South Korea is accelerating its growth as a global powerhouse in the “innovation economy”.
When looking at scaleup activity, all measures of growth are pointing in the same direction: only compared to last year’s figures the total capital raised ($28.9B) has increased +51.5% from 2019, with a 25.6% increase of total number of scaleups (889). According to our research, its throughput places South Korea for the first time ahead of historically rooted R&D powerhouses like Germany. Most importantly, South Korea’s unique trait is its capability of home-growing tech giants (super scalers), which grow fast indeed: on average, they are 6-7 years old (average founding year is 2014), while their European comparables are about 9 years old (average founding year is 2012). In 2021, some of the most promising scaleups of the country graduated to become real new tech phenomena. E-commerce giant Coupang has debuted at the New York Stock exchange IPO, with a whopping valuation in the $100B cap (compared to the latest round that valued the company at $9B in 2018). Kakao Bank seems to be moving into similar territories.

It should come as no surprise that South Korea is recently becoming increasingly attractive for international corporates looking to expand their open innovation operations abroad. In the last five years alone, we record 32 new Open Innovation Outposts set up by the top Fortune/Forbes global corporate giants – four times more than the average of the previous decades, while suffering a relatively limited impact from the Covid19 global emergency. A hub for global R&D, especially in the beauty, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries – traditionally strategically relevant in the Asian country – South Korea is increasingly becoming interesting for corporates from all over the globe (we record outposts from corporates located in 13 different countries among 3 continents) looking to set foot there by establishing a leaner presence, including Corporate Venture Capital offices, Corporate Innovation Labs, and Antennas to scout for top-performing scaleups and report about future technology trends. While most of the corporate innovation activity is currently concentrated in the capital city Seoul, we are keeping an eye on more and more thriving hubs, including Busan, Seongnam, Daejeon, and Pyeongtaek.
There is definitely room for (further) growth in South Korea, and we’ll make sure to continuously monitor its progress. Currently, we can safely say that the country’s innovation scene is experiencing a never-seen-before momentum

Alberto Onetti, Chairman, Mind the Bridge
Marco Marinucci, CEO, Mind the Bridge

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