Top 20 Korean Entrepreneurs Who Built Successful Startups – Best of 2019

These days, more and more Koreans are looking to become entrepreneurs instead of working for a Korean corporation.  One of the main reasons for this is the success of many Korean entrepreneurs who have found great success in Korea’s startup industry.  They have encouraged the next generation of entrepreneurs in Korea and have helped create a startup community where they can flourish.  Many Korean entrepreneurs are starting their own company because they are frustrated with trying to climb Korea’s corporate ladder.  Those that are disappointed in the working culture in Korea have decided to start their own working culture.  However, starting a startup is very risky, which is why many Korean parents presser their children to get stable employment with the government or a big Korean corporation.

The entrepreneurs on this list were able to take the risk and become successful.  Their success has made being a startup entrepreneur in Korea socially acceptable.  This decade saw Korean investors and the Korean government put a lot of money into the Korean startup ecosystem.  This trend is likely to continue as Korea becomes one of the leading tech hubs in Asia.  Many talks to those Korean entrepreneurs who took the risk and dared to try something different.

Here is the list of the Top 20 Korean Entrepreneurs for 2019

1. Sophie Kim

Korean Entrepreneur Sophie KimOur choice for the Top Korean Entrepreneur is Sophie Kim the founder and Ceo of Market Kurly, one of the largest and fastest-growing dedicated online grocers in Korea.  Sophie spent 10 years working for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and Temasek as an investment banker and consultant.  At Goldman Sachs, she was a banker that specialized in mergers and acquisitions.  While working at management consulting firm Bain & Co. she came up with the idea for Market Kurly.  She has become an expert in startup fundraising having raised over $110 million during their series D round.

2.  Joey Kim

Joey Kim Korean EntrepreneursJoey Kim is the Ceo of PeopleFund, a marketplace leading platform.  He created Korea’s first and only marketplace lending platform that is fully integrated with a commercial bank.  Before starting PeopleFund, Joey started his career in the Corporate Finance team at Macquarie Securities’ Investment Banking Division.  Then he spent 5 years in management consulting at Bain & Company conducting multiple corporate M&A, vision & portfolio strategy, and operation reengineering projects, in both Seoul and Boston.  He joined Softbank Ventures as a VC to discover, invest, and manage numerous startups at various stages focusing on the internet/mobile industry.

3.  JH Kim

JH Kim Korean EntrepreneursJH is the Ceo of ICONLOOP and the council member for the ICON Foundation.  He majored in computer science & engineering at POSTECH University and holds the CISA qualification.  Before ICON, JH worked in the field of information security for nearly 20 years.  He has extensive experience in developing patented applications such as PKI, authentication and security protocol, and products applied to the embedded environment to enterprise environment in the finance, public, and private sectors.

4.  Daniel Shin

Daniel Shin Entrepreneurs in KoreaDaniel is the CEO of Terra.  He is the former CEO of TicketMonster, Korea’s leading e-commerce platform with $3.5 billion in GMV.  In addition, he is the co-founder and board member of Fast Track Asia.  He is considered one of the top e-commerce entrepreneurs in Asia. Daniel has a BS in Economics from Wharton Undergrad.  He founded Terra to design a price-stable digital currency that will power the next-generation payment network on the Blockchain.  To date, a total of fifteen companies with a total of $25 billion in annual transaction volume and 40 million customers have joined the Terra Alliance.

5.  Dino Ha

Dino Ha CEO at Memebox Dino Ha is the CEO of Memebox.  Sine he was young, Dino has always been fascinated by computers.  So much so that he caught himself C+ coding at a young age.  He moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion.  Then he attended Parsons School of Design and graduated with a degree in Fashion Market.  He later joined Tom Ford as an intern.  There he worked in the PR department until he was asked to return to South Korea and help launch the brand abroad.  After Tom Ford, Dino joined TicketMonster before finding inspiration to start his own startup.

