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Korea to Global by Kyum Kim

Characteristics of the Korean market

Korea is a unique market with homogeneous ethnicity, language, high GDP per capita, education level, and technology understanding. Applying business methods from other markets may lead to failure. Adjust your global strategy based on these unique characteristics to succeed.

Korean Market Cap

Korean startups with a market cap in the trillions have in common that they are widely known and used by everyone. Due to the small domestic market, it's hard to build a large company without targeting the entire nation. However, in the US, a social media platform for medical professionals can become a listed company with a value of over $5B.

The global market provides opportunities to reach sub-segments and tap into a much larger market. In Korea, intuition-centered product planning and development is common since people who make the product are also the ones consuming it. However, in other countries, it can be challenging to develop a successful product when the people making it are not the same as the consumers.

Data-driven product planning and development

For global products, data collection is essential to ensure the creators and users are aligned. Collecting data reduces errors and improves decision-making.

A recurring pattern seen in Korean startups

Korean startups tend to understand the Korean market well, but often lack knowledge about the global market. To succeed in a new market, entrepreneurs must recognize their lack of knowledge and work towards gaining a better understanding. In the Korean market, businesses need to solve problems for both individuals and companies, while in the global market, it's more common to target a specific sub-segment and solve problems in-depth. To identify the appropriate market segment and find in-depth problems, startups need to collect data through customer interactions.

Meet the customers first!

Kyum emphasizes the importance of customer insight in decision-making. Understanding customers means empathizing with their problems. Data alone (numbers) is not enough to make informed decisions. Therefore, it's essential to invest time and resources in finding the market when doing an early go-to-market in the US. Identifying problem hypotheses by meeting with customers and noting their feedback takes at least 3-6 months. Skipping this process can lead to loss of direction and waste of resources for a business. Kyum Kim suggests "The Mom Test" book and "How To Talk To Users" video by YCombinator for gaining insights through customer conversations.

Do not hire until you know what to do.

Good talent won't get hired anyway. Kyum Kim recommends that early-stage startups hire college or MBA graduates as short-term interns who can work with the founder to find answers to critical questions about the business plan. It takes time for the learning curve to rise steeply in the global market, and startups must focus their resources on the international market to draw the J-curve globally.

"How do Israeli startups approach global expansion?"

Kyum Kim rethought whether Korean startups are trapped in the "moderately sized domestic market" and failed to see the bigger picture after an Israeli startup expert told him that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to global expansion.