[THE INVESTOR] Hundreds of CEOs, investors, startup officials and entrepreneurs took part in the inaugural edition of The Investor’s Choice awards at Hotel Shilla in Seoul on Nov. 28.
The event, which included a panel talk, was co-organized by investment news outlet The Investor and Korea’s No. 1 English newspaper The Korea Herald in a bid to recognize the contributions of local startups.
Kicking off the conference was a keynote video address by Jungwook Hong, chairman of Herald Corp., parent company of The Korea Herald and The Investor.
Jemmie Kim, Editor-in-Chief of The Investor, WeWork Korea General Manager Matthew Shampine, Viva Republica CEO Lee Seung-gun, Korelya Capital Managing Partner Fleur Pellerin and SparkLabs co-founder Jimmy Kim participate in a panel talk during The Investor’s Choice, a startup conference, held on Nov. 28 in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Investor)
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“No startup can do anything alone. As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a healthy and robust ecosystem to raise a company,” Hong said, emphasizing the importance of a startup ecosystem, which can nurture and support entrepreneurs in all stages, in order to bring changes.
The other keynote speeches were delivered by Fleur Pellerin, a former French culture minister who serves as the managing partner of startup venture capital Korelya Capital, and Lee Chang-wook, Korea country director of Money20/20, one of the world’s largest fintech conference organizers.
Introducing the fast-growing European startup segment, Pellerin said the vibrant market in the region is attributable to the combination of talent from conventional tech companies -- such as Nokia, Ericsson and Skype -- and a new generation of entrepreneurs trained at outstanding institutes.
“We have a large pool of tech talent and developers in Europe, approximately around 5.5 million, compared to 4.4 million in the US,” she said, citing a few studies.
As European startups seek to attract global investments, especially from Asia, it is the best time for investors here to ride on the shoulders of future giants, while Asian startups can have some chance to work with European partners, she noted.
Speaking at the event, Lee invited fintech companies and other firms, such as e-commerce players, to Money 20/20 conferences scheduled for next year.
“Fintech connects different industries and participants at Money20/20 events and participants will be able to network with other businesses and create value for customers,” he said.
Fleur Pellerin, co-founder and managing partner of venture capital Korelya Capital, delivers a keynote at The Investor’s Choice, a startup conference, on Nov. 28 at Hotel Shilla in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Investor)
They stressed that the government and market players must make joint efforts to get rid of regulatory hurdles that prevent the birth of unicorns, or possible decacorns -- companies worth over US$1 billion.
“A lot of new entrepreneurs here are really into doing new crazy stuff almost every day. Some will succeed and some will not, but at the end of the day they will be able to achieve ‘The Miracle on the Han River’ once again,” Lee of Viva Republica said.
Echoing his views, Shampine, who used to lead WeWork’s operations in China and Australia, added that “there isn’t really anywhere else like Korea where lots of things are happening and there are so many opportunities.”
Kim of SparkLabs said Korean people, in general, tend to be relatively afraid of failure, different from Silicon Valley where failures are some sort of medals of honor.
“It seems everything should be done in one go here, which I call a ‘sniper culture.’ You have to enter college with one try and you cannot fail,” he said, urging startups, government agencies and entrepreneurs to be more open and have positive views on failures.
Touching upon Korean conglomerates, many of whose businesses are sprawled across diverse sectors, including IT, manufacturing, shipbuilding and consumer, the panelists said established companies like Samsung, Naver and SK Telecom, do more good than bad, contrary to some critics who view them as deep-pocketed traditional firms that take away opportunities from small and medium enterprises.
“I think having such large companies here is blessing. You have good and experienced people who have worked at some of these tech companies and have resources and networks like Samsung and LG. They can help small startups to shape their ideas,” the WeWork Korea general manager said.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)