Korean Startups Need to Perfect Their Pitches to get Funded in Korea

Korean Startups might have new and innovative ideas but in order to become a successful startup, they will need to perfect their pitches in order to get funded in Korea. These pitches, of course, need to be in English as well as Korean because you will need to be ready to pitch to both Korean and global investors. Korean startups might have a great product or service but they lack the support system and global connections to move forward. ASEAN Angel investors are starting to look towards Korea for innovative technology. However, Korean startups still are not strong targets for investors in Europe and the United States. For startups in Korea to grow outside of Korea and Asia, they need funding, global partners, press, and most importantly…global mentors. The best place to find all these are at pitch events and startup meetups around the world.

However, due to COVID, most startup events are taking place online. Therefore, it is vital you have a solid pitch deck and your pitch presentation is on point. Pitching contests are the best platform for startups in Korea to get maximum exposure from the global startup community. It is not a matter of winning the competition but rather growing your network and brand.

Get Funded in Korea with a Successful Pitch

Having a successful pitch is the key to any investment meeting whether it is offline or online. This is why Korean startups should practice in order to perfect their pitch, both in English and Korean. By going to as many pitch contests as possible, it will give startups in Korea the chance to practice in front of a large audience or on camera. Doing pitches is all about trying to raise capital. Many pitch contests will have investors in the audience. While Korean startups might have their pitch presentation down in Korean, they might struggle to show the same level of confidence in English. However, the more you practice the better you will get. There are many workshops in Korea that help entrepreneurs with not only their pitch deck but also their speech presentation.

Korean Startup Pitch Competition

During pitch contests, startups have an opportunity to meet entrepreneurs with the same goals. This is definitely harder online, therefore it is best to get the contacts for everyone on the online event and try and reach out to them on LinkedIn. This is a great opportunity to form partnerships. As startups form partnerships, they gain strength as they will improve their network which in turn can open doors for new partners and new ideas. Many Korean startups are closed off because of their lack of English speaking abilities which is why they are hesitant to join these online global pitch competitions. They might be shy to be in front of a camera, however, this is something every entrepreneur in Korea needs to break. A great way to start is to start off with just a one to one meeting. Then after you feel comfortable, bring in another person. Then another. In a matter of a few months, you will be used to speaking with a group of 10 plus entrepreneurs.

Here are Top 10 Tips for Korean Entrepreneurs to Perfect Their Pitches

1. Show that your care.

For many Koreans, showing passion is not easy. They are taught at a young age to suppress their emotions. However, in a startup pitch, emotion is key. You shouldn’t have to fake passion. The audience and the judges need to see your passion in order to care. They are investing in the entrepreneur more than the product or service. Judges and investors want to see the enthusiasm and genuine passion for their vision. They probably had many instances where they invested in a Korean startup only to see that particular company lose interest and move on to other things. Their investment is now worth nothing. Therefore, investors in Korea want to see that passion because that will be a clear sign that you are in it for the long haul.

2.  Tell a story.

Storytelling has been proven to capture the audience’s attention and hold it. It also makes your pitch easily remembered by the judges who might have to listen to 5-10 other startups. Many of these judges and investors can find your information through your site or your deck. Pitches are a chance to show them something they can’t find on a term sheet. A good story can really connect emotionally with your audience. You can tell a story about a real customer. Your startup origin story. A story that shows why your product or service is important. Keep it simple but memorable. Explain to them why you decided to start your company, everyone loves a startup journey story and this would be a great place to start.

3.  Start off with a bang.

Experts say that people start to tune out within the first 30 seconds of a pitch. The first step to perfect their pitches is to grab their attention early. This is why if you have something important to say you need to say it right away. Don’t wait until the end of your presentation. However, still, leave a little something at the end to keep their attention focused on the presentation. Let them know you have a phase 2 project you are excited to show them at the end. Keep them from tuning out.

