(Photo by Dohyun Lee)
On Friday Oct 16th, 2015, Korean Startup Summit NYC, the largest Korean Startup event in NYC, took place at The New Yorker A Wyndham Hotel. The event was hosted by the four organizations, KOTRA, KSE, OKTA, GORI. You can find the interview with the organizers here. The Korean government is very active in promoting startup culture in Korea and the event was organized as a part of president Park’s visit to US. Although President Park herself was not present, Jaehong Kim, the president of KOTRA, and Gheewhan Kim, Consul General of The Republic of Korea in New York gave opening remarks. With the clear display of governmental support, startup culture in Korea is rapidly growing with growing coordination among entrepreneurs, engineers, and venture investors. This event sought to bring Korean entrepreneurs in US together to create an eco-system for them to jumpstart the startup journey through building network most Koreans lack here in US. As with the size of the event, four forerunners in startup scene came to the event to give keynote and share their stories. They were, in the order of keynote, Charlie Kim, CEO & Founder of NextJump, Murat Aktihanoglu, Managing Director of ERA, Sarah Paiji, CEO & Co-founder of Snapette, and Miguel McKelvey, Co-founder of WeWork.
(From left to right: Charlie Kim, Murat Aktihanoglu, Sarah Paiji, Miguel McKelvey.)
And here are some takeaways from the keynote speeches!
Charlie Kim: Charlie Kim shared top 5 lessons that he learned through his experience, and talked about the pitfalls when building a startup.
- Mentorship : According to Kim, only about 4% of mentoring relationships can be called successful. The number one reason for the failure of the other 96% is that the partnership fails to be “give and take relationship [and] never turns into reciprocal relationship over time, and that’s why it fails”
- Relationship between co-founders : Founder relationships fail because people grow at different rates. As soon as one founder stops to grow, problem rises. “Humans are built to grow” Kim said. People start feeling burnt out when “stagnant in place.”
- Hiring : “Less is better.” Constraints lead to innovation, and staying lean maintains focus. Always be recruiting and always have options.
- Firing : “Break up properly.” Ex-employees are #1 walking advertisement of the company
- What advice to take and not to take : “Origin of advice matters” Think about where they learned what they are saying. He said that advisors have to be right 51% of the time, which can be learned over time.
Murat Aktihanoglu: Murat Aktihanoglu shared his perspective in Korean startup scene and talked about why you need to watch Korean startups.
- Creative Economy initiative has been in place for 2 years now. “In 2013 $1.2B was invested in Korean startups; In 2014 $1.45B; first half 2015 0.85B,” the investment is increasing. Korean government has $3.2B dedicated to startups.
- “Korea is ranked #1 in Bloomberg Global Innovation Index for past 2 years”
- Korea has most advanced technology infrastructure. “Fastest internet, most wide internet adoption is in Korea”, and Korea is the “best place for new mobile tech adoption”. He ended his speech by noting that investors should be interested in Korean startups.
Sarah Paiji : Sarah Paiji talked about her journey as an entrepreneur. Following is the summary of part of her story.
- Her journey started in HBS, when her entrepreneur classmates inspired her that “wow, I can just go and start a business.” She was interested in fashion and beauty industry, and was also conscious of the rise of mobile commerce at the time–and Snapette was her take at redesigning fashion retail service through mobile technology. When she needed engineer she went to MIT campus and “spent everyday there until I found someone that would help me.” One day, Dave McClure tweeted about Snapette. She did not know who he was at the time. She quickly found out that he was a VC and took an action. “I messaged him on Twitter saying ‘Hey, I would love to tell you more’”. He got back to her with his number and she called him, and she ended up joining 500 Startups for the summer.
- Throughout the talk, one of the main themes of her story was “just do it”. Whenever she saw chances, she took actions to seize the opportunity, and at the end she was able to establish a successful company.
Miguel McKelvey : Miguel McKelvey shared his journey from his first startup in Japan to WeWork. Following is the summary of part of his journey.
- Miguel’s journey as an entrepreneur starts in Japan. “No Scrubs” was the popular music in Japan at the time. However, Japanese had no idea what the lyrics meant. He recognized that there was “a lot of request [coming] from local community” for a place to learn everyday English, and started a successful website. After a while he quit the company to follow his original dream of becoming an architect, and soon moved to New York. His first tasks as an employee at an architecture firm were not glamorous. However, although fixing bookshelves was not what he had expected, he “felt like everything I was doing was preparation for the next steps”. His positive mindset helped him to experience and advance his career rapidly. After a while he noticed the office problem in NYC, real estate practice was not a good fit for startups which need flexibility. With that problem in mind he started WeWork, which provides shared space for multiple companies. WeWork solved many practical problems but “what really was cool was that the support system that created among the people sitting side by side”. He ended his keynote by sharing his visit to WeWork’s Chicago office last week. He said he “felt” it, and said “there it is, there is the energy”.
- His story centered around his ability to identify a problem near him and taking action to solve it. WeWork and Korean Startup Summit NYC have similarity in that they both strive to create “the support system” which every entrepreneur needs.