South Korean conglomerates and tech unicorns - will a partnership emerge?

November 30, 2022 | Blog

South Korean conglomerates and tech unicorns - will a partnership emerge?

South Korea has created a strong startup ecosystem, supported both by private and public markets.  Given the country’s strong R&D and manufacturing capabilities, it has ranked fifth in the latest Global Innovation Index published by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

As South Korea captures the attention of its global peers, how does South Korea fit into the global technology picture? How will Web3 technology influence businesses in the country? And how is the technology landscape evolving and which sub-sectors will see the most growth in the coming years?

These questions and more were the topics at a panel discussion at the AVCJ Private Equity and Venture Forum – Korea held in Seoul recently. The session ‘Technology and innovation in South Korea - Taking centre stage’ was moderated by Jimmy Kim, Co-Founder & Partner at Sparkslab Group and he was joined by panelists:

  • Heeeun Park, Partner, Altos Ventures
  • Ken Shin, Vice President, Hyundai Motor Company
  • Jai Choi, Managing Partner, Tekton/Partech Partners
  • Desmond Chua, Head of APAC, Datasite
Web3 prominent in South Korea’s 4th industrial revolution

The 4th industrial revolution is being led technological innovations ‘new’ economy companies anticipate the growth and evolution of sub sectors whether that be climate and sustainability, robotics, and automation, and supply chain and logistics in South Korea and Greater Asia.

Web3 technologies are emerging as a frontrunner and a practical choice for investment. Investors have different perceptions about Web3. One view is that Web3 reduces the need for intermediaries, bringing the consumer closer to the producer.

Another view is that the younger generation, especially Gen-Z, loves the transparency that technology provides and they value the fairness it empowers. In this regard, Web3 technology enables them to communicate and form communities wherein service providers are also able to participate.

The tech scene in South Korea also presents a huge opportunity from an investment perspective, as traditional investors, namely corporates and financial institutions, are looking to participate in technology deals and increase their market share in the digital space.

Deal flow opportunities during a downturn

The sectors that look poised for investment and dealmaking in South Korea are on two ends of the spectrum. As the country clocks a high per capita GDP, consumers with an increase in their disposable income gravitate towards ‘buying time’. Hence, sectors like the leisure industry, domestic services, and healthcare could see rising demand even in a downturn.

On the other hand, technology driven new economy start-ups are emerging as investment destinations. The evolving sectors focusing on climate change and sustainability, robotics and automation, and supply chain logistics are areas of potential growth in South Korea and Greater Asia.

Learn more about the dealmaking trends and market forces driving deals in South Korea and the rest of APAC from Datasite’s Deal Drivers reports.

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If you'd like to see how M&A is faring in other sectors and regions, check out our latest Deal Drivers reports from APAC, EMEA, and the Americas to gain more insight into dealmaking.

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