4.  Clearly explain your product or service.

A helpful tip is to use Analogies. Saying that you are the Uber of Korea or the Netflicks of Korea clearly explains what you do. Furthermore, when explaining your product or service, try to stay away from technical terms that most people will not understand. Your goal is for your audience to clearly understand what your company does. A few tips might be to actually have your product and hand it to the judges or investors. If it is a service a quick video or a few images should clearly explain what your service does. If they don’t understand your product or service after a 5-minute presentation, your presentation did not go well. This can be hard for Fintech companies or SaaS companies so make sure your visuals are easy to understand and not cluttered with numbers and large amounts of text.

5.  Show why you are better than your competition.

When doing this don’t talk bad about any company. Just explain why your company is different and smarter. This is very important as you will need to have SOMETHING that separates you from your competition. The more the better. As your company grows, keep adding to the list. For example, at Seoulz we always stress our strong presence on Google. A lot of media companies in Korea mainly focus on Naver, which gave us a window to dominate the Google market. Find what you do best and explain why you are able to do it so well.

6.  Clearly explain your target market.

Korean startups always need to show whether or not they are looking locally or looking to go global. Market ideas and techniques will be different depending on the market. If it is only for the Korean market, clearly explain that and the reason why. This is crucial in order to perfect their pitches and will show that you know your customers and the formula for acquiring these customers. Most startups in Korea try to position themselves as a global startup with a potential global market. This is great because investors like global potential. However, if your product or service is not innovative enough, investors will clearly call you out in regards to global competition. There might be other services and products like yours, however, it has not yet entered the Korean market. There is nothing wrong with focusing just on the Korean market if you have the potential to dominate it.

7.  Explain your revenue model.

Most investors invest because they want to see a return on their money. Your pitch will be a success as long as you show how your company will make money. Most Korean startups will not have sales to show for years, however, a tip would be to show a sample beta test or sales from a local show or use case. Even a small sample can be used to showcase the potential of your product or service. Investors understand that it takes time for startups to start to turn a profit. However, if you don’t have a clear business model then you won’t get funded in Korea. Business models can always chance, so make sure it is in your pitch deck.

8.  Be realistic.

Judges and investors know when an entrepreneur is talking above their heads. IPOs and exits might look good but is it realistic? The more realistic you are, the more believable you will be. You don’t want to look like a salesman up there. Many of these investors have trusted entrepreneurs who have promised the world and already have been burned. So don’t go overboard with projections and graphs. If the numbers don’t match up, you will end up being on the hook for something you can’t deliver.

9.  Practice 2 min, 5 min, and 10 min pitches.

All pitches are never the same. This is why you need to prepare for all lengths. There might be times when you enter a pitch competition thinking it is a 5 min pitch, only to find out it is actually 2 minutes. Being prepared for all situations is crucial. Also, there will be many times when you will have to give a pitch on the spot. Then you have the option to choose depending on how much time you think you have. Options are key. Once you have these three pitches ready….practice, practice, and practice some more. This means in total you should have 6 pitches. 3 in English and 3 in Korean. Once you have these 6 pitches down you will be prepared for any situation that might arise.

10.  Prepare possible questions that might come up.

When you practice your pitch try to practice in front of other entrepreneurs. Then collect all the questions they have and form answers to all these questions. This way no matter what kind of question is thrown at you during your live pitch…you will be ready for every one of them. You should never be caught off guard by any question. Most pitch contests are actually won or lost during the Q&A session. You might have killed it during your 5-minute presentation but if you mess up your Q&A, you are not winning.

Potential Global Exposure

Now that you are ready to present it is important to think outside of Korea and enter as many global startup pitching contests as possible. These startup conferences will have global press covering startups. This could, in turn, lead to global exposure. Getting your startup covered by one of these top media outlets can bring many opportunities in regards to funding and partnerships. One mention in a big tech media site like TechCrunch could give startups valuable exposure. Startups will also get a chance to meet the press as well as experts in their field at these events. Feedback will be crucial to not only improving your pitch but also improving your product or service. Think of this as a comedy set where you learn every time you perform. Getting feedback directly from the audience and experts will give you valuable feedback that would be otherwise hard to get.

A pitch can be short and to the point. Getting the message across to the audience in a clear way is the key. Korea had many pitch events before COVID-19. We hope these pitch events come back. Pitching at live events in front of an audience and a panel of judges comprised of industry experts is something every Korean startup needs to do.