Event: Startup Weekend Women Seoul
Host: Techstars Startup Programs
Organizers: Songyi Lee, Jay Kim, Chris Geogriev, Marta Allina
Guest Speaker: Jinju Lee of Girls Robot
Seyoung Seo, Amazon web services, Stacy Kim, WeWork Korea, Joy Choi (Radish),
Mijeong Park (NAVERLabs), Elysia Lee (WooZoo), JiHong Kim (Design Spectrum),
JungEun Yoo (Mabo / Gpause)
Lalitha Wemel, Techstars Regional Manager for Asia Pacific
Nina Jeon,Professor of Design Kyemyung University
Charlene Wang, Manager of Samsung NEXT
SeokWon Yang, Serial entrepreneur and startup advisor
Event metrics: 42 attendees, 21 ideas pitched, 10 teams
Date: March 22- March 25, 2018
How I Learned about Startup Weekend Women Seoul
I learned about Startup Weekend Seoul Women on eventbrite.com, as I was preparing to travel from Bangkok to Seoul for the next 4 weeks. In Bangkok, I usually find events on Facebook, few events on meetup.com, and a few (pricey) events on eventbrite.com
Like shopping for a good discount, I "shop" for good events to attend every time I travel :)
Once I found the event details I reached out to the Startup Weekend Women Seoul team introducing myself as a blogger (I'm learning more everyday how people really love and respect bloggers), who attended and wrote about Startup Weekend Bangkok Women last year, and was very interested in attending Startup Weekend Women Seoul during my time "exploring" Seoul startup ecosystem.
About 1 day later, I received a enthusiastic email from one of the organisers and a 50% discount code (the event costs 50USD-70USD), and details of the Startup Weekend Women Seoul. I also encouraged my friend whose teaching English, but also interested in startups to the event, and off we went!
What is Startup Weekend?
Startup Weekend, organised by Tech Stars, is an intensive weekend that brings entrepreneurs and people together who have ideas, and teaches them how to build their ideas into a business. Over the course of 3 intensive days, individuals pitch ideas, create teams, meet with mentors, and create their final pitch to be presented on the last day in front of a panel of judges.
Participants experience what it's like to be an entrepreneur: pressure, team-building, how to build an idea with limited resources, learn how to create a pitch deck, practice storytelling skills, practicing speaking English (most presentations were in English and 2 were in Korean), learn how to take feedback and constructive criticism from mentors, and pitch.
Startup Weekend Women Seoul was not limited to women, but it focused was to get more women to participate and build confidence in their ideas and how to become an entrepreneur.The event did have a handful of men, and a diversity of different types of women: young professionals, mommies, students, and foreigners that created a vibrant and positive atmosphere where no one would be afraid to speak up and share their ideas.
The main sponsor for the Startup Weekend Women Seoul was wework (Samsung Station), which was very beautiful, spacious, and had comfortable places for teams to spread around, focus, and get to work.
The Experience at Startup Weekend Women Seoul
Once the event began I could feel the excitement and anticipation as attendees finished their dinner boxes and excitingly chatting with one another before we were instructed to move to another room to formally begin the event. I arrived to wework early to get "a feel" of the space and talk to other guest to learn their stories.
Most of the people I met were Koreans, some young professionals, university students (even high school students!), others were in the idea stage of their startup, and a few were at an early stage for their startup; I also met a few foreigners (2 who were from the K-Startup Grand Challenge), other foreigners I met lived, work, or studied in Korea.
Overall it was a great mix of people who shared a common goal to get to know other entrepreneurs and experience how to build an idea to product in 3 days.
After the welcome speech and ice breaker games, it was time for people to pitch their ideas. Anyone with an idea could pitch with an allotted time of 60 seconds and try to win the audience over with her or his idea. Twenty-one peopled pitched their ideas, and after 3 rounds of pitching, chatting with founders, 10 teams were formed.
After about 5 hours of networking, eating, games, introductions, and pitching Day 1 was over. I could see that people were still excited after a long day to return Saturday morning for Day 2 to get started on building their ideas.
