A leading figure in the global tech industry, the Republic of Korea is a strategic economic partner for countless countries, companies, and startups thanks to its thriving tech ecosystem. Seoul’s startup scape was estimated to be worth over $39 billion in 2022. A massive number given that just 20 years ago, a startup ecosystem didn’t exist in the Eastern Asian country.
As the 2023 Country of the Year, the Republic of Korea will host a wealth of Korean tech at VivaTech. On the Korean stand, attendees will meet the hottest startups and listen to leading conferences from top Korean institutions and businesses.
Let’s dive into the Korean startup ecosystem and find out why the Republic of Korea is a leading tech force in the world.
The Republic of Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world. With one of the fastest internet speeds in Asia and over 97% of the population owning a smartphone, Koreans adopt new technologies rather quickly.
However, the Korean startup ecosystem is relatively new. In fact, 20 years ago it didn’t exist. But today the country boasts over 15,000 innovative startups and 22 unicorns.
The Korean government has played a large role in the creation of a leading startup ecosystem. Over the last 2 decades, the government has realized that new businesses create new jobs for the economy and has given more support to entrepreneurs and organizations helping startups grow.
For example, KISED (Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development) has been instrumental in the development of the country’s ecosystem with programs for startup education, mentoring and consulting, hosting networking events, and more.
In 2020, Korean President Moon Jae-in introduced a Korean New Deal. The deal is a $130 billion plan to create over 1.9 million jobs by 2025. Based on two central policies, it will train 100,000 people in new technologies, make 140,000 sets of state data public, and offer unemployment insurance for many workers. The two new investment plans offer huge opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The Republic of Korea is also home to large tech companies that contribute to the overall innovation economy. Tech Giants like Samsung, Lotte, and Naver have created startup hubs to help support open innovation models and upskill the Korean talent pool.
Leading Tech Sectors
The Republic of Korea’s tech ecosystem has dominated multiple industries from consumer electronics to newer technologies taking the world by storm like Web3. Three of the leading startup industries in the country include fintech, blockchain, and gaming.
There are 657 fintech startups in the Republic of Korea. With solutions like AI-based practice management solutions for asset managers of Qraft Technologies, an online exchange platform for cryptocurrencies like Dunamu, or internet-based bank like Toss Bank, fintech startups in Korea are changing the way Koreans manage their finances with new solutions.
There are 133 blockchain startups in the Republic of Korea. Believing that a Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and that blockchain, Web3, and newer technologies will be key to the future, Korean startups have invested heavily in blockchain technology. For example, international money transfer startup Moin, media content platform Muzika, and decentralized trade platform for seafood Seamon, all use blockchain technology.
There are 471 gaming startups in the Republic of Korea. Not a shocking number given that many Korean gamers dominate the esports industry. Solutions like Podotree’s educational games, C2K’s blockchain-based gaming platform, and Still8’s esports league organization, are upping the Korean gaming industry and how people interact with content online.
While the Korean startup ecosystem has a lot of support from the government and large tech companies, and has a global reputation for quality and innovation, startups face challenges when expanding.
The Korean domestic market is relatively small, meaning that if startups want to scale they must expand internationally – requiring a huge amount of resources, time, and money to adapt and localize products or services for international markets.
Startups wanting to scale and grow internationally can take advantage of support inside and outside their borders such as hiring foreign talent, partnering with foreign companies, or taking part in accelerator programs that focus on internationalization.
While the ecosystem continues to accelerate, there’s no doubt that more Korean startups will become unicorns and bring tech solutions to markets around the world.
K-Tech at VivaTech
We can’t wait to see which new technologies Korean startups will bring to VivaTech this year and listen to top Korean tech leaders speak about the inspiring ecosystem.
Don’t miss your chance to meet the brightest in Korean tech! Book your pass for VivaTech this June.