Seoul boosts one of the most promising startup scenes in Asia. Over the last few months, its profile has been raised by several major funding rounds, including those of e-commerce site Coupang; Yello Mobile; 4:33 Creative Lab Game Studio; and food delivery app Baedal Minjok.
Now the city’s government hopes to get more people interested in its startup industry by sponsoring Global Hackathon Seoul, which will take place from July 29 to August 1, 2015. According to the event’s organizers, this is the first time Seoul has sponsored a hackathon.
KJ Yoo, the executive director of Global Hackathon Seoul, says that the event’s goal “is to have hackers build innovative products that will inspire local entrepreneurs to launch similar startups in Korea.”
The event plans to have 2,000 hackers from around the world attend, with half from South Korea. If Global Hackathon Seoul surpasses its fundraising goals, Yoo says the event may be doubled in size.
While Seoul’s startup ecosystem has grown rapidly over the last few years, it still faces several major hurdles. These include isolation from startup ecosystems in other countries, lack of early-stage funding opportunities, and the fact that many talented people would rather pursue a career with a corporation like Samsung instead of taking the riskier step of becoming an entrepreneur.
On the plus side, startups in Seoul benefit from strong government support. South Korean president Park Geun-Hye has pledged to invest $3.7 billion in startups over the next three years, while the administration of Seoul mayor Park Won-Soon has launched the Seoul Social Investment Fund, which supports companies that solve social problems. Furthermore, the South Korean government recently announced that it plans to reduce regulations on industries such as financial technology and the Internet of Things in order to encourage innovation.
Yoo hopes the hackathon will get more students and recent graduates interested in startups, even as they deal with fierce competition for spots at prestigious universities and large corporations.
“Seoul already has an incredible infrastructure (fastest Internet/mobile speed), highest smartphone penetration, and tech savvy people. What we need is a cultural shift. Through Global Hackathon Seoul and other awesome hackathons, I don’t want to just show people but let them experience the hacker culture, and collaborate with really different thinkers of this world,” says Yoo. “We have an opportunity to import the mindset and innovative trends of the best hackers from around the world.”
He adds that the organizers of Global Hackathon Seoul will work with the most promising teams after the event to provide them with mentorship and opportunities for funding.
The Seoul city government will provide the hackathon’s venue (the COEX convention and exhibition center), support for event organization, public relations, and office spaces, as well as part of its operational budget.