Category Archives: Korea

Observations…

The year is coming to an end and again it all feels like it has moved so fast. I think the more I age the faster time flies. Obviously having children accelerates the pace even more since so many milestones appear and disappear before my eyes with each passing day. Regardless, I am thankful for everything. 

Some of you may or may not know that on Dec 5, I married my wife. Although we have been legally married for some time – we have never had a proper ceremony. The week previous we transformed her parent’s backyard, invited lots of people and had two ceremonies plus a kickass party. Was a great time and I appreciate all the support from those who made it possible. 

And to my wife, thanks and this is just the beginning.

Currently on a plane headed to Jeju. Planning to enjoy driving around the island and even catching some snow.

The last few days we have been in Seoul. Eating, shopping, eating and touring. I had not been to Seoul in many years and as always going for a holiday means I enjoyed the place a lot more than when going for work. That is typical of most places but was fun to hang out and watch the place in action. 

Stuff I noticed:

– Every car is either a Kia, Hyundai or Chevy. Saw lots of Chevy’s but no Fords for the most part. Quite opposite from say Thailand where you see lots of Fords but not so many Chevy’s.

– Everyone carries a Samsung or LG phone and if not carrying a phone from the home country they are using an iPhone most of the time.

– Everywhere you go people are on their phones. Lots of folks walk around from train to street watching videos.

– Korean culture is consumed more than anything else it seems. Most people watching Korean stuff and even the movie theatres were only showing Korean stuff. It’s clear that Korean music and movies is more popular and also also become a clear export.

– Kakao Talk reigns supreme for chat and voice and I guess even the basics for social. The rest of the usage is games, Instagram and I guess some facebook but I saw more Instagram usage over Facebook. Was hard to tell but looks like Talk wins for Whatsapp. But gaming is huge – all sorts of genders from young to old constantly playing games.

– Coffee shops and cafes everywhere and lots of chains. Stoked to see Taco Bell but haven’t had any yet. The Food courts at famous malls are quit international – surprising amount of Mexican places as well. Haven’t had pizza yet but Italian food everywhere too. Food is everywhere which is great and I love that there is still some street food. We ate quite a few meals by grazing on the streets. Great seagfood as well. We have been eating a lot. 😉

– Like Japan English is not well spoken but feels slightly better than Japan for being able to ask people stuff. Fortunately the subway is easy to deal with and such a large system than one can pretty much get everywhere with the subway. Tack on the existence of easy airport buses and actual check in at the city center to make it super simple to get around and catch domestic flights. I find getting around super easy and we have hardly used a cab.

– Wifi is all over the place malls, cafes, some buses and generally great speeds with no connectivity issues. Could pretty much easily work remote here with little hassle. Guessing there is some amount of active co-work scene. There is even a spot in Jeju I will check out if I have the time.

All in all. Good times. Been unplugged quite a bit. I don’t miss social media much at all. I am sure America continues to drop into the Trump pit of hell but what can I do about it – so no point in trying to stay up on the news anyway. Ignorance is bliss.

Might have time to bang out a few more posts before the year end. At this point in time the blog, even with the new domain, has had a record year. I plant to try and keep writing more and explore my VC journey in blog form as much a possible.

Korean Startup Scene

I have to admit I am not plugged into it enough.

I watch Scott and his winner/loser video every week – this stuff is pure gold :: https://www.l2inc.com/winners-losers-snapchat-hits-a-snow-storm/

Was interesting to see him mention the Korean app – snow, which is the same Naver folks who brought us Line :: http://www.bustle.com/articles/173843-snow-a-snapchat-like-app-with-filters-will-take-your-selfie-game-to-the-next-level

So basically we have a straight up SnapChat clone that is targeting only Asia which in certain pocket countries can work. Not saying it is a novel strategy but certain companies can pull it off.

What I also find interesting in this NYT piece is the opinion on the Korean tech scene ::

“For the longest time, the holy grail for a lot of Korean founders was to get U.S. market share,” he said. “They all failed, and failed because there were so many issues. There was no American working culture, they didn’t have a network in America, they didn’t speak English.”

“With the rise of China and China’s infatuation with Korean culture, it’s breathed new life into Korean start-ups and founders,” Mr. Chae said. “This is a market that happens to be a lot bigger than the U.S., that seems to be more welcoming for Korean technology and culture than the Western world ever was.”

It’s a great point – why bother with the USA at all if one can essentially focus on Asia and win it? With the growth of SEA region, the 4g penetration coming in India and all the other fringe possibilities like the Middle East – an Asian startup could essentially go big in every place but Europ and America and due well enough to not care.

I see Singapore has a pretty amazing tech HQ – the equivalent of USA’s Delaware for startup incorporation but I often wonder if Taiwan, Japan and Korea ramped their startup tech game in hopes of dominating Asia would that be more powerful than the Chinese brands trying to do the same thing?

I think the core issue still for pure Asian startups focusing on Asian markets is exit strategies – do they sell to American companies? Is there a go-to stock exchange besides the USA they can list on? Going forward as the startups scene keeps heating up I think the I can’t raise seed, I can’t raise an A will start to turn into – where do I go public? 

Hoping one of these regions can figure out a market to list on that works for the Asian scene.