40 Columbia business school students had a chance to talk with incubator users in Seoul, Korea [Image: Hanwha life]

New York MBA Students Visit Korean Startup Incubator in Seoul


On March 13, 40 Columbia University MBA students visited a start-up training center in Korea, established by Hanwha Life Insurance. The name of the fin-tech startup incubator is Dream Plus Gangnam. Columbia Business School students chose this site as a prime example of Korean open innovation. Participants attended sessions about the strategy of Hanwha Life's Dream Plus business, and had a chance to talk with incubator users.

Dream Plus Gangnam’s structure allows start-ups to connect with large corporations and venture capital firms, and helps them materialize their ideas in a short time. Students were most interested in how start-ups can link to large corporations and investors, and tactics for overseas expansion. Dream Plus Gangnam is planning to support start-ups through their own program.

South Korea also exchanged startup-related education and information with the United States. On March 7, the Asan Nanum Foundation in South Korea partnered with US-based venture capital community 500 Startups to launch a new website called The Bridge. This website will provide up-to-date news about start-ups and translated texts of start-up blog posts from entrepreneurs and investors overseas. The Asan Nanum Foundation also opened a workspace named Maru 180 for startups, and partnered with Airbnb to help Korean entrepreneurs who are starting up new businesses.

New York has had strong ties with South Korea. There were approximately 133,600 Koreans and Korean Americans living in New York, and 10,035 Korean students studying at universities in the state during the 2015 school year; this was the second-largest Korean student population in any US state. The Korea US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) connects New York businesses with Korea more closely, through a $1 trillion market with more than 50 million consumers. New York exported $1.4 billion in total goods to Korea and New York imported $2 billion in goods from Korea in 2015. KORUS FTA also became a catalyst for investment. Last year, WeWork, a New York-based shared workspace company, invested $500 million in South Korea. Google also set up its first Asian campus to support Korean entrepreneurs in Seoul, with the goal of creating a place to foster new ideas in Asia in 2015. At the campus — called Campus Seoul — internet program developers can get support through mentorship programs, and receive help finding investors. The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, along with Korean Startups & Entrepreneurs (KSE), World-OKTA, and GORI hosted the Korean Startup Summit NYC in New York City in 2015.

Yeseul Oh is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Wahshington Young fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. She is a student of Kyunghee university in South Korea