Korea hosts startup, investment events in Silicon Valley

2023.09.18 11:19:01 | 2023.09.18 13:40:39

Yoon Songyee, CEO of NCSOFT West (left), is making a presentation at the Tech Investment Outlook Forum at the Grand Hyatt at SFO in Silicon Valley, U.S. on Sep. 15 (local). [Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

Yoon Songyee, CEO of NCSOFT West (left), is making a presentation at the Tech Investment Outlook Forum at the Grand Hyatt at SFO in Silicon Valley, U.S. on Sep. 15 (local). [Photo by Yonhap]

Two big events took place in the United States’ Silicon Valley on Friday local time to support South Korean startups’ overseas expansion as well as connecting them with domestic and foreign venture capitalists (VCs). The two events, “K-Global@Silicon Valley: K-Day” and the “Tech Investment Outlook Forum,” were held at the Grand Hyatt at SFO.

K-Global@Silicon Valley has been hosted by the Ministry of Science and ICT since 2012 and is jointly organized by the National IT Industry Promotion Agency and the Korea Innovation Center.

More than 70 Korean startups and local companies from four tech sectors including artificial intelligence, health, metaverse, and enterprise solutions, participated in the event. Seventeen companies told the stories of their successful overseas expansions, and five startups presented their market entry strategies to domestic and foreign VCs.

Over 50 companies set up booths and held business meetings with the event’s buyers and investors.

The event also featured case studies of some of the most successful Korean startups and VCs to date. Jeong Saeju, chief executive officer of global healthcare company Noom, Inc., and Nam Ho, co-founder of Altos Ventures Management Inc., which invested in Korean delivery app Baemin and e-commerce company Coupang Inc., shared their success stories.

Jeong introduced Noom’s path towards becoming a unicorn company and underscored the importance of “saving every penny and focusing on one product with investment.”

“Korea has a short startup history but has a lot of talent, and we can see Samsung and LG Group entrepreneurs’ DNA are also in the startups,” Nam said. “Korea’s growth engine will be startups moving forward, and we will be able to see the next Samsung and LG Groups.”

“It is important to broaden our horizons in line with the rapidly changing global economic environment,” Park Yun-kyu, 2nd Vice Minister of Science and ICT, said in his welcoming remarks. “We need to go beyond competition and further grow the global market with global partners.”

In the afternoon the same day, the Korean Consulate General in San Francisco and the Korea Investment Corp. (KIC), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, hosted the Tech Investment Outlook Forum at the Grand Hyatt at SFO under the theme of “Promising Venture Investment Sectors and Themes for the Next Decade.”

The forum hosted Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures Management Inc., one of the United States’ largest venture capital firms based in Los Angeles, Holly Maloney from General Catalyst Partners, LLC, a well-known venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, Rick Yang, head of technology at NEA Management Co., and Yoon Songyee, CEO of NCSOFT West, as panelists. Ian Park, head of investment at KIC, moderated the panel.

The panelists shared various opinions on topics such as China, India, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

They agreed that direct venture investment in China will become increasingly difficult. “The era of increasing global interdependence and decreasing production costs (with the help of China) is coming to an end, as described in Peter Zeihan’s book,” Suster said. “It may be possible to invest in China as a limited partner in a fund, but it will be difficult to make direct venture capital investments (in Chinese companies).” Yang added, “We are significantly slowing down in China investments in terms of capital deployment and investing more in Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Europe instead.”

On the other hand, India attracted more optimism than concern.

“There are positive and negative scenarios for India, but I think we need to anticipate and act on the positive one in consideration of China’s growth,” Maloney said.

“India and Brazil are countries that we are watching closely because there are so many gamers there,” Yoon said. “India has also been the fastest-growing country within the past three years although its disposable income remains low.”

Investors also had different views on blockchain and cryptocurrency, which enjoyed a huge boom through 2021 but is now experiencing a market chill.

“Blockchain is the worst form of data given its slow speed and low performance, but it has the appeal of decentralization,” Suster said. “I think it’s going to come back in the next six to seven years in open-source computing.”

“Blockchain is driven by the incentive of coins, and it will not work well without the incentive,” Yoon said. “However, in terms of games, the fun factor is more important than incentives and many blockchain games are not fun.”

The forum was attended by more than 100 participants, including domestic and foreign Silicon Valley VCs, investors from corporate venture capital (CVC) firms, and financial institutions, as well as startup officials.

By Lee Duk-joo and Choi Jieun

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