6.  Christine Chang

Christine Chang Korean EntrepreneursChristine Chang is the Co-Ceo and Co-Founder of Glow Recipe.  She studied Business Administration, International Business, and Marketing at Washington University in St. Louis, and went on to complete a Master of Arts Degree in East Asian Studies at Columbia University.  Afterward, Christine worked at L-Oreal Korea as a marketing and product development executive before launching Glow Recipe in 2014 with her friend Sarah Lee.  Christine is considered one of the top Entrepreneurs in the Korean beauty industry and she has been featured in numerous online publications like InStyle and CNBC.

7.  Tony Kim

Tony Kim

Tony Kim is the CEO at Studio XID. Studio XID.  He has over 10 years of experience as an interaction designer and in user experience design.  He joined Google China in 2010 and then transferred to Google Korea in 2012.  Before Google, I worked at NHN Korea and NHN China for 4 and a half years.  Throughout his career, he directed user experience strategies of corporate services, guided rich interaction design from conceptualization to implementation.  

8.  YJ Min

Korean Female Entrepreneur YJ Min

YJ Min is the CEO and Co-founder of Konolabs, an AI startup for enterprises to manage their time smartly.  Before starting Konolabs, she had been working for Daum, the second-largest Internet portal in Korea for 19 years. Mainly she contributed to developing a variety of online services such as Daum Cafe, Tistory and many other innovative web & mobile services. Right before leaving Daum, she initialized internal venture acceleration organization as well as led strategic partnerships with foreign companies such as Yahoo Japan, Microsoft (US) and Twitter. YJ.Min received her M.B.A from MIT Sloan and B.S in Computer Science from Hallym University in Korea.

9.  Victor Ching

Victor Ching Entrepreneur in Korea

Victor Ching is the CEO at Miso.  He was born and raised in Hawaii by his Korean mother and Chinese father.  He moved to Korea in 2005 and was one of the starting members of Korea’s food delivery platform Yogiyo.  Miso, a home cleaning service became Ching’s fourth startup.  Furthermore, he was able to raise $2.85 million from Y Combinator, the largest venture investment firm in Silicon Valley in 2015.

10.  Saeju Jeong

Saeju JeongSaeju Jeong is the Ceo of Noom Inc.  He was an entrepreneur at a very early age.  At the age of 19, he established BuyHard Productions in Korea.  It was an independent music label chosen as the most promising e-business in Korea in 2001.  He expanded into Asia and then New York.  He became the sole representative of an international music company.  While in New York he was able to build a team for the Asian tour of the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” without knowing anyone in the industry.  He studied electrical engineering at Hong-ik University and worked as an IT specialist in the Korean defense industry for 3 years.  In addition to running Noom, he sits on South Korea’s Ministry of Science & Technology’s steering committee and the board of Chonnam Hospital, South Korea’s largest private hospital.

11.  Hyemin Lee

Hyemin Lee Korean Female EntrepreneursHyemin Lee is the Ceo of Finda.  She went to Korea University and interned at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  After graduating she worked at STX Corporation as a project manager for new strategic business development and investment for STX Group.  Hyemin later joined Rocket Internet and co-founded their first subscription business model, Glossybox, and lead expansions to 7 Asian countries.  She then established People & Co., Ltd, an e-commerce and marketing consulting startup.  Furthermore, she is a venture advisor for 500 startups and a mentor of Google campus Seoul to support and build the Korean startup ecosystem.

12.  Daniel Chan

Daniel Chan Entrepreneur in Korea

Daniel Chan is the CEO of JANDI an international enterprise social software company backed by Softbank Ventures and Cherubic Ventures.  Prior to JANDI, he co-founded and jointly managed client relationship development, underwriting, and execution for Unity Investment Partners, a merchant bank specializing in advising high net worth families on long-term investment strategy and operational restructurings.  In addition, he was also an early member of TPG Opportunities Partners where he helped develop its US asset investing and European special situations business units, as well as early member of Moelis & Company.  Daniel was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in finance and marketing.

