The four organizations, namely, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Korean Startups & Entrepreneurs (KSE), the social club GORI, and the World Federation of Overseas Korean Traders Association (NY OKTA Jr.) are coming together to host what is to be the largest Korean startup event titled, the Korean Startup Summit NYC on Friday, Oct. 16 at the New Yorker Hotel A Wyndham. This is the second event since this April when the same four organizations co-hosted the Korean Startup Showcase NYC that drew more than 400 people in attendance.
This time, the event is back with even more astonishing lineup of entrepreneurs, investors, and founders of Korean descent. More notably, the showcase is inviting 15 of the most promising Korean tech startups from Korea to hear their presentations. Lastly, it hosts many seasoned Korean entrepreneurs as well as founders of some of the most innovative US startups to share stories of their inspiring entrepreneurial journey.
Tech for Korea met with four individuals from the organizing committee and asked them to share some of their excitement.
In this conversation are Joseph Juhn, intellectual property desk consultant at KOTRA, D.J. Moon, founder of GORI, Sang Lee, CEO of FinTech company DarcMatter and KSE president; and Jae Gon Yoo, product liability investigator at Samsung Electronics America and current president of OKTA New York.
(From left to right: DJ Moon, Joseph Juhn, Sang Lee, Jae Gon Yoo.)
Tech for Korea: Could you tell us about your organization and its involvement with the Korean startup scene in New York?
Joseph Juhn: KOTRA is a Korean government agency whose main function had traditionally been assisting Korean SMEs (Small and Medium entities) doing business in the US or elsewhere around the world. We have over 120 offices in 90 countries. However, with President Park’s Creative economy initiatives, the effect of which trickled down to all government agencies, KOTRA started engaging in startup programs. As for KOTRA New York office, I took the initiative two years ago, utilizing my position as an Intellectual Property (IP) Consultant as well as the resources available to me, to organize events exploring the relationship between IP issues (patent, trademark, copyrights, trade secrets) and startup ideas. I remember the first event where people really loved the subject matter: I sensed that there is a real, serious need among young entrepreneurs and startups for a platform where their startup ideas can be highlighted.
D.J. Moon: GORI is a membership-based organization that helps Korean and Korean-American professionals to achieve greater goals by providing them better ways to meet new people. It began as a small gathering of 40 young professionals in 2011, we now have more than 1,700 members and has hosted about 60 events for over 8,000 guests in three different cities – New York, Boston and Washington D.C.
One of our mission is to connect people to accomplish their dreams. Last 2 years, we’ve been trying to help US-based Korean startups to meet VCs and other strategic business partners, and help Korea-based startups to launch US operations by connecting them with right people.
Jae Gon Yoo: OKTA is a trade organization for expatriate Koreans in business. We have about 135 chapters in over 68 countries. The Next Generation Group, of the New York chapter, was created 13 years ago. We’ve since educated many young Korean American professionals and businessmen through our annual training school, as well as through monthly seminars and networking events. In the last 4-5 years, we have looked for new ways to interact with the community.
Sang Lee: KSE is among the largest volunteer run non-profit organizations in the United States focused on catalyzing and fostering Korean and Korean American startups and founders looking to succeed in the United States. Given its founding roots in NYC, our activity has been relatively concentrated in the North East, but we do anticipate becoming a nationwide organization. We currently almost have 1000 members in town.
Tech for Korea: What is your motivation to host and organize this event? How is it similar/different from K Startup Showcase in April?
Joseph Juhn: My main motivation is to give Korean founders and startups the rightful attention that they deserve in the NY startup scene. I don’t want to sound too nationalistic here (in fact, I am a US citizen) but I’ve often felt that despite their technological prowess and business capabilities, Korean founders – especially those from Korea – have struggled to set their foot in the US. I wanted to help create a platform where that perception can be transformed. Korean startups can make a serious dent not only in Asia but also here in the US. You can be the best baseball player in Korea or Japan but it’s only when you get to the US Major league that the world starts to notice you. Same logic applies for startups.
If the April Korean Startup Showcase NYC event was all about planting a Korean flag in the NY ground and saying we have a statement to make in the larger US startup ecosystem, this Summit event will elevate the status of Korean founders/startups to serious players that call for serious attention. This time, we are inviting 15 best Korean tech startups from Korea, to showcase their services/products. We are also doubling the size of the conference by inviting up to 600 attendees, not only from New York but also from Silicon Valley.
