观点:下一个创业热潮或许会从韩国刮起
With $4B food delivery acquisition, Korea poised to enter upper tier of startup hubs
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2019-12-18 10:41
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火星译客

Seoul and South Korea may well be the secret startup hub that (still) no one talks about.

首尔和韩国很可能成为秘密的创业中心,但目前还没有引起太多关注。

While often dwarfed by the scale and scope of the Chinese startup market next door, South Korea has proven over the last few years that it can — and will — enter the top-tier of startup hubs.

虽然与邻国中国相比,韩国创业生态的规模仍然较小,但在过去几年时间里韩国已经证明,它也有能力成为顶级创业中心,并且正在这样去做。

Case in point: Baedal Minjok (typically shortened to Baemin), one of the country's leading food delivery apps, announced an acquisition offer by Berlin-based Delivery Hero in a blockbuster $4 billion transaction late this week, representing potentially one of the largest exits yet for the Korean startup world.

举个例子:韩国领先的外卖应用 Baedal Minjok(通常简称为 Baemin)宣布,已收到总部位于柏林的外卖平台 Delivery Hero 的 40 亿美元收购要约。这可能是韩国创业公司到目前为止规模最大的投资退出交易之一。

The transaction faces antitrust review before closing, since Delivery Hero owns Baemin's largest competitor Yogiyo, and therefore is conditional on regulatory approval. Delivery Hero bought a majority stake in Yogiyo way back in 2014.

这笔交易在完成之前仍然需要接受反垄断审查,因为 Delivery Hero 也拥有 Baemin 最大的竞争对手 Yogiyo,因此交易必须得到监管部门的批准。Delivery Hero 早在 2014 年就收购了 Yogiyo 的多数股份。

What's been dazzling though is to have witnessed the growth of this hub over the past decade. As TechCrunch's former foreign correspondent in Seoul five years ago and a university researcher locally at KAIST eight years ago, I've been watching the growth of this hub locally and from afar for years now.

过去 10 年,韩国创业生态的发展令人眼花缭乱。5 年前在首尔,我曾是 TechCrunch 的驻外记者。8 年前,我还在韩国科学技术院(KAIST)担任大学研究员。因此多年来,我一直在当地和远方观察韩国作为创业中心的发展。

While the country remains dominated by its chaebol tech conglomerates — none more important than Samsung — it's the country's startup and culture industries that are driving dynamism in this economy. And with money flooding out of the country's pension funds into the startup world (both locally and internationally), even more opportunities await entrepreneurs willing to slough off traditional big corporate career paths and take the startup route.

韩国科技行业目前仍然被财阀主导,三星是这个国家最重要的科技公司。不过,创业和文化产业正在推动整体经济的活力。随着资金从韩国的养老金基金流向创业公司(无论是本地公司还是国际公司),愿意放弃传统大公司职业,走上创业道路的创业者也将获得更多机会。

Five years ago, Baemin was just an app for chicken delivery with a cutesy and creative interface facing criticism from restaurant franchise owners over fees. Now, its motorbikes are seen all over Seoul, and the company has installed speakers in many restaurants where a catchy whistle and the company's name are announced every time there is an online delivery order.

5 年前,Baemin 还只是一款专注于鸡肉制品外卖的应用,界面可爱而富有创意,餐厅特许经营权的所有者对其收费感到不满。目前,该公司的送货摩托车在首尔各地随处可见,而 Baemin 也在许多餐厅安装了喇叭。每当有在线订单到来时,都会发出标志性的声音和公司名称。

(Last week when I was in Seoul, one restaurant seemingly received an order every 1-3 minutes with a “Baedal Minjok Order!” announcement that made eating a quite distracted experience. Amazing product marketing tactic though that I am surprised more U.S.-based food delivery startups haven't copied yet).

(上周当我拜访首尔时,一家餐厅似乎每隔 1 到 3 分钟就会收到订单,并发出 “Baedal Minjok 订单!” 的播报,使得用餐过程很吵闹。这是令人惊叹的产品营销策略,而令我惊讶的是,美国的外卖公司还没有开始效仿。)

The strengths of the ecosystem remain the same as they have always been. A huge workforce of smart graduates (Korea has one of the highest education rates in the world), plus a high youth unemployment and underemployment rate have driven more and more potential founders down the startup path rather than holding out for professional positions that may never materialize.

