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People, Tech

Richard Min on Seoul's Creative Boom

By Sofia Celeste 13 April 2016

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – In the final part of our three-part series on Seoul's dynamic fashion and tech sector, we explore how fashion and tech startups are thriving in South Korea's capital.  

Fairplay's Editor in Chief travels to the consumer-saturated streets of the Myeong-dong district to chat with Richard Min, the managing director for the city's Fashion Technology Accelerator, the world's first tech startup accelerator focusing on the fashion world and with offices in Silicon Valley, Milan and Seoul.

So the K-Wave? How is this helping small startups?

The Korean K-Wave trend and culture is hitting the western world and parts of the US, even as far as LA. Korean film, movies, TV, music and K-Style and K-Beauty are having a huge effect. Testament to that was when Karl Lagerfeld came to Seoul last year and showed his 2016 Cruise collection, which was influenced by K-Pop. He was influenced by Korean fashion and modernised it in a Chanel way. That is symbolic of how important Seoul is.

How is Seoul the perfect incubator and breeding ground for fashion and technology realities?

As fashion faces more on scale disruption by technology, Korea is certainly right now leading on the technology end. Infrastructure here cannot be beat. There is more than 100 percent broadband penetration here, which means there is more than one broadband connection per household. In terms of download and high-speed Internet and mobile capabilities we are number one. We are also number one in smart phone penetration. The infrastructure is top for mobile. The population is made up of digital natives now. This is one of the few countries where the android dominates.

How did you start your career? What is your background?

I spent half my life here and half in the US. I was a techie geek guy/entrepreneur and came to Korea and led some key research and Ad Sense companies. I also had the first pay per click (PPC) search engine/advertising company in Korea in 2000.

I have always been deeply-rooted in the tech community. I have helped a lot of the Silicon Valley companies like Twitter, Facebook, Uber and Evernote organise events and launch in Korea, because if foreign countries want to enter into the market here, they have to understand how things work because Asia is still very much a black box.

How is Korea's tech arena changing today compared to when you started in 2000?

The dawn of the iPhone for example has been a real disruptor here. There has been more change in the Korean eco-system in the last five years, than there has been in the last 20. I say the biggest startup in Korea is Korea itself. We have seen more companies go to market saturation than any other country in the world on a per capita basis. Everything moves at the speed of lightening.

And the government? How are they crucial to fueling young talent? 

We have had $13 billion government budget allocated to administrative spend over the last three years. That money is destined for fueling IT startups and fueling the creative economy. About $4 billion of that alone is strictly for startups which is massive.

Korea wants innovation. We are the Silicon Valley of Asia. This nation is just curating and cultivating innovation and making that a driver of the economy.

What sort of tech startups are you as a part of Fashion Technology Accelerator looking for? What qualities do they have to have?

They have to have the same qualities that any accelerator looks for. They have to have a great team. You have to show traction. We like to focus on companies that generate revenue already and then we try to boost them and take them to the next level. They need a secret sauce. We ask ourselves: can they execute? If they have more growth multiples, that is even better.

In terms of fashion tech?

Fashion is one of the last industries to be disrupted by technology which makes it a great opportunity. Especially in Asia. What we are seeing here is a straight-forward mobile commerce place. We are just opening up these new markets.

You have worked with two successful Korean startups - Cream and Atria Style for example. Culturally what makes Korean fashion startups more successful?

Korea has been a walled garden. Amazing domestically, you can have unicorn, billion dollar companies present only in Korea but you couldn't go global with them. But that is changing. There is all sorts of creativity that hasn't been unleashed yet. Traditionally Koreans are insanely creative.

What do you think the future is of fashion tech?

Artificial Intelligence is going to be big and so will algorithms for a more seamless experience. These topics should be important. How fashion hits that will be a big issue.

Fashion tech is a huge opportunity. I think the mobile guys are figuring out retail much faster than the fashion guys are figuring out mobile. That's a big problem because they are still speaking a different language.

Both have solutions for each other that, if implemented now, can have a massive effect.

How will tech and fashion become seamless?

When we discover more usable wearable technology for example. When we try throw a watch on and say that it is fashion. We need more tech that improve daily life. We are searching for those enablers. We are not seeing that yet. People are looking there is a technology and find out where that fits. You need to find out what the problem is and find out how technology can make it better. Korea is attempting that now.

 

 



Sofia Celeste
FAIRPLAY Editor-in-Chief

When she is not hunting down the latest in tech and fashion, Sofia Celeste is scouting artisan talent for her online magazine bacoluxury.com. Born in the US and raised on the Pacific Island of Guam, she went on to write for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. Her work is now regularly published in top fashion publications NOWFASHION and WWD.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – In the final part of our three-part series on Seoul's dynamic fashion and tech sector, we explore how fashion and tech startups are thriving in South Korea's capital.  

