South Korea

Seoul #16

MEMBERS:
Seoul Business Agency

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has set the goal of turning Seoul into a “startup-friendly city for the youth” in our belief that young entrepreneurs are treasures of the city. We plan to enhance entrepreneurship training across Industry 4.0 sectors so that the city can give birth to more unicorn companies. We will also keep on supporting entrepreneurs beyond their start-up phase.

Se Hoon Oh
Mayor of Seoul
#4 Global Ecosystem: Knowledge
#3 Asian Ecosystem: Knowledge
Top 20 Global Ecosystem: Performance

Highlights

Seoul, already home to most of South Korea’s 11 unicorns, is aiming to become one of the world’s top 5 startup hubs by 2022. And the government is putting its money where its mouth is. In July the South Korean government announced plans to invest 114 trillion won ($94.5 billion) over the next 5 years into two ambitious new policies — the Digital New Deal and Green New Deal. Korean companies and local governments will contribute another $37.2 billion to the initiatives for a total of $132.6 billion. Complementary programs from the Seoul Municipal Government include the establishment of the IoT Incubation Center to support startups working to find solutions to urban problems, the creation of the Gyaepo Digital Innovation Park, and the creation of the Seoul App Business Center startup hub. The Seoul Global Startup Center supports foreign entrepreneurs moving to Seoul. The ecosystem also boasts plenty of privately run incubators and events. COMEUP 2020 was Korea’s biggest startup event to date attracting 1076 startups from 88 countries. Venture Capital World Summit helps connect entrepreneurs and investors. TIPS provides startups with incubation spaces in collaboration with universities and research institutes. Its angel matching fund scheme offers financial assistance to growing companies. Seoul startup success stories include global research firm and unicorn CB Insights, AI tutoring company Riid, which has raised a total of $248.1 million, and Fintech startup Viva Republica, currently valued at $7.4 billion.

Ecosystem by the numbers

TOTAL EARLY STAGE FUNDING
$2.5 bn
GLOBAL AVG.
$548 m
ECOSYSTEM VALUE
$47.2 bn
GLOBAL AVG.
$13.68 bn
MEDIAN SEED ROUND
$485 k
GLOBAL AVG.
$480 k
MEDIAN SERIES A ROUND
$3.3 m
GLOBAL AVG.
$3 m
SOFT. ENGINEER SALARY
$47 k
GLOBAL AVG.
$44 k

Sub-sector Strengths

AI, Big Data & Analytics

The big data analytics market in Korea was worth 1.674 trillion won (∼$1.5 billion) in 2019, a 10.9 percent jump from just a year earlier. The market is predicted to be worth 2.569 trillion won (∼$2.55 billion) by 2023. South Korea plans to invest $2 billion by 2022 in strengthening its AI research capabilities, including the development of 6 AI graduate schools. The government is also spending to strengthen its 5G and cloud computing infrastructure. Industrial AI company OnePredict has raised a total of $17.5 million in funding.

Life Sciences

Finnish business accelerator Aalto Startup Center teamed up with the Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development (kised) to launch the Korean Startup Center in order to support Korean Life Sciences companies hoping to break into European markets. Standigm, an AI-based drug discovery and development company, raised a $44.5 million Series C round in March 2021.

Gaming

South Korea’s game market size is projected to exceed 18 trillion won ($16.6 billion) in 2021, according to a white paper released by The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). In 2020, Korean gamers created around 265,000 jobs in the country. Seoul also hosts top global gaming event, the PAX Game Convention, which spotlights PC, online, arcade, console, VR/AR, and mobile gaming, as well as offering esports tournaments and talks with game developers. Game developer Npixel raised a ₩60 billion/$54 million Series A round in January 2020.

Reasons to move your startup to Seoul

Talent Pipeline

The Seoul Municipal Government (SMP) plans to train 1,600 technologists annually through six new industrial hubs, including Hongneung (Bio), Mapo (Fintech, Blockchain), and Gaepo and Yangjae (AI, Big Data). The SMP is also opening an “Innovation School” in the Gaepo Digital Innovation Park to train a total of 2,000 software engineers.

R&D

Seoul is home to an incredible 22,000 research facilities, and 24.7% of Korean’s research personnel live in the city. South Korea invested almost 90 trillion won (US$83 billion) in research and development (R&D) last year, making it the fifth-largest spender among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Startup Community

Startup Genome
Members

Startup Genome
Partners

Born2Global Centre
Chain.Asia LLC
Dream Plus
InterValue Partners
Koisra Seed Partners
Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation
Medici Investment
Pathfinder H
Quantum Ventures Korea
Sema Translink Investment
Seoul Center for Creative Economy and Innovations
Seoul Startup Hub
Seoulz
Sopoong
Thenews.Asia
Venture Square

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