Start-ups in Singapore connect with Korea at D.Camp
SINGAPORE — Singaporean start-ups eyeing the Korean market gathered to receive consultations and professional support at the Meet Korea event hosted by the Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs, or D.Camp, on Wednesday.
“We need to provide foreign start-ups the same level of support that we provide to Korean start-ups, so they can’t resist opportunities in the Korean market,” said Kim Young-duk, CEO of D.Camp.
Other organizations that can provide help for foreign start-ups, such as KB Innovation Hub and Singapore’s Rainmaking, participated in the Meet Korea event, held at 80RR Fintech Hub, a co-working space for fintech start-ups in Singapore, D.Camp, funded by 19 banks in Korea, plans to commit as much as 300 million won ($210,000) to start-ups operated by foreigners in the form of equity investment. Participating in D.Day, D.Camp’s own version of demo day, and getting selected by the non-profit organization offers additional perks like a free workspace in Seoul for at least six months and mentoring.
The organization provides technical support as well. It connects start-ups to necessary institutions, such as Overall Assistance for Start-up Immigration System (Oasis), a center under the Ministry of Justice that helps issue the D-8-4 start-up visas to foreigners. It was also present at the event.
One of the Singaporean startups that connected to Oasis was dConstruct Robotics, inquiring about the start-up visa ahead of its goal to enter the Korean market at the end of the year. The start-up is based in Pixel, a start-up incubating center run by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority, and develops an autonomous navigation software that can be applied to robots to scan construction sites and create 3-D mappings.
“In South Korea, big conglomerates like Samsung and Hyundai have the ability to take whatever is in research and bring that into production and daily use," said Jiayi Chong, CTO of dConstruct Robotics. "They are increasingly looking at the construction industry, which is why we thought it was a good place to start.”
“South Korea is also so well connected in terms of digital technology, such as 5G and broadband, which is all required for any kind of advanced robotics company.”
dConstruct Robotics say its products meet the demand of Korean construction companies, as many of them try to participate in overseas construction projects. Its dASH Pilot is a software application that allows users to scan outdoor environments while operating robots remotely, or even from another country.
“During the Meet Korea event, we were connected to a mentor that was looking for a third-party vendor to service construction companies in Korea,” said Hazel Kwon. “They wanted a company that can deploy robots to check sites for tunnel construction in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Vietnam.”
Security issues are also solved, with geographic data scanning and mapping of the 3-D environment all done either by the robot or streamed directly to the user’s workstation and not the cloud.
Construction isn't the only booming industry Korea has. Tictag, a data collection and annotation company based in Singapore, says Korea's AI and data industry was the reason it chose to expand to Korea. The start-up established a Korean branch in 2020, and also has another branch in Indonesia.
“The AI and data collection industry that we are in, Korea is really advanced” said Kevin Quah, CEO of Tictag. “Korea also introduced the data voucher program, which is a program by the Korean government to encourage businesses like ours that process data for AI.”
Every year, the Korea Data Agency selects data processing companies that engage in social issue-related projects and funds up to 10 million won each. Tictag was the first foreign company that was selected for the program in 2021.
Government support from both Korea and Singapore is another support mechanism for start-ups.
“We really help businesses from Singapore looking to go into the South Korean market through programs like our GIA,” said Pheobe Clark, commercial director of Rainmaking. “Our expansion efforts focus on delivering commercial outcomes by leveraging our expertise and a wide range of our partner network.”
Rainmaking is a venture development firm headquartered in Copenhagen, but with offices in 10 countries, including Singapore. It has been helping Singapore-based start-ups enter the Korean market in partnership with Enterprise Singapore and Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy since October last year.
“We do see a lot of startups who want to expand into Korea,” said Amanda Chen, program director at Rainmaking. “IT, tech, consumer tech, and right now some cyber security startups, are also interested too.”