas, KISED is helping to build a pool of Korean founders with international experience that future generations of Korean startups will have access to.

Here we take a look at some of the KISED supported startups from 2015 that have made headway overseas. For reference purposes each startup is linked both to their official website and a short company explainer.

Singapore is a natural springboard for Korean startups entering fresh markets in Southeast Asia and Adval were the local KISED partner supporting them. Three startups from the group made headway during overseas acceleration in this location.

Stripes has built an online platform for men to order custom made suits and shirts. The company immediately hit a chord with investors, raising around USD $1 million in 2014. Sustained, robust growth and successfully establishing a base in Singapore during the KISED sponsored program helped Stripes attract a further USD $4.3 million in November 2015.

NOD BizWare Inc. designs software applications to be used for formal content storage and collaboration in business organizations. ‘NOD CoCo’ is their flagship service, a cloud-based secure content collaboration product integrated with three main functions required for data collaboration including secure chat, storage, and member contacts. By the end of the program in Singapore the company had secured around USD $1 million in funding and launched the service globally on Google Play.

Makestar is a rewards based crowdfunding platform for the entertainment industry. They help up-and-coming celebrities raise money for projects, such as concerts and new album launches. During the program in Singapore they secured initial funding and opened discussions with a number of large corporate groups for further capital injections and expansion into the Southeast Asia region. One of their standout success cases saw a project raise its goal of USD $500 thousand in just three hours in December 2015.

Y Accelerator is an acceleration program from Sheffield, England that was designed specifically for KISED in 2015. Established by Dabriel Choi a Korean entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to support Korean startups with market entry to the UK and Europe Y Accelerator aims to connect the manufacturing heartland of the UK with Korean hardware startups. Three startups involved in the program established local legal entities in the UK and are working towards full UK operations in early 2016.

Ultimate Drone has developed a next generation drone called ‘UD – 10X’. A major leap forward in drone technology, the UD-10X is a revolutionary high-powered, multi-rotor commercial drone. It boasts superior payload capacity compared to others on the market. It also features increased stability and endurance and according to Choi from Y Accelerator is able to outperform existing options by a factor of three.

Perfect for the wet British climate, CLEF Innovation (reference document) has designed an innovative umbrella with multi-functional detachable handle and interchangeable covers. Features include a handle that can be used as a portable charger for USB devices, a torch and mood light and a temperature controlled handle for cold weather. Since the umbrella is designed in a modular structure these features can also easily be detached for use as standalone items. Further customizations like adding speakers, radio, attack alarm, etc., are probably next steps.

Netalkers is a business networking platform that connects professionals and facilitates immersive workshops in a secure environment. While other social networks like Facebook enable the creation of user groups, they are not optimized for a business environment.

The Entrepreneurs’ Round Table was KISED’s partner in New York City. One startup from the program incorporated in the US during the program with two others likely to follow suit in early 2016.

Huinno has designed a vital signs measurement system called ‘Memo’ that uses a machine-learning based algorithm based on versatile and proprietary biometric sensors to measure standard non-invasive vital signals. After realising the opportunity for their technology in the USA they have incorporated there and are in the process of building out local operations.

Anyractive and Ediket also saw promise in the US market after their three month stint in New York. Both companies aim to establish US operations in 2016.

Anyreactive has developed a business and educational service that uses Augmented Reality to enhance interaction and communication for presentations, business collaboration and education. Think ‘internet of things,’ whiteboard on steroids.

Like many startups from non-English speaking countries, Ediket is tackling shortcomings in the English proofreading industry and has developed a high quality proofreading service at one-third the industry standard price with faster than normal response times.

Back in Asia, Global Startup Network, who run startup acceleration programs in both India & Vietnam, hosted a number of startups from the KISED program.

Telestar  has developed a state-of-the-art, user oriented IPCC solution for call centers. leveraging over a decade of experience operating call centers, Telestar’s solution can be customised to suit any client’s dynamic marketing environment. As an all-in-one service it has been designed to keep initial capital expenditure and maintenance costs low without compromising on quality. Having spent three months in the heartland of call centres, Bangalore India, Telestar formed a [confidential] partnership with a local corporation and is exploring other business interests in Chennai.

Kostevia (reference document) has pioneered imports of the non-caloric sweetener, stevia, into the Korean market to provide diabetics with a natural and safe alternative sweetener. Stevia is native to South America and KoStevia’s CEO Joo-Hyung Lee was inspired to found the company when he came across the product in Singapore. During their acceleration program in Vietnam KoStevai established a legal entity and secured initial purchase orders (POs) from a number of local companies.

Earing  realised that there is an unavoidable 20 second lead time when selecting and starting to listen to files, like music, on the go. Capitalising on this, they have developed a mobile marketing solution that delivers audio messages and push notifications to smartphone users. Their SDK allows clients to plug Earing into their native apps and generate audio advertisements for users who access them.

During their overseas program in Shanghai they signed a partnership with Dragonfly FM, one of the biggest radio stations in China.

Creative Bomb developed Boto, a learning app for children. Boto aims to boost toddler’s cognitive ability, promote creativity, all while having fun. It is themed on the adventures of the cute pink dolphin, BOTO and various marine creatures.

While ‘edutainment’ for kids is a crowded space in China Creative Bomb worked tirelessly to fine-tune their biz model for the Chinese market and conducted promotional activities to gain exposure. Thanks to a road show in China and regular appearances at local events Creative Bomb secured extensive coverage in newspapers and live broadcasts.

This article was written by Nathan Millard of G3 Partners. see more.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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