13.  Sung Un Chang

Sung Un Chang Korean Female Entrepreneur

Sung Un Chang is the CEO at Yolk.  She graduated from Art Institute of Chicago and SBC Young Entrepreneurship Academy. She has won many awards such as the Red Dot Design Awards 2009, IF Design Award 2010 & 2018, M+D+F Design Awards, CES Innovation Award 2017 & 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Award 2016 & 2018, and more. At YOLK, she started the Solar Cow project, a humanitarian solar charging system for eradicating child labor and providing educational opportunities in developing countries, and launched Solar Paper, the world’s thinnest and lightest solar charger.  Furthermore, The Solar Cow project won a 2019 CES Innovation Award in the category ‘Tech for a better world’, an AidEx 2018 Innovation Challenge Award, and the iF 2018 Social Impact Award.

14.  Ted Kim

Ted Kim Entrepreneurs in KoreaTed Kim is the Co-Founder and Co-Ceo of Zikto, the company behind Insureum which uses the blockchain to provide insurance companies with the data they need to create better policies while at the same time rewarding policyholders for sharing their anonymized data.  He focuses on the development and engineering behind the Insureum Protocol.  Before Zikto, Ted worked in the “Future Device Lab” at LG Electronics specializing in machine and deep learning.  In addition, Ted majored in both electrical engineering and computer engineering (MS) at Purdue University.

15.  Simon Lee

Simon Lee Flitto CEO Simon Lee is the Ceo of Flitto.  He was born in Kuwait, then moved to the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, before finally settling down in Korea.  He became an investor with SK Telecom and in 2007 founded a startup called Flyingcane.  Then in 2012, he founded Flitto.  Simon credits his ability to adapt to new environments as one of his key strengths as an entrepreneur.  Korean entrepreneurs can learn a lot from Simon and his journey into the Korean startup ecosystem.

16.  David Joo

Korean Entrepreneur David JooDavid Joo is the Co-CEO at Knowre.  Knowre was named “Best Instructional App” by the New York City Schools GapApp Challenge and was recognized as “The World’s Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in EdTech” by Fast Company.  He has built and managed a team of 60 employees ranging from Product Managers, Software Development, Design, User Experience Architects, Content Development (for both US and Korean curriculum) and Business Development.  He has structured, negotiated and closed partnership agreements in both the US and Korea.  Previously, David was involved in investment banking, public markets investing, credit analytics and sales & marketing.

17.  Chae Yong Wook

Chae Yong Wook

Chae Yong Wook is the CEO at Looxid VR.  The startup won the Best of Innovation Award in VR at CES 2018.  Chae Yong had been able to form partnerships with major Korean companies in the advertisement and auto industries for Looxid VR to be their strategic marketing tools provider.  He holds a master’s degree in bio and brain engineering from KAIST with a specialty in brain-computing interface technology.  His project at KAIST had involved developing sensors and algorithms that would enable robots to move in accordance with the brain waves of a human controller.  Before Looxid VR, Chae co-founded Ybrain, a health-tech startup.

18.  Dave Cho

Dave Cho Korean EntrepreneurDave Cho is the CEO of Classting, the biggest Edtech service for schools.  Previously he was an elementary school teacher and he received his master’s degree in computer education from Seoul National University of Education.  He has over 10 years of experience combining education with technology.  He founded Classting to bridge the gap between Education and Technologies.  Classting received the Global K-Startup Award from Google.  In addition, he was able to get funding from Softbank Ventures and Samsung Ventures two of the top VC firms in Korea.  Dave is one of the top Korean entrepreneurs in the EdTech space.

19.  Jenna Lee

Jenna LeeJenna Lee is the Ceo of AIM.  She has a background in engineering, investing, and management consulting.  Prior to starting AIM, Jenna was a partner at TheVentures and the chief accelerator at Vingle.  She was also with The Boston Consulting Group as a consultant and also worked at TIDE Institute as their US director.  Jenna has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She also studied Special Studies in Economics, Graduate School of Arts and Science at Harvard University.  In addition, Jenna took MBA, Finance, Entrepreneurship & Innovation at New York University – Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

20.  Sung-ho Han

Sung-ho Han is the CEO of Olive Healthcare.  Dr. Han graduated from Seoul National University in Korea with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics and later received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado.  He previously worked at LGE where he developed a medical imaging device for early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis by imaging the inflammation status at finger joints.  In 2016, he set up Olive Healthcare to provide healthcare solutions to customers. Furthermore, he is one of the top Korean entrepreneurs in the field of health tech.