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Korean startups pitch ideas, appeal to investors in Hong Kong

HONG KONG -- On a small green stage dubbed “PITCH,” one of three judges posed a sharp question to Sunny Choi, chief operations officer of Yana Trip, a travel startup from South Korea, after Choi’s presentation about her company at the RISE 2017 event being held in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

“So why did you say it is difficult for big players like Expedia to interrupt your business?” the judge asked.

“We do have a lot of exclusive products that can be found only in Asia -- trips to small and unknown places -- that such big competitors may miss out,” Choi said with confidence.

PITCH is a tournament in which chosen startups compete for investment by presenting their business models. Six startups competed Wednesday.

Yana Trip was founded two years ago and officially launched a global travel platform specializing in adventurous trips and activities in Asia. It took part in the RISE conference, the biggest startup event in the region, in order to look for business partners and investors.

A total of nine Korean startups, including Yana Trip, joined this year’s conference that is running through Thursday, compared to the participation of three Korean startups last year. 
About 200 startups set up booths on the second day of the RISE 2017 event being held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center on Wednesday. (RISE)
About 200 startups set up booths on the second day of the RISE 2017 event being held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center on Wednesday. (RISE)

LINKFLOW, a startup for virtual reality cameras spun off from Korean tech titan Samsung Electronics, is one of the successful Korean firms. It recently received an investment from Nest, a Hong Kong financial investor.

“We were asked to take part in the RISE event by Nest to meet more partners and investors,” Kevin Kim, CEO of LINKFLOW.

Samsung has been running a startup program called “Creative Lab” since 2012 and supporting around 160 projects voluntarily suggested by its employees. A total of 25 successful startups were spun off to operate on their own.

Kim left Samsung to start the VR camera business targeting overseas markets and focusing on the US and Europe.

His product, dubbed “FITT 360,” is a hands-free necklace-like camera that can record videos from all angles with three cameras equipped in the device. Kim is preparing the camera for both consumers and businesses, especially for retailers, realtors and security firms.

The product for businesses will hit the market in October, mainly through global e-commerce players like Amazon and Kickstart. The camera for individual consumers is planned to be launched next April.

LINKFLOW has also partnered with Facebook, enabling users to post and view their videos automatically on Facebook.

“From the very beginning, I thought there wouldn’t be much demand in the Korean market, so I am working globally,” he said. “Several more Hong Kong investors and some from the Middle East are showing interest in our product.”

Iconix Entertainment, widely known for Pororo, a popular Korean animation character for toddlers, decided to come to Hong Kong this year to hold meetings with some local businesses here.  

Pinkfong USA, a subsidiary of another character producer SmartStudy in Korea, which is gradually gaining international fame for its Pinkfong character, also joined the event to take part in a panel session on YouTube creators, communities and studios of the future.

By Song Su-hyun
Korea Herald correspondent