Born2Global-Tomorrow Street MoU

“Luxembourg is a perfect target area”: Korean accelerator exec 

Jongkap Kim, speaking during Wednesday’s Arch Summit, has positive impressions about his first visit to Luxembourg Born2Global

Jongkap Kim, speaking during Wednesday’s Arch Summit, has positive impressions about his first visit to Luxembourg Born2Global

Chief executive director of the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT-backed Born2Global Centre Jongkap Kim was at the Arch Summit on Wednesday to sign an MoU with Vodafone’s Tomorrow Street. Delano caught up with the exec to discuss the promise of exchange between the two centres and respective countries.

Born2Global serves as an accelerator, supporting international expansion of deep-tech companies. Through the agreement with Vodafone, the two organisations hope to establish various partnership models, be that through joint ventures or co-hosting tech-related events.

Although the sum of investment through the MoU is not yet known--“the starting point is just to try to understand each other’s business models,” Kim explained. “Vodafone is not a small company; it was a startup years ago, but now it’s a global conglomerate. Their system, their vision is totally different than what a startup thinks about. So we need to learn about each other.”

The collaboration between Tomorrow Street and Born2Global will allow partners to collaborate in matchmaking, with in-kind or cash resources for support, and joint R&D and business development in relevant projects.

Kim hopes to have a Korean startup success story within “one or two years”. Already several Korean companies attended the Arch Summit, which takes place 26-27 October at LuxExpo. These include 4dreplay, a media tech outfit which reveals multi-angle views in professional sports and beyond; VestellaLab, operating in the smart city space; Machbase, a database for edge-managed platforms; 4Stec, providing IoT middleware; and Codepresso, for hands-on coding. Seoul-based Xrisp was also in attendance, showcasing its Nori Cube, a 360-degree experience centre using immersive technology, allowing users to virtually “transport” to different locations, with much potential in the educational and gaming space.

Startup ecosystem in Korea

As Kim states during his talk on Wednesday, the South Korean government is firmly backing startups.

Budgetary support in 2021 reached $1.38bn, with over 194 programmes for SMEs and startups. The bulk of this support went to commercialization (58%), followed by R&D (28%) and facility and space (7%). A leader in 5G+, Korea’s metaverse ecosystem is also expanding, with a 2022 budget of $186m.

“Korea [previously] didn’t think about its startup target, but we are very heavily working on that now. And we’re asking Korean startups to set up joint ventures with Luxembourg and expand their business with Luxembourg,” Kim explained, adding that similar ventures have already born fruit in places like Colombia (especially in fintech and SaaS) and Argentina (logistics, AI, big data).

Challenges entering European market

The Born2Global Centre has so far supported 2,962 startups and attracted around US$3bn in investment. Among its 2021 unicorns are enterprise messaging platform, Sendbird, and an AI-driven educational platform, Riiid!.

Although it was Kim’s first visit to the grand duchy--the Arch Summit was actually his first stop following his flight--he sees the potential of the country as a hub for accessing the European market. The challenges for startups, he explained, is “the European market looks like one big market but actually isn’t. Each country has a different legal system, different behaviours…”

He has seen startups trying to divide their already tight resources on tackling different regions--for example, visiting London or Berlin or Paris, but for small teams of just tens of staff, they have to figure out “how to divide their resources… We ask Korean startups not to try that. Find out the settlement basecamp and the joint ventures. You are a technology company. So do not pretend you are like Vodafone or Samsung. Just focus more on R&D, the development, and ask the local people to do the business with you…. That’s why we came here.”

Luxembourg is not necessarily the market but a marketing enabler
Jongkap Kim

Jongkap KimChief executive directorBorn2Global

Kim says it’s not necessarily the tax advantages that are appealing to these startups either. “They care about the partnership and idea, they can easily access other areas. Luxembourg is not necessarily the market but a marketing enabler… it’s a perfect target area.”

60th anniversary of diplomatic relations

Many of the representatives of the Korean companies involved in this week’s Arch Summit are also looking forward to Luxembourg’s official trade mission to South Korea, on 26 November to 1 December, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The delegation, presided by Crown Prince Guillaume, will be led by economy minister Franz Fayot, with activities to include a visit to the Korea New Space Forum, an inauguration ceremony at the new Rotarex plant in Asan, a visit to the Seoul smart city centre and more.