Expert Insights: Approaching South Korea for Expansion

Eungyu Park is the Partnership Lead for South Korea at Rainmaking Expand. She has a strong background in supporting startups, scaleups and SMEs in various sectors such as life sciences, ICT, new materials, retail and more. She is incredibly passionate about the startup ecosystem and works closely with the Rainmaking Expand team and the companies in our programmes to drive success in South Korea.

In today’s article, Eungryu shares about the trends within the South Korean market and how companies can prepare themselves for market entry.

Hi, I’m Eungyu Park, Partnership Lead at Rainmaking Expand in South Korea. If you haven’t read my last article yet, I recommend starting there. I have been working within the startup ecosystem for a while and have been able to witness and now participate in the growth of South Korean companies collaborating with international startups, scaleups and SMEs.

South Korea is a fast-growing market with a tech-savvy population and a robust economy, making it a promising destination for companies looking to expand their business horizons. Despite this, it is often overlooked due to other mega markets like China, Japan, and India. But by GDP, South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world and the fourth largest economy in Asia. Therefore, companies should never overlook South Korea when considering expansion.

Trends of interest to international companies

As someone who has been involved with the South Korean market, I have noticed some key trends that could be of interest to companies looking to expand their reach in the region. One of the most prominent trends is the increasing interest of South Korean corporates in collaborating with startups, particularly in the areas of fintech, healthcare, and artificial intelligence. This presents an excellent opportunity for companies with innovative solutions and technologies in these sectors to establish themselves in the market and form strategic partnerships with well-established South Korean companies.

Another significant trend is the growing focus on sustainability and environmental protection, which has become a key priority for the South Korean government. In fact, the government has set a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and there is a growing demand for companies working on renewable energy, clean technology, and sustainable materials.

With South Korea’s strong emphasis on environmental protection, companies that can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability will be well-positioned to succeed in the market and contribute to these ambitious goals. Overall, these trends demonstrate that the South Korean market is full of opportunities for innovative companies, especially those with a strong focus on collaboration and sustainability.

The South Korean market is evolving

The rise of corporate venture capital (CVC) in the South Korean market is a significant shift that is attracting the attention of companies around the world. With the government easing regulations to allow holding companies to set up CVC arms, there is a growing interest in open innovation and startup collaborations. This has resulted in a surge of investment activity, creating potential partnerships for foreign companies looking to enter the market. The CVC arms of established South Korean corporations present a unique opportunity for foreign companies to tap into the market and gain access to resources that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

The South Korean government’s focus on promoting innovation has also contributed to the rise of CVC. This is evident in the increasing collaboration between startups and corporates in areas such as fintech, healthcare, and artificial intelligence. With South Korean corporates showing a keen interest in working with startups, there is a growing need for foreign companies to explore these areas and seek potential partnerships. As a result, the South Korean market is fast becoming an attractive destination for companies seeking to expand their innovation capacity and gain a foothold in one of the world’s most dynamic economies.

South Korea’s venture capital market has been booming in recent years, playing a crucial role in supporting startups in the country. The Korea Venture Investment Corp (KVIC) mother fund, valued at around USD 950 million, is an important source of support for startups and venture capital firms in the region. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry continues to grow, with 231 active venture capital firms and 1,737 operating funds committing to a total of USD 44.4 billion in 2022. These impressive numbers demonstrate the industry’s remarkable growth, positioning South Korea’s venture capital market as a major player in the global startup ecosystem, and an attractive ecosystem to enter.

How to approach South Korea for expansion

Based on my experience in the South Korean market, I have learned that localization is key to standing out from competitors for foreign companies. It is not enough to simply offer a product or service that works in other markets; it must be customised to meet the unique needs and cultural preferences of South Korean consumers. This requires an in-depth understanding of local customs, preferences, and trends. Companies that invest time and effort in localization strategies are more likely to be successful in the South Korean market.

In addition to localization, I also recommend that companies be open to partnerships and collaborations, even if it is not part of their current business model. The South Korean market values relationships and trust, and forging partnerships with established local companies can be a strategic way to gain credibility and build brand awareness. It can also help companies navigate the local regulatory landscape, which can be complex and challenging for foreign businesses. By working with local partners, companies can establish a strong foothold in the market and increase their chances of success.

Finally, it’s worth noting that South Korea is a rapidly changing market, with evolving consumer preferences and emerging trends. To stay competitive, companies must be willing to adapt and pivot their strategies as needed. This requires ongoing research and analysis of market trends and consumer behaviour. Companies that are flexible and responsive to changing market conditions are more likely to thrive in the dynamic South Korean market.

In conclusion, South Korea is a promising destination for companies looking to expand their business horizons. Its tech-savvy population and robust economy make it an attractive market, and there are several trends of interest to international companies. These trends include the increasing interest of South Korean corporates in collaborating with startups, as well as the growing focus on sustainability and environmental protection. Companies that can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and work collaboratively with local partners are well-positioned to succeed in the market.

However, to be successful in the South Korean market, companies must invest time and effort in localization strategies and be open to partnerships and collaborations. Local partners can help navigate the complex regulatory landscape and build brand awareness, while adapting to evolving market conditions is essential to stay competitive. Overall, the South Korean market is full of opportunities for innovative companies, and those who can adapt to the local culture and form strategic partnerships have the potential to thrive in one of the world’s most dynamic economies.

If you are ready to dive into the South Korean market or are looking for some guidance in the market, explore the Rainmaking Expand: South Korea programme. Through this programme, we work with companies like yours to navigate the complexities of the South Korean market and enable success through commercial opportunities. Companies that join our programmes will be able to benefit from the unique and tailored approach offered by the Rainmaking Expand programme. Applications are open throughout the year and I look forward to working with you as you explore the South Korean market.





Interested in scaling your business to new markets?

Rainmaking Expand is for growth stage startups & SMEs looking to accelerate market entry into multiple locations, focusing on business development and leveraging genuine commercial opportunities. Our Rainmaking Expand framework aims to accelerate companies’ speed to market while de-risking market expansion.

Our programmes are accepting applications on a rolling basis. Explore our current markets available and apply now:

Share

Written by
Eungyu Park
May 2, 2023
Partnerships Lead, Rainmaking Expand: South Korea

Related Articles