VCs, accelerators and entrepreneurs share insights on startup ecosystem

By Kim Young-won
  • Published : May 21, 2019 - 17:45
  • Updated : May 21, 2019 - 18:47

DAEJEON--Government officials, investors, and startup CEOs flocked to Daejeon City, the nation’s fifth-largest city, on Tuesday to participate in EXIT Daejeon 2019, a startup conference being held from Tuesday to Thursday.

At Daejeon Convention Center, the main venue of the conference, fledgling startup CEOs took the stage to pitch disruptive ideas in front of a panel of judges early in the morning Tuesday.

The Investor Editor-in-Chief Kim Ji-hyun (from left) and panelists -- Slush Head of VC Moaffak Ahmed, Nordic Impact Co-founder Kaja Kirstine Lilleng and Slush CEO Andreas Saari -- discuss ways to build the startup economy during a panel session of EXIT Forum on Tuesday. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)

Daejeon Mayor Her Tae-jeong then officially kicked off the conference at around 2 p.m. with opening remarks, followed by speeches by Kwon Choong-won, CEO of media firm Herald Corp., Daejeon Metropolitan Council Chairman Kim Jong-cheon, and Andreas Saari, CEO of European startup conference organizer Slush.

Following the opening ceremony, prominent figures in Korea, as well as global startup communities, shared their thoughts and insights during EXIT Forum, a sub event participated by some 150 investors and startups.

“When Slush first started out in 2008, the overall attitude towards entrepreneurship wasn’t that favorable, and it wasn’t a really popular option to build a company at all. But now it has changed a lot,” said Slush CEO Saari, emphasizing the importance of paving the way for the emergence of next-generation startups.

He was joined by other speakers, such as Slush Venture Capital head Moaffak Ahmed and hardware accelerator HAX founder Cyril Ebersweiler.

Ahmed touched on the collaboration between educational institutes, government agencies, and businesses to build a solid foundation for startups.

“Money is not a fuel, and it does not solve every problem,” said Ahmed, adding that creating a business environment in which entrepreneurs can willingly take risks is more important than just giving financial support.

Matthew Shampine, general manager of WeWork Korea, and Anne Badan, founder of nonprofit startup builder Shortcut, discussed how startups can go global.

"WeWork is a platform that connects everyone around the world and can be a way for startups to not just expand their business, (but) make connections, have a great time along the way, by building real relationships, and be friends through the WeWork community," Shampine said.

Meanwhile, Junction head Antti Hammainen and Line ScaleUp Executive Director Jayden Kang shared insights on how to nurture global startups and build a healthy ecosystem.

The three-day startup conference is co-sponsored by Daejeon Metropolitan City, Herald Corp., Daejeon Center for Creative Economy & Innovation and CEO Clubs Korea.

Three finalists of 24 startups, which are scheduled to pitch during the three days, will be offered a chance to attend Slush 2019 as exhibitors for free.

The judges consist of representatives of Slush, HAX and Wave Ventures, as well as officials of Beijing-based technology hub Zhongguancun and the China General Chamber of Commerce, among others.

In addition, meetup events for startups and Slush representatives, presentations by officials of embassies in Korea, as well as networking events between startups, investors and government officials will also be available. Some 60 Korean startups have been given a chance to set up a booth at Daejeon Convention Center.

By Kim Young-won (