My Korean Quest for Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital and a Silicon Valley
Robots, underwater phones, online busses, fast follows and powerful vertical supply chains showed me a different model for innovation.
It’s three in the morning in Silicon Valley, or maybe it’s four. I don’t know. I’m exhausted. It’s been a marathon day of meetings, tours, interviews and promotional videos. The clock on my iPhone is telling me numbers that doesn’t seem to mean anything. Whatever time it is back home in Silicon Valley, its dinnertime in Daejon, South Korea.
I’m in Korea to search for entrepreneurship, startups and the conditions that could foster development of a venture capital ecosystem. I wrote about the rise of China, the post-IT future of Israel, the Russian government’s attempts at starting a venture capital industry, how India’s sagging infrastructure weighed on entrepreneurs, and most recently, how a new breed of investors was looking to tap into Africa. And now I was investigating Korea’s potential as an investment destination and its desire to launch a Silicon Valley-style innovation ecosystem.
I set out seeking a new destination for U.S.-style venture capital and small companies poised to grow. I came back from Korea with a greater appreciation for its unique innovation trajectory, technology commercialization process and the big conglomerates that dominate its industry. As much as parts of Korea wanted to be like Silicon Valley, I found myself wishing that parts of Silicon Valley would be more like Korea.
Korea has become increasingly powerful in the past half decade. Samsung and Hyundai have become true industry leaders. The government has actively promoted cleantech, setting aside huge stimuli for wind projects and in-home hydrogen fuel cells. And perhaps most interestingly, the large pools of Korean capital, such as the $250 billion Korean Pension System (KPS) are actively looking to diversify out of domestic bonds and into “alternative assets” such as venture capital and private equity. To put that last piece of data into perspective, KPS is about the size of CalPERS, which has invested in several hundred venture funds over the past decade and continues to be one of the largest supporters of the industry.
Better still, it hasn’t been rocked by a housing bubble and had only limited exposure to the global financial crisis. Seoul is full of new skyscrapers, expensive new cars cruise smoothly paved streets and new infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges dot the countryside.
It looked like a place where venture capitalists might also find success, especially given Korea’s technological prowess. I set off looking for Silicon Valley-style opportunities in the country’s biggest innovation hub.
DAEJEON DAYS & KAIST’S KIDS
Daejeon is sometimes called the Silicon Valley of Asia, though that’s a misnomer. It’s better to think of this region as the R&D capital of the Korea. It’s got 29 national labs, five major universities and 150 research and development facilities. That’s a lot of researchers for the country’s fifth largest city with a population of 1.5 million. A promotional video tells me that “Daejeon is blossoming the flower of its infinite potential.”
The city’s strength is centrally planned and supported with government subsidies. An official from the Korea Innovation Cluster Foundation explained that a section of the city was broken into five zones, each with a focus on some particular part of the technology ecosystem. This section is called “Daedoeok Innopolis.” Innopolis, the official explained, is a portmanteau of “innovation” and “metropolis.” To my mind, it sounded like the name of a Greek shipping magnate.
The R&D activity of the city gave me the same buzz that I’ve gotten from Cambridge, Palo Alto and other places where science thrives. Yet I don’t get the manic vibe of constant self-reinvention that one frequently sees in Silicon Valley, where it’s normal to work for 10 or more companies during one’s career. Many of the mid-level executives I’ve met with in Daejeon wear a golden pin on their jacket lapel advertising the company that they work for.
I asked many there about entrepreneurship and their desire to start their own companies. All acknowledged that entrepreneurship and innovation were important, but no one seemed interested in taking the plunge. Their ambitions, generally, were more focused on the work they were doing in their current positions rather than keeping a constant eye on the exits.
Summary: DiabetesPilot for the iPhone makes sophisticated control of the disease as easy as pulling the phone out of your pocket.
Articles covering mHealth tools are very popular as smartphones can play integral roles in helping manage chronic health issues. Apps for managing diabetes are evolving as primary tools in daily care for many afflicted with the disease. A diabetic spends a significant effort constantly tracking his/her diet, glucose levels, exercise, weight, and insulin usage over time. The DiabetesPilot app for the iPhone is not the cheapest solution, but it works in tandem with a desktop app to track every facet of the diabetic’s life.
I was previously using the Track3 app for the iPhone (reviewed here), but found it falling short in the reporting area. While a good solution for easily entering information, the app was lacking in the ability to produce detailed printed reports and charts to share with my healthcare provider. DiabetesPilot is very good at that, and while expensive at $14.99 I find it worth the cost.
This review doesn’t cover the desktop program, but concentrates on strictly the iPhone app. There are Mac and Windows versions of the desktop app. I use the Mac version ($29.99), and the ability to sync the desktop data with the iPhone via Wi-Fi keeps both apps up-to-date. The sophisticated reporting is compliments of the desktop version, as the iPhone app is only capable of very basic charts and graphs. The iPhone app is self-contained, so even though the desktop app has better reporting it is not required. There is a free trial of the desktop app to test it prior to plunking down the relatively high cost. More
Some of the best ideas are born in bars, at least that’s how it seemed to work out for Ben Allen and his friends. Allen, a British engineering student, created the world’s largest NES controller and showcased it at London’s Liverpool Street station to kick off the Guinness World Records 2012 Gamer’s Edition.
After Wednesday’s unprecedented unified online yelp against SOPA and PIPA, Thursday saw a new milestone: the first direct and public activist malware from Anonymous.
A version of Anonymous’ voluntary botnet software, known as LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Canon), was modified to make it not so voluntary, drafting unwary bystanders, journalists and even anons who don’t support DDoS tactics into attacks on the U.S. Justice Department. Thursday’s trickery seems not to have been central to the successful takedown of sites like justice.gov, RIAA.com and MPAA.com, but not all anons are pleased with forcing unwitting bystanders to join in a potentially illegal action.
Several anons speaking to Wired on condition of anonymity voiced dismay that a tactic they consider to be the modern-day equivalent of a sit-in (denial-of-service attacks leave no lasting damage) was ethically corrupted by the new version.
“Preying on unsuspecting users is despicable,” said one anon, speaking to Wired in an online chat. “We need to fight for the user, not potentially land them in jail.”
As part of Thursday’s raging reaction from Anonymous to the Megaupload arrests, people by the thousands voluntarily pointed the LOIC at targets like FBI.gov, DOJ.gov, MPAA.org, BMI.org, RIAA.org and copyright.gov, part of an effort that knocked these sites offline for parts of the day. The tool bombards a targeted site with traffic, in hopes of overwhelming servers so that no one can visit the site. More
Cross-Posted:TobyToons.com (Conservative Political Cartoons)