With 30K Startups, Why Isn’t Korea a Buyer’s Market For Investors?

When I first landed in Korea in 2006, the word “startup” was as foreign here as I was. Today there are more than 30,000 startups in Korea trying to soar to the same heights as unicorns like Coupang and Kakao. Government and VC funding are fueling these flights, while accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces provide ground support. What does Korea’s startup landscape look like today? Here’s the view from 30,000 feet.

These figures are soaring higher than anticipated

Reaching cruising altitude in Korea

Just two years ago, WeWork didn’t have a single office in Seoul. By the end of this year they will have twelve, with several more coming in 2019. On the investment scene, 2017 saw 425 investments worth $840M. That’s up 23% from 2016. While this growth is amazing, it comes with challenges. It’s become increasingly difficult to discover quality startups.

According to a major VC I recently spoke to, there’s too much money in Korea and not enough places to put it.

That’s a great problem for startups to have, but not for investors, accelerators and big corporations all competing to invest in the same top talent.

As one of Asia’s largest marketing and growth agencies dedicated to startups, our ties in the local ecosystem run deep. Because of this, large organizations started approaching us to help them filter out the noise and engage with relevant startups. We decided to launch G3 Labs to cultivate that aim further.

How we are helping them takeoff

So, what can a startup marketing agency actually do to help large companies and government organizations? Well, first off, we’re more than just a marketing agency. Check out some of the work we’ve done recently.

Which path best suits your organization?

Sourcing & recruiting

When Swiss Post visited Seoul, they contacted us to help them scout and recruit startups and arrange a series of meetings for their senior executives. After recruiting 15 relevant startups, we developed 1-pagers for each company, saving their execs hours of research time. We also organized a public pitch event and private 1-on-1 meetings. One of the companies that we selected, Everspin, ended up going back with the team to Switzerland.

Coaching & marketing support

Fluenty, an AI chatbot, came to us to help them build their business. We fine-tuned their messaging, then developed website copy and a beautifully designed brochure. After improving the company’s communications, we secured top-tier media coverage several times within a short timespan. This helped them increase downloads and gain market dominance, resulting in a massive jump in sales. A year later, Fluenty was acquired by Samsung.

Accelerator programs

KOCCA, a Korean government organization, and SparkLabs, Asia’s largest accelerator, engaged us to run and manage Launchpad, a pre-accelerator program. Launchpad aims to help early-stage Korean startups find international success by joining an overseas accelerator. We provided 22 startups with global-focused mentoring, pitch coaching, and marketing material development, then helped them connect to accelerators. Over 25% of our startups found homes in top-tier accelerators in the US, Europe, and Asia.

There are a wide range of options available at G3 Labs to help organizations reach their innovation goals. We also organize custom seminars, market intelligence reports, and community events for those looking to increase their mileage.

Final approach

Are you looking for ways to pilot your organization towards innovation, work with startups, or just learn more about the Korean startup ecosystem? Get in touch with me at jonathan@g3partners.asia.