Top 5 Startup Communities in Seoul – Best of 2020

Starting a startup in Seoul can be a tough journey for many entrepreneurs in Korea. Startups in Seoul need to find helpful information in regards to funding, marketing, growth, legal support, and hiring. The good news is that there are still many startup communities in Seoul that offer answers to specific startup questions. Many of these startup communities in Seoul can help you make connections and give you opportunities to interact with other like-minded entrepreneurs.  

Seoul has become one of the top startup hubs in Asia. It is a place where great innovations and ideas can become unicorns. It has become the birthplace of tech startup giants like Kakao, Coupang, and Viva Republica just to name a few. Many of these Korean unicorns needed help with networking and industrial backup in launching their startups. For those looking to start a startup in Seoul, there are startup community organizations where you can exchange ideas. As well as, get assistance and tap into a support system to get through the challenges that will come when starting a startup. 

Here are the Top 5 Startup Communities in Seoul for 2020

1. Seoul Global Startup Center

Seoul Global Startup Center

Seoul Global Startup Center (SGSC) is located near Yongsan Station. It is our choice for the top startup community in Seoul. SGSC is a startup incubation center that supports foreign entrepreneurs living in Korea. It was founded in 2016 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Their aim is to be a one-stop global startup support system and startup hub in Korea. They fostered over 120 foreign entrepreneurs and has a community of over 1,000 foreign entrepreneurs in Korea. Therefore, for foreigners looking to start a business in Korea need to join the Seoul Global Startup Center incubation program. The center is operated by a consortium of 2 private companies. One is N15, the top hardware accelerator in Korea and WeWork Labs.

The Seoul Global Startup Center is comprised of 2 floors (3rd floor/4th floor). The third floor has a co-working space, cafe, reception desk, meeting rooms, office space, recharge rooms, and conference rooms. The fourth floor has additional office rooms. The center also provides paid interns through its Global Enternship program which provides opportunities for foreigners and Korean students to experience startups business and provide resources needed for startup companies. In addition, the center offers funding and mentorship with industry-leading experts in Korea. The startup community at SGSC is the strongest startup community in Seoul, especially for startups looking to enter the Korean market. Most of the entrepreneurs within this community speak English and can help guide you through your entrepreneurship journey in Korea.

2.  Seoul Startups

Seoul Startups CommunitySeoul Startups is an English-speaking startup community for Koreans, ex-pats, and entrepreneurs in Seoul interested in connecting with the Korean startup scene. They are a community of designers, marketers, developers, and entrepreneurs in Korea. Their website, slack, and Facebook page helps entrepreneurs in Seoul share and discuss ideas, work, culture, language, and integration to the market and life in Korea. In addition, Seoul Startups regularly holds community events and activities to create a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.  

Korean startup entrepreneurs need to join the Seoul Startups community to gain access to their global networking meetups, workshops, mentorship programs, and event promotions. Currently, Seoul Startups is working on a database for the Korean startup ecosystem and a YouTube channel on entrepreneurial life in Korea. Furthermore, those looking for the latest startup events, news support programs, coworking spaces, job openings, as well as, tips and advice, join their Slack. It already has over 1,200 active members. 

“Seoul Startups in an online and offline platform for foreigners and Koreans to connect with others on the startup scene in South Korea. It’s a place where people can share tips, advice, and information about doing business in Korea,” said Organizer for Seoul Startups, Marta Allina.

3. Seoul Startup Hub

startup communities in Seoul Startup HubThird, on our list is the startup community in Seoul called Seoul Startup Hub. If you are a foreigner living in Seoul, Seoul Startup Hub offers a variety of services and programs to help your startup succeed in Korea.  Seoul Startup Hub is a great place for networking, meetups, and finding free co-working spaces. Therefore think of Seoul Startup Hub as the one-stop service for startups in Seoul. They offer various incubation services such as working space, education programs, and consulting. Furthermore, startups will have access to their massive database of information on all startups in Seoul. In addition, they get management support through experts from various fields such as tax accounting, advertising, and etc.  

They hold hub networking days throughout the year where startups, investors, accelerators, and stakeholders come together to share ideas and information on investment, training, and startups. Furthermore, entrepreneurs can also practice their speeches before presenting their IR material to actual investors.  

They also have an Investment Information Room that has reliable investment information, investment attraction skills tests, and consulting services.  

Some of their innovative incubator programs include:

Kitchen Incubator – This is for startups in the food and beverage industry or individual entrepreneurs who want to develop and test their own recipes through their shared kitchen as well as their individual kitchen.  In addition, startups can use the space to come up with unique packaging and get the support they need to launch their brands. They also offer programs to help you operate a food business from creating menus to restaurant management.  

