The city government of Seoul is opening a new Seoul Global Startup Center on Aug. 1, the newest addition to the country’s growing support for the nascent local startup ecosystem. The center will offer a favorable environment for dozens of entrepreneurs to realize their business ideas by receiving help in the form of office space, paid expenses and support programs.
This center is unique in that it is explicitly geared towards non-Koreans who want to start a business in the country. Although the Park Geun-hye administration has put together many projects and initiatives to foster startup growth, most of them have been off-limits to foreign residents of the country.
"The Seoul GSC would like to see a great community of people with lots of global participation. In other words, we want the center to be a place where ideas can transition from other parts of the world to Seoul," said Landon Miller, a manager at the new center. "Foreigners have a unique perspective on what is missing in Korea, but need specialized help to make it happen."
According to the organizers, the center is evidence that Seoul City sees the benefits and job creation that innovative foreigners can bring. Miller, a U.S. expat in Seoul, noted that in Great Britain, immigrants operate 14 percent of businesses, employing over 8 million people, and Seoul sought to follow this example. “When these businesses are successful, they hire people, which adds to the economy of the country. It's a win-win,” he added.
Anyone wishing to be a part of the program can apply, and the center will select 40 companies for a six-month-long incubation program. The program includes 24/7 office space with space for hardware developers to create things, a voucher for expenses and services worth 10 million won, business development workshops, peer mentoring, in-house expert liaisons and even an all-expenses-paid two-week trip to China or Vietnam to learn about and network in the local market, if necessary. Additionally, the top 12 rated entrepreneurs in the program can receive an additional 5 million won plus participation in global exhibitions and other events.
The participants in the accelerator program in turn will be expected to give back by participating in the overall environment of the center. Those that do not participate may be asked to leave early. “We want a center where people get that help not only from our program, but from the community of entrepreneurs inside the program,” said Miller.
The SGSC has been put together by the Seoul city government in partnership with Rehoboth, a local private business incubator with 18 years of experience, that will operate the program, without profit, for the city of Seoul. Rehoboth already operates 36 business centers in Korea This marks the first time that the Seoul Metropolitan Government has partnered with a private enterprise to help foreign startups.
The first six-month incubation period runs from August to December 2016, and applications are due July 29. Requirements are quite generous -- applicants do not need a business plan, incorporation, or a relevant visa already to apply. If accepted into the program, foreign residents of Korea can receive visa support. Non-Koreans, teams of any size that include non-Koreans, and even global-oriented startups that do not include foreigners are all welcome to apply. Businesses that apply should be less than 5 years old. Interested applicants should apply through www.seoulgsc.com. For more information, feel free to contact David Dongwon Kang at SeoulSGC@acceleratekorea.com.