While South Korea is a small country with few (if any) natural resources to speak of, they’ve enthusiastically adapted to the modern technology revolution. Indeed, there are more cell phones in South Korea than there are people. This has helped make South Korea one of the leading tech innovators of the 21st century. However, Korean culture has a strong aversion to both risk and failure, which are some of the most essential lessons of startup culture, so much of the country has had trouble adapting to the startup culture. Since it was started in 2012, SparkLabs Korea has been working to boost Seoul’s startup ecosystem. Recently, it was announced on TechCrunch that the group is launching a $50 million fund for early-stage startups in the country with ambitions towards global expansion.
SparkLabs’ network now includes accelerators in Beijing and Taiwan, with plans to launch one dedicated to financial tech in Hong Kong next year. SparkLabs’ Korea fund, however, will be focusing on consumer services, enterprise, cloud computing, financial tech, artificial intelligence, and hardware. The typical check size will range from $1 million to $3 million. One reason that SparkLabs has decided to launch the fund five years after first being opened in Seoul is that partners noticed a growth in Korean startups in recent years, a major change in attitude in the South Korean market.
The smartphone market in South Korea, as mentioned above, reached saturation long before other countries. Mobile broadband is also extremely fast and affordable. These two factors help make South Korea a great test market for startups to refine their products before reaching a global audience. The fund has been looking for founders who aren’t tied to the cultural taboos behind risk and failure in South Korea. Many Korean venture capital firms are unwilling to invest in entrepreneurs without sustainable revenue, or who have been involved with failed startups in the past. The fund will also be offering startups access to SparkLabs’ global network of partners, startups, and advisors, an essential step for any company that’s looking to expand globally.