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  • Urgent to Invigorate Global Startup Conferences

    Urgent to Invigorate Global Startup Conferences


    -      Among 3,730 international startup events, only 9 are Korean events -


    - KITA report, the value of ecosystem stays in low level, urgent to foster large conferences -



    It appears that it is urgent to reform the startups ecosystem in Korea through global conferences. 


    According to a report titled ‘Measures to Innovate Startup Ecosystem through Global Conferences’ issued by the Institute for International Trade (President, Shin Seung-kwan) of the Korea International Trade Association, the number of events such as start-up conferences increased more than 20 times in 4 years from 182 in 2013 to 3,730 in 2017. Private investment in startups also increased 3.6 times from 45.3 billion dollars in 2012 to 164.4 billion dollars last year. Slush, a leading conference in Finland, started with a small group of 400 people in 2008 and grew into a large global startup conference. Last year, with a total of 20,000 participants, including 2,600 startups and 1,500 investors took part in the conference. It is understood that the rapid expansion of global startup conferences is a result of fierce competition to find promising startups rather than better investors.


    * Global startup conferences are three-day events in which participants from startups, large companies, other parts of startup ecosystems and investors gather in one place to share information, seek funding and mentoring for business models



    However, the number of start-up events held in Korea in 2017 was only 9 and it was insignificant compared to active countries such as United States (1,735 in 2017) and the United Kingdom (518), and also other Asian countries like Singapore (96), India (67), China/Hong Kong (46) and Japan (29). In addition, the scale of the startup ecosystem in Seoul is very small, and their current network with overseas startups is also very poor. According to the Annual Report of Global Startup Ecosystem issued by the Startup Genome, a startup information analysis company, in 2017, the value of the Seoul startup ecosystem was 2.4 billion dollars, ranking 27th out of 45 surveyed areas, and it was only about 1 percent of the top ranker Silicon Valley. Moreover, it is urgent to strengthen their networks with overseas ecosystems as they not only influence upon receiving mentoring or investment needed for the startups in the early stages but also have a significant impact on subsequent scaling-up.



    In order for Korea to become a center for global conferences, it is necessary to create a boom by attracting famous international conferences and foster its own events in the mid to long term. Since Korea's startup ecosystem is still in its infancy, it is not easy to attract a large number of influential overseas investors and entrepreneurs in a single place. In this case, utilizing the brand power of famous international conferences can be an effective alternative. Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, which has hosted the Web Summit in Dublin through the government-led investment, is a good example.


     * The Tourism Authority of Portugal and the AICEP Portugal have successfully hosted the largest startup event in Europe by sponsoring 1.3 million Euro for the event. Leonardo Mathias, Deputy Minister of the Economy, has estimated an economic effect of 175 million Euro.


    In the mid to long term, the government and related organizations need to foster Korean conferences that are still at an early stage by supporting funds, space, and infrastructure to hold startup events or jointly holding the events.



    In addition, the quality of global conferences is determined by the quality of participating startups and the investors. Therefore, efforts to support startups including funding expansion and assistance for participating fee and to create a favorable environment such as providing tax benefits for foreign investors and entrepreneurs are required. Moreover, it is essential for startups and other involved people to exert their own efforts to invigorate the networks by expanding the small group gatherings between Korean and foreign startups, investors and related officials. 



    Kim Kun-soo, a researcher at the Institute for International Trade said, “Like holding exhibitions to introduce products to overseas markets, global conferences are rapidly rising as a measure to effectively introduce startups to overseas investors.” The researcher also stressed, “It is necessary to improve infrastructure to nurture startups and at the same time, the active participation of the government as well as the related organizations are also required to support innovative growth. 

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