Top 10 Social Impact Startups in Korea You Need to Know – Best of 2019

Investors are not just concerned about making money.  Many have already made all the money they could need and are looking to generate social and environmental value.  Korea’s impact investing sector is growing and there are many Korean VC firms and impact investors looking at social ventures that can change the world.  Social impact startups drive positive social and environmental impact while at the same time generating potential financial returns.  Therefore social impact startups can be in industries such as health, education, affordable housing, clean energy, and etc.  While startups in Korea usually tend to focus on growing quickly and generating profits immediately, social impact startups in Korea don’t purely focus on financial gain.  Their main focus lies in acting charitably and having a positive impact.

There are many great social impact startups in Korea that are operating in the fields of social innovation, social change, and social entrepreneurship.  These startups are devoted to doing a good deed and coming up with new strategies, concepts, and ideas to meet social needs.

Here at the Top 10 Social Impact Startups in Korea

1.  DOT

Social Impact startups in Korea DOTThe top Korean Social impact startup is DOT the creator of Dot Watch, a digital smart braille watch.  Over 400 million people around the world can’t read a watch face.  Dot Watch uses braille by having their “Dots” rise and fall to spell out braille words four characters at a time.  Furthermore, it gives real-time updates from whatever device it is connected to.  Therefore users can get social media alerts, texts, and emails instantly.

It can display the time/date, has a timer, a stopwatch, an alarm, and a bit of braille technology.  Furthermore, the Dot Watch Braille learning program is a simple, intuitive and entertaining way to learn and practice Braille letters and words.  The Dot Watch which is made of light aluminum weighs 60 grams. It can run on one battery charge for up to 10 days.

2.  YOLK (Solar Cow)

Korean Startup YolkKorean startup YOLK is the makers of Solar Cow, a solar-powered charging station that is shaped like a cow.  YOLK won the Aid Innovation Challenge at the 2018 AidEx in Brussels for using solar PV in a fun and innovative way.  YOLK is targeting under-developed countries to provide free electricity for parents who allow their children to attend school instead of working.  The “Solar Cow” is “milked” by the children who can take the detachable portable batteries to their homes for free electricity. Furthermore, each battery can store up to 10 watts of electricity.

The Power Milk batteries as they are called can only be charged at the school.  Therefore, by providing free access to electricity, families can save 20% of their monthly income.  The Solar Cow project’s goal is to bring 2.5 million children to schools in Africa. In addition, YOLK got a humanitarian fund from P4G and KOICA(Korean aid government) projects to install more Solar Cows in Kenya and Tanzania.

YOLK has been able to get over US$1 million in funding on its initial Kickstarter campaign. They are continuing to look for scale-up funding for their mass production. They are expecting to start a new Kickstarter campaign at the end of this year. For email alerts, subscribe to their newsletter on their homepage.

3.  DamoGO

damogo Korean startupKorean social impact startup DamoGO is looking to make a difference in the food waste problem in Korea.  Their goal is to become the leader not just in Korea, but in Asia when it comes to reducing food waste.  Their app offers people in Korea to get food from restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores at discounted prices.  This is great for businesses in Korea because they will get additional revenue streams and it is great for users because they will be able to great food at a fraction of the cost.  All this will lead to the reduction of food waste in Korea.

DamoGO is one of the fastest rising startups in Korea.  They have already partnered with over 65 stores and have mobilized several charities, organizations, and homeless shelters.  They were recently nominated as the top Digital Solution at the World Summit Award Korea.

4.  Eone

Social Impact Startup EoneKorean social impact startup Eone is the creator of Bradley Timepieces which are timepieces designed for people with low visibility.  Their design allows for anyone to see the time through touch.  It allows you to keep track of the time during meetings, interviews, dates, and dark theaters.  They were able to raise over $600,000 on Kickstarter from over 3.800 sponsors.

5.  Lineable

korean startupKorean IoT startup Lineable creates smart solutions that help families protect and prevent potential problems.  They use the most advanced technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS, and LPWAN to create the most effective and price competitive gadgets to the market.  Lineable specializes in connected wearables to keep families connected to their loved ones at all times by a push of a button. Their most popular product is Lineable One which is a smart wearable band that locates your child (aged 3-7) in case of an emergency.  In addition to the child’s location, it can monitor the child’s health status and activity history through the Lineable App.  Therefore, in case of an emergency, the parents and the caretakers can use Lineable App to track the child’s location real-time. 

6.  Social Impact Operations

social impact operationsSocial Impact Operations helps sustainability with professional advice on management and organizational operations to create social impact.  Besides management support consulting, Social Impact Operations offers business counseling and practical coaching.  They help social impact startups through coaching, training, and education for young changemakers.  ​They can assist with cooperation between companies and organizations.  In addition, they can plan and operate a competition for companies and foundations.  

7.  CRAFTLINK

Social Impact Startups in Korea CraftLinkKorean Social Impact startup CRAFTLINK helps single mothers in Korea, as well as South America, produce and develop handicrafts.  Currently, there is not enough support for single mothers in Korea.  Therefore CRAFTLINK created the CraftLink Korea Collection which allows for mothers to work at home for flexibility.  CRAFTLINK provides the training and will supply the materials and be in charge of the cost, design, and branding to minimize the burden on single mothers. CRAFTLINK is a social venture that connects the world and makes a difference through handicraft.

8.  The Big Issue (Korea)

Korea The Big IssueKorean social impact startup The Big Issue is an online magazine created by the participation of talent donors from various fields.  Their mission is to end poverty by creating opportunities through self-help, social transactions, and business solutions.   The Big Issue provides homeless workers with legal jobs in cooperation with Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul Metro.  The homeless can become a Big Issue Salesman after a two-week training session.  Furthermore, If they are a salesman for 6 months they will be eligible for a rental housing application.  The Big Issue publishes 10,000-15,000 copies every other week.  Over 100 homeless people register to become a Big Issue salesman every year.

9.  HireChance

Korean Social Impact startup HireChanceKorean social impact startup HireChance sells delicious, impactful coffee to help refugees build their future careers.  HireChance sources sustainable, ethical, and delicious single-origin coffee from refugee-producing regions and brings it to market through online & offline B2B and B2C channels with fairer than Fair Trade support for their coffee farmers.  Furthermore, the startup invests 25% of its sales to provide refugees with access to online education courses through their partners in order to provide a clear path to their career development.  Therefore this is a win-win scenario for refugees, employers, and society at large.

10.  VolunCulture

Korean Social VentureKorean social impact startup VolunCulture offers social contribution programs to corporations.  On their site, people can sign up for a variety of volunteer programs whether they are short term or long term.  In addition, VolunCuture wants to create a fun and voluntary culture of volunteering and increase the participation rate of volunteers to create a better world.

HONORABLE MENTION

The Test Kitchen

The Test KitchenKorean social impact startup The Test Kitchen makes healthy and tasty crackers with local Koreans without using any additives.  They employ the elderly living in Korea and allow people from different generations a place to sit together, have conversations, and create good healthy snacks.  Their first project was to develop these simple and easy to store handmade crackers.

MYSC

Korean Social Venture CompanyMYSC is a consulting and impact investment organization that specializes in social innovation.  Therefore, their aim is to solve complex social problems through social innovative ideas and business models.  MYSC plans and operates cross-sectoral cooperative projects through consulting, incubation, training, and investment while understanding the unique language and values of each sector.  Their clients include large corporations, public institutions, international organizations, and NPOs.  Therefore they can provide consulting to help customers define problems and develop human-centric solutions based on a human-centered approach.  Furthermore, MYSC provides investment and advice to large companies and social ventures seeking both financial value and social impact.