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[Herald Interview] ‘Korean startups should think about global market’

Head of Infiniti Lab says technology solution for future mobility is key for success, not just hardware

Like other parts of advanced markets in the world, expectations have been growing for budding enterprises in South Korea for their roles of creating unique ideas. 

Some of them have high potential to start in the Korean market, with the possibility of expanding globally afterward, an expert in startup accelerator program in Hong Kong said. But designing the product or service by having global expansion in mind from the beginning will bring differences afterward.

"One point of advice I would like to give to startups in Korea is to think about when you start your project or you start your business, think about the global market, not just the Korean market,” said Ross Garvie, head of Infiniti Lab, a global startup accelerator operated by the luxury carmaker, in an interview with The Korea Herald.

"Because then you can future-proof your business and make sure when you are able to expand outside of Korea that the product is right for the global market,” he said.

Ross Garvie, head of Infiniti Lab (Infiniti Lab)
Ross Garvie, head of Infiniti Lab (Infiniti Lab)

Garvie was in Seoul last week to attend a startup conference and network building event hosted by a local hardware accelerator N15.

He was one of speakers which also included Alain Tiquet, group director of Nvidia and Anthony Liu from Swire Properties. They attended presentations of Korean startups and offered their views on their ideas, according to organizers.

Garvie leads the Infiniti Lab, headquartered in Hong Kong, and is responsible for strategic and operational activities directing the accelerator program across the world. The lab has another branch in Toronto which focuses on Internet of Things and smart cities. The company plans to launch a similar project in Dubai and is investigating an opportunity in Seoul.

The lab in Hong Kong, which launched in 2015, has been inviting startups from across the world to develop better technological solution in the mobility for enhanced customer service. 

The lab currently has seven startups from five different countries. Residences and spaces to work are offered during the program. But the strength of the program is in the R&D networks under the Nissan-Renault alliance that directly help startups test marketability and feasibility of their business models, he said.

From the customer experience in purchasing a car and while owning the car, the luxury carmaker aims to deliver some innovative services in use of technologies to keep its premium brand in the future.

“In the future, an ideal world, of course, you are not even aware that the car has a service issue,” he said. “It will be identified by dealers and they can take care of your problem before you alerted them. So this is the ultimate seamless service we are aiming for.”

There‘s no technology or idea by startups being applied to Infiniti vehicles yet, since auto development takes considerable time. But the alumnis of the programs have been contributing in making changes in the carmaker‘s customer experience, including a virtual reality program introduced at Los Angeles Motor Show last week, offering fresh experience for visitors to the QX launch show.

Garvie who built his career at General Motors, Honda and Nissan, before joining Infiniti, also stressed that the car will not be just about hardware, but also about software in the future. And the lab is expected to play a crucial role in converging the two in mobility.

“How enjoyable to make that service depends on, yes, how good your car is,” he said.

“But secondly how much innovation and experience you can lay off on the top of hardware which all comes from software connectivity, and innovative ways of making the car experience more than just transportation.”

By Cho Chung-un (

Korea Herald daum