R-CAMP ZONE – This program is for startups that have failed and are looking for a comeback. They will help you improve your business model and consult with strategy. Furthermore, they will help with promotional marketing and market penetration support

Entrepreneur Training Space – This program offers specialized lectures on the basic and practical tasks needed for the startup industry in Korea.  Here startups learn the steps involved in starting a business and develop a business model. A certificate from the Mayor of Seoul will be awarded upon completion of the course. There are also courses on software engineering and Android/IOS Development to strengthen project planning skills in app/web-making.

“There are many small startup centers in Seoul that provide a more targeted approach to meet the diverse needs of entrepreneurs. So it is important for the Seoul Startup Hub to lead and connect all of them, in order to better serve the startups in a more synergized way,” said Director at Seoul Startup Hub, Moon Kyong-il.

4. Startup Alliance Korea

Startup Alliance KoreaStartup Alliance works to help the Korean startup community and help Korean startups expand into the global market. It was co-established by the Korean government and Korean Internet leading companies. They run the Startup Ecosystem Conference and the Korea Startup Forum. There they are able to gather opinions of stakeholders and discuss the future of Korea’s startup ecosystem. In addition, they organize seminars and conferences such as “Korean of Silicon Valley” to share experiences and knowledge with the startup ecosystem in Korea.  

The hold a biweekly Coffee Club event, a month Book Club event, and are constantly having Lunch events. These events help people meet entrepreneurs in the Korean startup community.  

Startup Alliance Korea provide different programs and help set up meetings with foreign startups. Furthermore, they offer education and consulting in order to spur the growth of entrepreneurs in Korea.  In addition, they help Korean startups and entrepreneurs find sponsorship for global startup conferences.  As well as, find mentorship with leading internet corporations, find pro-bono legal and accounting counsel. 

“I think it is essential to provide opportunity and interconnect everyone. That is what we do at Startup Alliance Korea. By organizing so many events and meetups we let people connect to each other. We are trying to connect entrepreneurs and startups with media, big corporations, and the government. So, basically, we’re trying to be a bridge with the startup world,” said Managing Director of Startup Alliance Korea, Lim Jung-wook.

5. Startup Grind Seoul

Startup Communities in SeoulStartup Grind is the largest independent startup community. All around the globe Startup Grind actively educates, inspires, and connects more than 2 million entrepreneurs in over 600 chapters. In addition, they nurture startup ecosystems in over 125 countries. This is done through events, media, and partnerships with organizations like Google for Startups Startup Grind Seoul’s main partner is Google for Startups. They held monthly events featuring successful Korean founders, innovators, educators, and investors who share their knowledge through fireside chats.

HONORABLE MENTION

Startup Branch

Startup Branch KITA (The Korea International Trade Association) recently opened Startup Branch at COEX. Their aim is to provide an open platform for startups to help them go global. Entrepreneurs in Korea, VCs, and accelerators can use the branch after registration. At Startup Branch, startups can pitch their ideas, use their office space, and network with VCs and accelerators in Korea.  

KITA is not tied to Korean government aid like Korea SMEs and Startups Agency. They focus on helping Korean startup organize meetings with Fortune 500 companies from all across the world. In addition, they offer mentoring services and helps Korean startups partner with Korean conglomerates and mid-sized enterprises to explore overseas business opportunities. Furthermore, KITA already has branches in New York and Dubai to help Korean startups connect with global companies. They recently held an online/offline startup conference in Seoul called NextRise 2020. It had over 200 startups participated. Furthermore, they will soon launch an online platform to attract more entrepreneurs. 

“The Startup Branch is an open platform for startups to not just expand their business, but also make connections with established corporations. KITA can help with providing a meeting place and enormous networks,” said CEO of KITA, Kim Young-ju. 

The Importance of Startup Communities in South Korea

The younger generation in Korea is actively looking to develop their skills. The days of finding a corporate job and performing tedious daily tasks are over. Students all across Korea are starting to get inspired by these startups communities and the idea of entrepreneurship. Many startup communities in Seoul allow students to participate and interact with experienced entrepreneurs. They help them with tips on how to make their business idea into reality. In addition, they are given the chance to see how real entrepreneurs in Korea work in a particular industry.

Great Place to Network

Startup communities in Seoul bring together members from difficult backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. However, most have the same goal which is to build a great startup. Many entrepreneurs in Korea will have their own stories of the ugly side of working in Korea which is a great way to bound. These networking events are a great way to not only find partners but also are a good avenue to raise funding.

These are just some reasons why startup communities are important for young entrepreneurs in Korea. Therefore, the experience and skills you will be getting will definitely be worth it, more than what Universities in Korea can offer. If you’re given the opportunity to become part of these communities, go for it! Or better yet, seek them out!