Foreign start-ups hope city's support breeds success

Foreign start-ups hope city's support breeds success
Conselit president Lia Iovenitti (left) and MixMx creative director Cuon Kee-jung work in the incubation center for start-up entrepreneurs at Yeouido Global Business Center in the International Finance Center, Yeouido, Seoul, in late October.

Lia Iovenitti, president of market entry assistance company Conselit, put it like this:

"The more you're successful, the more money you earn, the more taxes you pay, the more Korean employees you employ. So the more successful we are, the better it goes for the Seoul Metropolitan Government and for the business situation. It's a win-win situation for us to become successful."

In a nutshell, it was this fundamental business principle that prompted Seoul City to put special focus on assisting foreign-owned start-ups through the opening of the Seoul Global Business Center, in Gangnam, southern Seoul, in 2010 ? the first foreigner-geared business service of its kind in Korea.

The centre aims to help entrepreneurs tackle the most common challenges, such as networking, administrative issues and, most commonly, language barriers, as some paperwork requires legal or translation services expensive for start-up entrepreneurs.

It offers free resources available in English, Chinese and Japanese, such as step-by-step start-up logistics assistance, personal business consulting, frequent seminars and special lectures, networking events, business Korean language classes and even immigration support for business owners. The centre does not provide loans or legal advice, but can recommend such services elsewhere.

Its stand-out service, however, is six months of free office space in an "incubation centre" for a few qualified fledgling entrepreneurs.

In less than two years the SGBC became so popular that the city opened a second branch in Yeouido this January in the International Finance Center, where Iovenitti is currently an incubation resident. The SGBC in Gangnam was then renamed Gangnam Global Business Center.

"I've never experienced such a programme or system for foreigners," said MixMx creative director Cuon Kee-jung, representing his Japanese wife who owns their start-up digital design company based in Yeouido Global Business Center's incubation space. "It's a really good chance for Korean business to (reach) the global market."

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