Fairplay's Editor in Chief travels to the consumer-saturated streets of the Myeong-dong district to chat with Richard Min, the managing director for the city's Fashion Technology Accelerator, the world's first tech startup accelerator focusing on the fashion world and with offices in Silicon Valley, Milan and Seoul.

So the K-Wave? How is this helping small startups?

The Korean K-Wave trend and culture is hitting the western world and parts of the US, even as far as LA. Korean film, movies, TV, music and K-Style and K-Beauty are having a huge effect. Testament to that was when Karl Lagerfeld came to Seoul last year and showed his 2016 Cruise collection, which was influenced by K-Pop. He was influenced by Korean fashion and modernised it in a Chanel way. That is symbolic of how important Seoul is.

How is Seoul the perfect incubator and breeding ground for fashion and technology realities?

As fashion faces more on scale disruption by technology, Korea is certainly right now leading on the technology end. Infrastructure here cannot be beat. There is more than 100 percent broadband penetration here, which means there is more than one broadband connection per household. In terms of download and high-speed Internet and mobile capabilities we are number one. We are also number one in smart phone penetration. The infrastructure is top for mobile. The population is made up of digital natives now. This is one of the few countries where the android dominates.

How did you start your career? What is your background?

I spent half my life here and half in the US. I was a techie geek guy/entrepreneur and came to Korea and led some key research and Ad Sense companies. I also had the first pay per click (PPC) search engine/advertising company in Korea in 2000.

I have always been deeply-rooted in the tech community. I have helped a lot of the Silicon Valley companies like Twitter, Facebook, Uber and Evernote organise events and launch in Korea, because if foreign countries want to enter into the market here, they have to understand how things work because Asia is still very much a black box.

How is Korea's tech arena changing today compared to when you started in 2000?

The dawn of the iPhone for example has been a real disruptor here. There has been more change in the Korean eco-system in the last five years, than there has been in the last 20. I say the biggest startup in Korea is Korea itself. We have seen more companies go to market saturation than any other country in the world on a per capita basis. Everything moves at the speed of lightening.

And the government? How are they crucial to fueling young talent? 

We have had $13 billion government budget allocated to administrative spend over the last three years. That money is destined for fueling IT startups and fueling the creative economy. About $4 billion of that alone is strictly for startups which is massive.

Korea wants innovation. We are the Silicon Valley of Asia. This nation is just curating and cultivating innovation and making that a driver of the economy.

What sort of tech startups are you as a part of Fashion Technology Accelerator looking for? What qualities do they have to have?

They have to have the same qualities that any accelerator looks for. They have to have a great team. You have to show traction. We like to focus on companies that generate revenue already and then we try to boost them and take them to the next level. They need a secret sauce. We ask ourselves: can they execute? If they have more growth multiples, that is even better.

In terms of fashion tech?

Fashion is one of the last industries to be disrupted by technology which makes it a great opportunity. Especially in Asia. What we are seeing here is a straight-forward mobile commerce place. We are just opening up these new markets.

You have worked with two successful Korean startups - Cream and Atria Style for example. Culturally what makes Korean fashion startups more successful?

Korea has been a walled garden. Amazing domestically, you can have unicorn, billion dollar companies present only in Korea but you couldn't go global with them. But that is changing. There is all sorts of creativity that hasn't been unleashed yet. Traditionally Koreans are insanely creative.

What do you think the future is of fashion tech?

Artificial Intelligence is going to be big and so will algorithms for a more seamless experience. These topics should be important. How fashion hits that will be a big issue.

Fashion tech is a huge opportunity. I think the mobile guys are figuring out retail much faster than the fashion guys are figuring out mobile. That's a big problem because they are still speaking a different language.

Both have solutions for each other that, if implemented now, can have a massive effect.

How will tech and fashion become seamless?

When we discover more usable wearable technology for example. When we try throw a watch on and say that it is fashion. We need more tech that improve daily life. We are searching for those enablers. We are not seeing that yet. People are looking there is a technology and find out where that fits. You need to find out what the problem is and find out how technology can make it better. Korea is attempting that now.

 

 



Sofia Celeste
FAIRPLAY Editor-in-Chief

When she is not hunting down the latest in tech and fashion, Sofia Celeste is scouting artisan talent for her online magazine bacoluxury.com. Born in the US and raised on the Pacific Island of Guam, she went on to write for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. Her work is now regularly published in top fashion publications NOWFASHION and WWD.

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