生态的力量一如既往地保持不变。大学毕业生队伍庞大(韩国是全球受教育率最高的国家之一),加上年轻人失业率高企和就业率不足,促使越来越多的年轻人走上创业的道路,而不再是寻找大公司的专业职位。

What has changed is venture capital funding. It wasn't so long ago that Korea struggled to get any funding for its startups. Years ago, the government initiated a program to underwrite the creation of venture capital firms focused on the country's entrepreneurs, simply because there was just no capital to get a startup underway (it was not uncommon among some deals I heard of at the time for a $100k seed check to buy almost a majority of a startup's equity).

发生改变的是风投基金。就在不久之前,韩国的创业公司还在为融资来源而烦恼。几年前,韩国政府启动了一项计划,为专注于韩国创业者的风投基金提供担保。原因很简单,当时创业公司缺乏启动资金。(在我当时听说的一些交易中,用 10 万美元就能买下创业公司大部分股权的情况并不少见。)

Now, Korea has become a startup target for many international funds, including Goldman Sachs and Sequoia. It has also been at the center of many of the developments of blockchain in recent years, with the massive funding boom and crash that market sustained. Altogether, the increased funding has led to a number of unicorn startups — a total of seven according to the The Crunchbase Unicorn Leaderboard.

现在,韩国已经成为包括高盛和红杉在内许多国际资本开展创投活动的目的地。近年来,随着市场的繁荣,韩国也成为了区块链发展的中心。整体来看,资金的增加已经培育了多家独角兽公司。根据 CrunchBase 独角兽排行榜的数据,韩国这样的公司共有 7 家。

And the country is just getting started – with a bunch of new startups looking poised to driven toward huge outcomes in the coming years.

韩国才刚刚起步。一批新的创业公司很可能在未来几年内取得巨大的成果。

Thus, there continues to be a unique opportunity for venture investors who are willing to cross the barriers here and engage. That said, there are challenges to overcome to make the most of the country's past and future success.

因此,对于愿意跨越这里的障碍并参与其中的风险投资者来说,机会仍然很有吸引力。不过,如果想要最大限度利用韩国以往和未来的成功去获得商机,还有一些挑战需要克服。

Perhaps the hardest problem is simply getting insight on what is happening locally. While China attracts large contingents of foreign correspondents who cover everything from national security to the country's startups and economy, Korea's foreign media coverage basically entails coverage of the funny guy to the North and the occasional odd cultural note. Dedicated startup journalists do exist, but they are unfortunately few and far between and vastly under-resourced compared to the scale of the ecosystem.

或许最困难的一件事是了解当地正在发生什么。中国吸引了大批外国记者的关注,他们报道从国家安全、创业公司到宏观经济的方方面面事件,而在韩国的外国媒体主要关注朝鲜的消息,以及本地的奇闻异事。关注创业的记者确实存在,但不幸的是,与整个生态的规模相比,他们的人数很少,且资源严重不足。

Plus, similar to New York City, there are also just a number of different ecosystems that broadly don't interact with each other. For Korea, it has startups that target the domestic market (which makes up the bulk of its existing unicorns), plus leading companies in industries as diverse as semiconductors, gaming, and music/entertainment. My experience is that these different verticals exist separately from each other not just socially, but also geographically as well, making it hard to combine talent and insights across different industries.

此外,与纽约市的相似之处在于,这里也有许多不同的生态,而这些生态相互之间也没有什么联系。韩国有针对国内市场的创业公司(占独角兽公司的大部分),以及半导体、游戏和音乐娱乐等行业的领先公司。我的看法是,这些不同的垂直行业不仅在社会上相互独立,并且在地理位置上也分得很开,使得跨行业的人才和信息流动很不顺畅。

Yet ultimately, as valuations soar in the Valley and other prominent tech hubs, it is the next tier of startup cities that might well offer the best return profiles. For the early investors in Baemin, this was a week to celebrate, perhaps with some fried chicken delivery.

不过,随着硅谷和其他知名科技中心的企业估值飙升,能带来更好回报的很可能会是二线创业中心。对 Baemin 的早期投资者来说,这是值得庆祝的一周。

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