Now you can Shazam your beer

This was originally published on Tech in Asia on Nov. 12, 2015. So many beers, so little time. With so many options between the hoppy, the fruity, the wheats, the stouts, the ales, the seasonal pumpkin brews – and boy, can those go either way – and splices you’ve never dreamed of, your next mystery bottle could either be sinfully good or horribly awry. Don’t you wish someone had told you before you opened it? It’s about time there’s an app for that. Letsee Beer, created by Korean startup Letsee for iOS and Android, uses your smartphone camera to scan…

The digital nomad: lonely, white, male

This was originally published on Tech in Asia on Sept. 3, 2015. Jon Yongfook, a British-Singaporean software engineer, had enough of his day-to-day routine and decided he was done being the cog in a corporate wheel. “I didn’t want to keep building stuff for other people. I wanted to build stuff for myself. And all I was doing was just waking up in my ridiculously expensive apartment, making breakfast, going to Starbucks, going home, making dinner, and going to bed. And I was just thinking, why? Why would I stay here?” he tells Seoul-based journalist Do You-jin, in her upcoming documentary…

Can Korea compete in crowdfunding?

This was originally published in The Korea Herald on Aug. 11, 2015. Korea’s start-up community breathed a collective sigh of relief last month when the government approved the long-awaited crowdfunding act, two years after it was first proposed in June 2013. Aimed at opening funding channels for start-ups, the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act paves the way for equity-based crowdfunding ― a type of fund-raising method that lets individuals invest up to 2 million won ($1,700) in a single start-up, and 5 million won collectively over the year, through an online brokerage site. With the implementation of equity-based crowdfunding,…

Support for foreign start-ups in Korea reveals redundancies

This is the fourth article in a series on foreigners working in Korea’s technology start-up ecosystem. Two years ago, the barrier for foreign entrepreneurs to open a business in Korea was 100 million won high ― about $100,000. As major cities began emerging as tech hubs, the Seoul government recognized its need to catch up with the global trend as global talent sought friendlier homes. Since then, it has been opening doors for foreigners’ start-ups as part of its creative economy drive to foster the “Korean Silicon Valley” as the next Asian tech hub. The government vowed to do away with the…

Labor laws hurt start-ups

Foreigner quotas, visa rules provoke firms to seek loopholes Published  June 4, 2015, in The Korea Herald Listen to the related radio interview on TBS eFM here This is the third article in a series on foreigners working in Korea’s technology start-up ecosystem. Sang Youn-joo and Stephanie McDonald contributed to this report. ― Ed.   Etienne Maurin hadn’t finished graduate school when Kim Min-kee sought to found a start-up with him. A whiz at programming languages like Ruby, the master’s student from France was the most trustworthy partner to help Kim develop My Memoirs, a story-sharing platform inspired by his time working…

Foreign start-ups edge in on Korean tech turf

Korea opens up to foreign services, workplace diversity Published May 22, 2015, in The Korea Herald This is the second article in a series on foreigners working in Korea’s technology start-up ecosystem. ― Ed. Tech industry pundits in Korea used to joke that this is where overseas companies would come to die. In a country once dominated by local titans like Nate and Cyworld, foreign rivals like Yahoo and Myspace struggled to connect with local Web users and eventually backed out. But the situation has flipped in the past three to five years, they say, as social media and content…

Diversity missing in Korea’s creative economy drive

Global mindsets needed for shift to software, experts say This is the first article in a series on foreigners working in Korea’s technology start-up ecosystem. — Ed. Published May 8, 2015, in The Korea Herald   With the world’s best broadband networks, global technology giants, game-crazy smartphone users and a hefty 4 trillion won ($3.7 billion) government budget to foster the local start-up ecosystem, Korea is building itself up to be the next major Asian tech hub. But on the ground level, financial, legal, language and cultural roadblocks in Korea are still pushing many foreign tech entrepreneurs to favor Singapore or Hong Kong, industry…

Korea mulls lifting foreign worker limit

Published April 22, 2015, in The Korea Herald The South Korean government is considering the need to remove the limit on the number of foreign workers a company can hire, a move that would ease hiring, especially for small businesses, according to a foreign business representative in Korea. French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman David-Pierre Jalicon said Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-jick wants to remove the foreign worker quota by the end of the year. The quota requires companies to hire five Koreans full-time and have a yearly fiscal revenue greater than 60 million won to hire a…

Foreigners should not expect ‘freebies’

Korea Business Central community fills in gaps on doing business locally, creator says Published Dec. 11, 2012, in The Korea Herald   With the eighth-most business-friendly environment in the world ― so said the World Bank in October ― along with free government-provided services in English, Japanese and Chinese at the Seoul Global Business Center, free economic zones scattered across the country and various foreign direct investment incentives, there’s something to be said about Korea’s initiatives to help foreign businesses. It’s that foreign business owners should not expect any of it, according to Steven Bammel, creator of Korea Business Central, a…

Foreign start-ups hope city’s support breeds success

Seoul Global Business Centers offer multitude of free services for foreign start-ups Published Nov. 13, 2012, in The Korea Herald The following is the first in a series of stories featuring support and networking systems for foreigner-owned businesses in Korea. ― Ed.   Lia Iovenitti, president of market entry assistance company Conselit, put it like this: “The more you’re successful, the more money you earn, the more taxes you pay, the more Korean employees you employ. So the more successful we are, the better it goes for the Seoul Metropolitan Government and for the business situation. It’s a win-win situation for…