Just back from a 10 day trip to South Korea. Came back convinced that there is an incredible opportunity to form a Korean based edtech startup.
1. Educational Demand: I know of no society on earth that is as pro-education as South Korea. This education demand exists at every level, from primary to secondary to postsecondary. It would take some analysis to figure out where the biggest opportunity in providing educational services or credentialing exists, but I have no doubt that Koreans will pay for quality education and/or degree related services. Koreans will save and sacrifice in order to pay for an education, and that the supply of existing post-secondary (university) campus based options are inadequate to meet the demand.
2. Mobile Devices: Everyone in Seoul seems to carry a smart phone. And these phones are big. Koreans seem to have no hesitation about carrying around a 5 inch screen (see the Samsung Galaxy). Modern and universal smart phones represent an ideal platform to create a next generation educational services ecosystem.
3. Network Infrastructure: Broadband in South Korea is fast, ubiquitous and cheap. The whole country, including the subway system, seems to be blanketed with WiFi and 4G LTE connections.
4. Skilled Workforce: South Korea is a great place to hire engineers and developers. Samsung and LG can only hire so many computer science graduates, and not everyone wants to go to work for a huge conglomerate. A flexible and creative work environment, one that offers opportunities for responsibility and advancement, will be very attractive to young Korean workers.
5. English: I had no problem getting around Seoul. Most young people are eager to try out the English they learn in school. Signs are almost always bilingual. There are enough English speakers that language should not be a problem.
6. The Creative Opportunity: The type of educational company that I'd start in Korea would, I think, focus on skills such as leadership and design. The place to be is where the liberal arts meets technology. The Korean economy is moving from an industrial focus (think ships, trucks and cars) to a consumer and services based orientation. Creative and leadership skills will be much in demand.
7. Direct Flights: Korea would be a relatively easy place for someone based in the U.S. to start a company. Nonstop flights from the U.S. to Seoul are part of what would make working in Korea but keeping a U.S. base possible. Korea's modern transportation infrastructure means that travel back and forth would be relatively simple.
8. Off The Radar: I don't think that it is on most people's radar to start an edtech company in Seoul. We just don't think of South Korea when we think about where the next great technology company will emerge. But Seoul has ingredients that other cities simply cannot match, from an advanced technological and network infrastructure to a skilled workforce to a set of unmet demands for educational services. Whoever understands this opportunity before it becomes obvious to everyone else will start with a large first-mover advantage.
Do these 8 reasons to jump into a Korean edtech startup add up to quitting your secure job in the U.S. and taking the plunge in Seoul?
What existing edtech businesses should look at growing a Korean presence?
Do any of you have experience working at the intersection of technology and education in South Korea?