Seoul – Google’s first Asian start-up incubator

Avatar By Sam Klein | 5 years ago

Internet giant Google opened up its first Asian campus in Seoul this Friday. Google opened the campus to support start-up entrepreneurs, hoping to grant Korean high-tech programs and applications access to the world market. Google also hopes to gain more access to the Korean market.

“Campus Seoul, A Google Space,” is quite small compared to Google’s Silicon Valley campus. Located in the Gangnam district of Seoul, the office consists of 2,000 square meters of space for Korean start-ups to do their work. Despite its small size, Google’s aspirations for the campus are big. The company wants to turn the space into a haven for innovation in Asia.

Aspiring entrepreneurs will get encouragement, mentoring, networking opportunities, and access to investors that could help them launch ideas off the ground. According to the director of Google for Entrepreneurs, Mary Grove, this supportive environment is offered to the tech-savvy free of charge.

Grove explained that when start-ups succeed, Google benefits too. The more start-ups there are emerging from Google’s incubator, the more likely they are to become customers for Google products and services. She hopes the company’s foray into Korean markets will pay off.

South Korea is unique in that the top search engine spot belongs to a Korean Internet company, Naver. Google hopes to grab some of this market share by offering advice to young Internet entrepreneurs.

Google has similar start-up incubation offices in London and Tel-Aviv. The London campus has helped young companies attract over $110 million in venture capital, and has created over 18,000 new jobs in the three years it has been operating. Google hopes to replicate that success in Korea.

Early Campus Seoul member April Kim started a web-based translation company called Chatting Cat. Chatting Cat connects English students with native English speakers to help them correct their writing. English is a notoriously hard language to learn, and there is more demand now than ever for fluent English speakers.

Kim says that she likes the workspace and common areas, though she is particularly excited about the access to other start-ups for collaborative efforts. Sharing information and concerns, Kim says, can be a positive motivation for the nascent companies residing in Google’s new Seoul campus.

Google set its sights on Seoul in particular because of its lightning-fast Internet speeds, large pool of educated engineering talent, and highest concentration of smart-phone users anywhere in the world. These conditions create a perfect environment for fresh ideas backed by the Internet giant to flourish.

According to Campus Seoul director Jung-min Lim, the South Korean government has also recently made starting a new business easier for young entrepreneurs. A few years ago, Lim says, the government eliminated many of the regulatory hurdles facing new companies, and implemented policies that support start-ups.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye was present at the grand opening of Campus Seoul. In 2013, her administration appropriated $3 billion to help Korean high-tech companies gain a foothold in global markets.

As a result of South Korea’s systematic application of substantial resources to technology research and development, the Asian nation has become the world’s leader in patent activity as well as information and communication technology. South Korea leads the world in broadband penetration at 97%, and has average peak broadband speeds of 50 megabits per second.

The majority of Korean bandwidth resources are applied to online gaming, which is massively popular. South Korea hosts the World Cyber Games, the World Cup of video game competitions. There are three television channels devoted to online gaming, and professional gamers are treated like celebrities.

By leveraging Google’s resources with Koreans’ strong affinity for technological innovation, the Internet giant hopes to make a bold march into uncharted territories. The Google Seoul Campus is just the beginning.