Cross Border Innovation: The 4 South Korean Startups Thriving in Sillicon Valley

South Korea has a thriving business community with startups cropping up all over the place. The government has fueled its growth through government incentives like co-working spaces and accelerator programs.

The country has a relatively small population of 53 million people. Thus, global expansion is necessary for many young companies who are trying to scale. Startup founders from South Korea take part in business competitions all over the world including the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

Here are 4 Korean startup pioneers:

1. Neofect: Gamification for Stroke Rehabilitation

A group of alumni from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business launched Neofect to bring the latest technological innovations in health care. The company’s signature product is a wearable device for stroke rehabilitation. 

RAPAEL Smart Glove™ is a biofeedback system. It includes a glove-like sensor device and a software designed to help patients with central nervous system disorders. The software creates training games based on the data transmitted via Bluetooth from the patient’s hand. 40 games are available currently.

The system’s artificial intelligence adjusts the game’s difficulty level according to the participant’s performance. Therapists can design specific rehabilitation schedules by combining the games.

Hospitals in South Korea have been using the device since the end of 2014. In 2015, Neofect received FDA approval and opened an office in San Francisco. Later this year, it will introduce a consumer version of the Smart Glove. The new product will be more affordable, and will allow stroke victims to train at home at their own pace.

The Rapael system brings gamification into rehab exercise, motivating patients while improving the effectiveness of the therapy with thee data provided to caregivers. This startup is giving patients hope of regaining mobility and improving their quality of life. 

2. Chartmetric: Big Data for the Music Industry

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, music streaming increased by 92.8% in 2015. Playlists have become the most common way of discovering new tracks. In order to gain popularity, artists and their managers have to find the best matching playlists for new songs.

Sungmoon Cho combined his technology expertise as a product manager at Oracle with his business education from UCLA Andersen School of Management to launch Chartmetric. Sungmoon launched a free beta on June 2016.

The company’s mission is to help the industry participants better understand consumer behavior and understand the metrics of playlist trends. The Palo Alto based startup has designed a tool that monitors the data across Spotify and multiple social media platforms. It visualizes all the information in a real time on a single dashboard.

The website also shows historical data and trends for each playlist, track, and artist. Musicians can discover new revenue streams by finding which playlists are a good fit for them. Consumer brands can identify the artists and playlists that are popular among their target groups.

Chartmetric is the first service to focus on monitoring playlist performance. 

3. KonoLabs: Improving Productivity with Artificial Intelligence

Today, we spend countless hours scheduling meetings with each other. Kono is a new addition to the productivity toolbox.

Kono is a mobile scheduling app that utilizes artificial intelligence and acts as a personal digital assistant which launched in Spring 2015 at 500 Startups. YJ Min, the founder of the Silicon Valley and Seoul based startup, is a graduate of the MIT Sloan Business School.

Kono schedules events in easy steps:

  • Select the type of event and your preferable time slots, and add the emails of people you are inviting
  • Kono will review everyone’s calendars to check their availability
  • It will suggest the best time to meet. It will also analyze the participants’ locations prior to the meeting and their favorite restaurants 
  • Based on the findings, it will send the invitations.

Kono is available on Apple and Android devices. It syncs with Google Calendar, Google Maps, and Yelp. It sends reminders to notify users when they should leave for their meeting based on current traffic conditions. Kono launched a beta of its concierge service in June of 2016.

4. CarVi: Affordable Digital Driver Assistance

CarVi is a San Jose based startup that has designed an affordable digital driver assistant and Advance Collision Warning System. Their inversion can upgrade a car’s safety features regardless of its age or model.

CarVi's system includes a dashboard camera and a mobile app. The app allows the camera to communicate with the user’s smartphone. The software analyzes the video stream in a real time and alerts the driver in case of a danger.  

It tracks risky behaviors and proposes necessary actions to improve your driving skills. The system offers an affordable and regulation-friendly solution to build a bridge between old fashioned cars and autonomous ones. 

Insurance companies will leverage the data collected and analyzed by CarVi's system so that they can create more accurate risk reports. They can use it when setting auto insurance premiums which translates to better rates for drivers. Now, their skills will determine their insurance rate. This approach also encourages a lower-risk behavior when driving and can attract new customers for insurance companies. That is a winning scenario for everyone. 

CarVi ran a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo last year.  Now, it is available for pre-order at $299 and is expected to ship this summer.

These four ventures prove that innovation can come from any part of the world. Their journey from South Korea to America should inspire other entrepreneurs. The process of developing fresh ideas and crossing international and cultural boundaries is challenging. With companies like these four who are blazing a trail, I believe that the global startup community will continue to grow, and local entrepreneurs will work together across borders.