D.J. Moon: We believe creating an ecosystem will bring better chance for Korean startups to be succeed. That’s our motivation. In April, four organizations came together, for the first time, to make the K Startup Showcase happen. We had a great synergy from the K Startup Showcase, and could feel the excitement that Korean entrepreneurs bring to NY. We want to bring the same kind of energy this time. Our goal is to amplify this energy by connecting people with right mentors and peers, and to expand its reach throughout US.
Sang Lee: This type of event is exactly the support that we are seeking to provide entrepreneurs. Through valuable expertise, workshops and networking, we want to provide the perfect breeding ground for the next big Korean startups or founder. This is an evolution of an even bigger and better event following the K Startup Showcase in April. Furthermore, this is a unique event because of President Park’s timely visit to the United States and her ongoing dedication to support new entrepreneurs and startup economy.
Tech for Korea: I am sure one of the motivations is that you care about Korean startups. How would you describe Korean Startup scene in New York? and what is special about them?
Joseph Junn: The Korean startup scene in New York is young, but is growing rapidly. For the past 3 years or so, most of Korean government agencies along with private companies have only looked into SV and there was hardly any player in New York. As of the past two years, a few organizations, namely KSE, KOTRA, GORI, Dr. Hyuk-jeen Suh of Samsung Ventures, and OKTA, each played an important role in giving birth to what we now think of as the Korean startup ecosystem in New York. Our April event was a true milestone because this brought all these organizations together to work towards a same goal. Now, any startup-related events will easily draw 50-100 people. Every time, at least half of them are new faces, which is just one of the many indicators that more and more young professionals are exploring entrepreneurship and startup opportunities.
Jae Gon Yoo: Right now a lot of Korean startups are arriving in the United States, especially to Silicon Alley. I think what makes them stand out is that Koreans have great work ethics. They work on their responsibilities very hard, and they try to excel in whatever they are pursuing.
Sang Lee: The Korean founder and startup community in New York City is still pretty nascent. I think that’s just a direct correlation though with the overall startup economy of NYC. While it’s very active, it’s still just a small subset of the major industries in NYC like finance and law. I think the Korean startup scene is pretty unique in that many founders or senior members of teams have professional experience that they inject into companies. This is also tied in with the type of companies in NYC and the culture around it. Innovation is definitely important, but just as important are many of the business fundamentals and execution.
Tech for Korea: What is the vision of the event? In other words, what do you hope to achieve through this event?
Joseph Juhn: Our vision is to make a road to becoming a major-league player. Our ultimate hope is that Korean startups from Korea and Korean founders in New York capture the attention of major investors and industry leaders.
D.J. Moon: With Korean Startup Showcase NYC in April, Korean Startup Summit in October, and future events, we aim to create ecosystem that Korean entrepreneurs gather and share the energy and excitement. Through the ecosystem, we hope to create a comfortable ground for Korean entrepreneurs to make their vision come true and achieve greater goals.
Sang Lee: This event while large is still the beginning of many more to come. Through this event, we want the overarching investor community to take a great interest in Korean startups and founders, while also providing a great open ground for partnerships and new ideas to form.
Tech for Korea: Any last words to help those who are thinking of attending the event to buy tickets now? What can attendees expect to get from the event?
Joseph Juhn: We are expecting up to 600 audiences, which we don’t think would be too difficult based on the number of attendees we had last time, which was about 400. Come meet Korea’s 15 finest tech startups and also 15 of New York’s best startups founded by at least one Korean. We will also have some of the most prominent speakers such as Charlie Kim of Next Jump (creating billions of dollars in revenue), Sarah Paiji of Launch (who exited her previous company), Hyungsoo Kim of Eone (making wrist timepieces for visually impaired), and many more!
D.J. Moon: Whether you are entrepreneurs, professionals, or students, you will experience the high level of energy from this event. You should come out and be part of this vibrant community!
Sang Lee: Attendees can expect to hear really great perspectives from amazing entrepreneurs and investors while also having an ideal environment to network and form new friends and partnerships.