“Seoul is a city that dreams, a city that achieves dreams, and a city that makes dreams. A city where startups and youths become stars through innovation and creativity.”
Known for tech giants like Samsung and LG, South Korea is actively developing its startup ecosystem. Seoul Startup Hub aims to match more than 1,000 startups with larger companies by 2024. South Korea's Ministry of SMEs and Startups announced a ₩1.35 trillion ($10.2 billion) budget for 2023. The 2023 Super-gap Startup 1,000+ Project will intensively foster 1,000 startups in specific high-tech sub-sectors.
In 2022, South Korea had 231 active VC firms, up from around 197 the previous year. Social impact VC firm Sopoong closed its $8 million sixth fund in November and has already invested in 16 startups. South Korea's Fintech Innovation Fund is set to increase from ₩500 billion ($379 million) to ₩1 trillion to support Fintechs facing economic headwinds. The Seoul Municipal Government is launching the Vision 2030 Fund to invest ₩5 trillion ($3.9 billion) in startups over the next four years.
In October 2022, the Seoul Metropolitan Government launched Seoul Startup Hub Bengaluru to provide assistance to Korean startups entering the heart of the Indian market. The hub is part of Seoul’s long-term plan to set up 10 startup support centers around the world by 2026. In February 2022, Seoul established Invest Seoul to attract foreign investment and overseas companies. Seoul ranks 10th place among 130 cities in Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) which evaluates the financial competitiveness of major cities worldwide.
Startup festival Try Everything 2022 was held in September. At CES 2023, Korean companies received 9 out of 20 Best of Innovation Awards, making South Korea the most awarded country of all. The ninth Annual AVCJ Private Equity & Venture Forum - Korea took place in September 2022.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
AI, Big Data & Analytics
AI Yangjae Hub is the first AI startup development institution in Korea. In February 2023, Rebellions Inc launched an AI chip to challenge global leader Nvidia Corp in hardware. In March 2022, Alibaba Cloud announced its first data center in Seoul. Singapore's Empyrion DC announced a 40MW green data center in Seoul will launch in 2024. AI Summit Seoul 2023 is scheduled for September. AI Expo Korea 2023 took place in May. StradVision, a maker of software for autonomous driving, raised an $88 million Series C in August 2022. Industrial AI leader onepredict raised a $25 million Series C in March 2022.
In December 2022, South Korea’s four leading biotech firms announced plans to launch an investment fund of up to ₩50 billion ($37.6 million) to support smaller domestic biotech firms. Vaccine and biotech company SK bioscience plans to establish its headquarters and R&D center in Seoul. BIO KOREA International Convention 2023 is set for May. Drug developer Onconic Therapeutics, raised a $19.5 million Series B in December 2022. Remote medicine company Doctornow raised a $33.0 million Series B in June 2022.
Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics
South Korea has emerged as a leader in the fourth industrial Revolution. The Third Basic Plan on Intelligent Robots of South Korea aims to make Robotics a core industry, and the government has allocated $172.2 million towards this goal. In February 2023, ASM International announced plans to invest around $100 million in its manufacturing and innovation center in South Korea. Service robot maker Bear Robotics raised a $81 million Series B in March 2022. Seoul Robotics has raised a total of $43.1 million, including a $25 million Series B in September 2022.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Seoul
South Korea boasts a highly educated and experienced population. In the latest QS World University Rankings, Seoul National University ranked #29 globally. Other top universities in the country include the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Yonsei University, and Korea University.
Established Innovation Hub
Seoul ranked #4 in the Global Innovation Index 2022’s list of the world’s 100 science and technology clusters. South Korea was named the sixth most innovative country in the world thanks to its high R&D intensity. The South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT will invest ₩5.24 trillion ($3.9 billion) in R&D by 2023. Seoul Open Innovation Alliance, hosted by Seoul Business Agency, is a cooperative network for large and mid-sized enterprises, startups, accelerators, investors, and private and public institutions. Seoul is introducing a verification system to discover and attract more high-potential startups.
With its population of nearly 10 million, Seoul is the center of South Korea's economy. The nation has strong cultural and economic ties with China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, helping startups access Asian markets. South Korea ranked #16 in the AT Kearney Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index 2022. The nation plans to extend onshore trading hours for the won in an effort to improve access for foreign investors. Seoul City is forming various consultative bodies to expand cooperation with global companies.
Selected Startup Organizations
Startup Genome Members
Seoul Business Agency
Seoul Business Agency (SBA) is a subsidiary organization of Seoul Metropolitan Government for supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in Seoul. SBA supports SMEs through projects of digital contents, IT, BT, PR & marketing, and exhibitions & conventions, as well as attracting foreign commercial investment.
Key Ecosystem Players
News from the Ecosystem
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