Seoul: an Asian Tiger startup city

South Korea is the fastest growing Asian Tiger nation for VC investment, and Seoul has created 15 unicorns, but 80% of investment still comes from within Asia. We explore the booming startup city in partnership with Seoul Startup Hub and Flow Partners.

Report - Seoul: an Asian Tiger startup city


A startup transformation

In just one generation South Korea transformed its economy from one of the poorest to one of the richest in the world, through investment in technology, and the emergence of corporates like Samsung, LG, SK or Hyundai.

It continues to be a first mover in innovation, reflected in the country’s R&D spend (highest in Asia-Pacific as % of GDP and second worldwide), but also in VC investment, which is growing faster than any other Asian Tiger nation.

Seoul ranks #3 of Asian cities for unicorn creation after Beijing and Singapore, and third for the number of future unicorns ($250M-$1B) in the city. The South Korean capital has created 15 unicorns to date, from a relatively small pool startups. Seoul has particular strengths in esports and K-beauty, as well as Ecommerce and Health.

Internationally underinvested

Investment in Seoul continues to be largely local and regional. 80% of VC investment in Seoul comes from domestic and Asian investors, with just 20% coming from the US, Europe and rest of the world.

Seoul is an innovation-led economy, once again undergoing a generational transformation, with an intentional shift towards startups and SMEs. This startup ecosystem is reaching maturity, and still growing fast, while currently flying under the international radar.

Report - Seoul: an Asian Tiger startup city