South Korea is emerging as a hotbed of big tech startups.
New companies are springing up in areas such as biotech, ridesharing and online payments, and South Korea now has 10 unicorns, or private start-ups worth over $ 1 billion, according to CB Insights. This makes it the third hub for these companies in the Asia-Pacific region, after China and India, which are much more populous.
In March, local e-commerce giant Coupang Inc. went public in New York City. It had a market value of around $ 69 billion on Tuesday, according to FactSet. Video game developer Krafton Inc. is gearing up for an initial public offering in August which it says could be one of the largest on record in Seoul, with a maximum size of 4.3 trillion won, the equivalent of about $ 3.8 billion.
The rise of these autonomous businesses is notable in an economy long dominated by sprawling family conglomerates. These groups, called chaebols, have produced some of South Korea’s most notable technology companies, such as Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. , which are heavyweights in areas such as smartphones and semiconductors.
Bankers, investors, and entrepreneurs say a few characteristics have helped South Korean startups thrive. The country has an affluent and tech-savvy population that is mostly clustered in a few large cities, where super-fast mobile broadband is prevalent. South Korea has a population of around 52 million, slightly more than Texas and Florida combined.