Expert Insights: Ian Low on his experience entering South Korea

This week we are back with our Expert Insights series where we cover some of the insights and learnings from the Rainmaking Expand program by sitting down with the different speakers to hear their thoughts on the topics they specialise in.

One of the items we are focusing on when helping our startups navigate through to a new market is to connect them with local entrepreneurs that have already entered the market before them. In today’s article, we chat with Ian Low, CEO of Trabble. Ian has been working to expand Trabble into other markets, including South Korea, and has been able to sit down and talk casually with the startups in the Rainmaking Expand: South Korea program regarding the challenges he faced and how he resolved them.

In today’s article, we touch upon these topics again as he shares his advice around market entry.

Thank you Ian for the time you have shared with us during your sharing session and this interview. It was really good to see the advice that you bring to the table from your personal experiences, and how you have helped the startups on our program to understand some of the areas to look out for. Since those reading this interview haven’t had the pleasure to get to know you yet, would you be able to introduce yourself?

Ian: I’m an entrepreneur and avid traveller since I was young, I’m Ian Low is the founder and CEO of Trabble, a B2B guest engagement SaaS platform for travel and hospitality businesses. Leveraging on data and technology to better serve travellers through conversations, I tap on the extensive experience I have in startup consulting and venture capital across the region, to spearhead the growth of Trabble through a challenging time, especially for hospitality, expanding the company and making inroads into major East Asian markets.

I spend more than 2/3rds of my life travelling out of Singapore (pre-pandemic) since my days in NUS, and after more than 300 flights taken, it was definitely in my interest to help in revolutionising travel & hospitality.

I’m quite jealous of how much time you have to travel and admire how that has turned into building Trabble. From this, and your entry into South Korea, you most definitely have some experiences you can share about entering the market. Let’s start with what the biggest mistake you see startups making when entering South Korea and how do you recommend they avoid it?

Ian: South Korea is definitely a challenging market to navigate and enter. One would surely do good to first have a better understanding of the market and business culture, but more so, to have someone with local knowledge to help enter.

For Trabble, we were part of Techstars Korea and then got into K-Startup Grand Challenge. It definitely helped make some initial basic connections, and was especially helpful for logistically and administrative support.

The most helpful for me is really just reaching out to my own personal connections to ask for referrals. A LinkedIn search to look for mutual connections is highly useful.

I can imagine! I believe Juliana in a previous article also mentioned that getting to know people in your industry in South Korea first is an important step. From your experiences, what would you say your top tips are for startups who are looking to take their first steps into the South Korean market?

Ian: I would say:

  1. Do your market research and understand the business climate
  2. Try to find some local connections and support
  3. Once you identified that South Korea is the market you want to enter, build a local team and resources that can help

Thank you so much Ian for your insights on how you entered the South Korean market and the advice you have for startups looking to do the same.

Read more in our Expert Insights Series

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Written by
Meghan Bridges
July 5, 2022
Marketing Director, Rainmaking Expand

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