Funsy, video dating app
A Step, work life balance digital planner to organize your life
CHILTREE, cost effect childcare app
Triple, mommy, me, and my doll clothing line
Fast Pass, luggage sharing & delivery app
Maum, counseling service for foreigners in Korea
DigiMoms, app to help Korean moms take manage life after having a child
Take or leave it, (presentation in Korean)
Tripeer, website to help tourist learn about Korea
Unamed team (all text in Korean so I couldn't get the name :( )
Day 2: Mentors and Developing Ideas
My role for attending Startup Weekend Women Seoul was to write about the event, and when I had gathered enough notes for the day, I spent a few hours working on my websites and talking with mentors about my startup.
I signed up for 3 mentoring sessions to get feedback and constructive criticism of my pitch deck and my startup.
I met with 3 mentors, Chris Gregoriev, one of the organisers and a recipient of K-Startup Grand Challenge (who I later interviewed). When I showed Chris my pitch deck he understood the cuteness factor and gave me great feedback, as I'm applying accelerator programs in Europe. His advice was that I should adjust my pitch deck for a European audience who aren't familiar with stickers and cuteness.
Next I talked with Stacy Kim, Director of Operations for WeWork Korea, and she immediately understood the possibilities for my startup in Southeast Asia because she used to be the Google leader for SE Asia! We hit it right off, as she shared her time and knowledge working for Google SE Asia and how wework has it's eyes on expanding in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia this coming year.
Lastly, I met with Suyeong Seo, of Amazon Web Services, and once I showed her Yummy Blair character her immediate reaction was "cute!" She shared the story of a Korean cosmetic brand that gained loyal and lifelong customers by hiring independent beauty consultants and having an independent cosmetic line that was exclusively sold in person, as a way to compete with the growing ecommerce shops. Her advice was to focus on my brand and continue to cultivate individual customer experiences, while using technology to scale the business.
Day 3: Pitch Day
The last day I felt I was no longer amongst strangers, but friends and fellow entrepreneurs who had worked endless hours to bring their ideas to a completed product. I could feel how nervous and excited everyone was, as the organisers asked teams to stop working, close their lap tops, take their seats, and get ready to pitch!
The judges on the panel included:
Nina Jeon, Kyemyung University Professor of Design
Charlene Wang, Manager of Samsung NEXT
SeokWon Yang, serial entrepreneur and startup advisor
Lalitha Wemel, Techstars’ Regional Manager
Teams pitched mostly in English with the exception of 2 teams, and the audience eagerly listened and cheered on teams after they presented their pitches. Judges asked a range of questions including:
1. How will your idea scale and/or work in the Korea market?
2. Who are your competitors and how are you different?
3. Is this a service/product in demand for the Korean market?
4. How will you make money?
Teams had 5 minutes to pitch and 3 minutes of questions from the judges. Most teams stayed within the time limit, some teams had one person pitch while other compartmentalised their pitch so all team members spoke, and teams that didn't have native English speakers or confident English speakers presented in Korean.
After 2 hours all 10 teams finished pitching and everyone applauded and cheered as champagne and sweets were served to celebrate.
Judges were given about 30 minutes to deliberate and award 3 teams with prizes, and organisers printed out certificates of participation for all attendees.
I didn't get the names of 3 teams that one, but my friend's team Triple (mommy, daughter, and doll) won a prize.
Networking & New Friendships
Startup Weekend Women Seoul was a great experience and opportunity to network and learn about the local Korean startup ecosystem.
I'm glad to say I have made new friends and learned about new opportunities if I so wished to bring my startup to Korea. I took the chance to talk with some of the judges, and organisers to learn more about their stories and thoughts about the event.
After the food was gone, speeches and announcements were made, and many pictures were taken to capture the euphoria of a weekend that ended so quickly.
This is not the last event for Startup Weekend Women Seoul, as organisers encouraged people to connect on the Facebook group to learn more about future events.