[Herald Interview] “Korea now has a strong startup ecosystem”
The second graduates of Antler’s program in Singapore attend a demonstration day in 2019. (Antler)
What sets Antler apart from most startup accelerators is that it is interested in funding startups at a very early, pre-seed stage. It works as a matchmaker for teams, helps them receive funding, and then propels them into the company as a full-fledged business – all within six months.
And he intends to do exactly the same in South Korea, where the humble beginnings of startups remain dependent on the generosity of family and friends.
“Once an innovator decides to start their own business, they face too many hurdles to find partners, choose an item, get verified and attract investment,” said Gabriel Jung, co-manager of Antler. Korea, at the Korea Herald last week.
“Our job is to remove some of those barriers for startups,” he added.
Korea is the 15th market for Antler, launching in Singapore in 2017. Since then, Antler has helped spawn some 400 startups in 17 different cities around the world. Five years ago, Antler was skeptical of the Korean startup ecosystem. But now new changes caught the attention of the Singapore-based company, prompting it to establish an office in Seoul last year.
“Compared to five years earlier, there is now a strong ecosystem of accelerators and state-supported programs, places to support startups. Startup founders now have a better understanding of the ecosystem and a standard higher for their projects.
But with the smoother track came new problems, according to Jung.
“Conglomerates and large corporations continue to work only with the most verified startups — those that qualify for Series A or B funding — or launch their own in-house startups,” he explained.
“This creates a dead end in the ecosystem as verified startups get less than expected investment from larger companies. And for these top-tier in-house startups, they’re not nearly so desperate — and the current system lacks the capacity to give them all the credit.
Antler Korea plans to not only foster pre-seed startups by connecting teams and funding, but by accumulating data from these companies. It aims to create a strong portfolio for startups that opt for Series C funding, giving them a bigger window of opportunity for better connections and partnerships.
Antler Korea co-managing partner Gabriel Jung (Antler)
“We plan to become an eyewitness to these companies,” Jung promised.
The Korean office also plans to connect local startups with counterparts who have completed the Antler program in other countries.
“Startup data is exposed at our corporate headquarters and Antler offices around the world, which strengthens the possibility of global partnerships for startups. Recently we connected a cosmetics company in Kenya with a skincare manufacturer here. »
The six-month Antler program consists of two stages that involve around 100 potential startup founders. The first stage is staff planning and confusion where each person is given around 3 million won ($2,400) to bring some of their early ideas to fruition. Then, the second stage involves more funding and the actual materialization of the business itself. The program culminates in a demo day where startups can pitch their businesses to potential investors. Antler takes 10% of the capital of the company during its official launch.
Antler Korea is currently running a four-year, 30 billion won funding program for more than 100 local startups. About 10% of the fund is channeled through public institutions, including the Gyeonggi Center for Creative Economy and Innovation, while the rest is funded by private funds. Last year, the Antler headquarters raised $75 million with investments from London-based Schroders and Norwegian asset management firm Ferd.
“We’re looking for innovators with a balanced perspective on their businesses — those who think and act at the same time,” Jung said.
Jung was previously head of Corporate Venture Capital at GS Retail, the retail subsidiary of Korean conglomerate GS Group. He started his career as a consultant at Accenture Strategy before creating WiseBros&Company, a B2B software as a service company to help universities restructure. He also worked in Rakuten’s CEO Innovation Office, helping the Japanese company expand into global markets. Jung also led Bravestone Venture Partners, where he made notable investments, including a seed investment in ImpriMed in the United States.
By Jung Min-kyung ([email protected])