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Start-ups dream of success in ‘incubatorship’

November 27, 2013
Mario Garcia, co-founder of Arcticpod, right in front row, and other CEOs and representatives of start-up companies supported by the Seoul Global Center’s incubation program pose at their office in the center’s building in Jongno, central Seoul, on Nov. 14. / Korea Times photo by Yoon Sung-won

Mario Garcia, co-founder of Arcticpod, right in front row, and other CEOs and representatives of start-up companies supported by the Seoul Global Center’s incubation program pose at their office in the center’s building in Jongno, central Seoul, on Nov. 14. (Korea Times photo by Yoon Sung-won)

By Nam Hyun-woo

ICNKR.com, the largest web portal for Chinese expats in Korea, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of an incubation program provided by the Seoul Global Center.

The company was in the incubation program at the Gangnam branch of the center in 2010, and in just three years it has become a major web portal ― with some 500,000 hits daily ― run by more than 20 employees. It has more than 790,000 subscribers here and in China.

A top Korean conglomerate recently expressed its interest in working with the company.

In the center’s headquarters in Jongno, central Seoul, four start-up companies are working hard to follow in the footsteps of ICNKR.com.

STG edu

STG edu is a company developing fundamental learning methods for children younger than middle-school age to learn while having fun. The company’s main products are mobile applications for children’s education.

“In elementary level, kids are supposed to master a certain level of knowledge and understanding, but if they fail to develop an interest in their studies, they end up dropping out of school,” said Veronica Kim, CEO of STG edu.

She stressed that having fun while learning is the most important thing to prevent children from losing interest in education. And learning through mobile devices will help them learn by making it fun.

The company’s first application teaches them how to memorize vocabulary words using pictures taken by the users themselves. It is due to be released within the next month.

Horizon Communications

Horizon Communications is an English-based business communications service provider. Started in January, the company teaches Korean companies business skills to work more efficiently with overseas businesses, especially Western-based companies. It also provides counseling services on streamlining a company’s internal communication strategy.

“There are some companies in Korea with both internal and external communication strategies that are not the best,” said Huw-Morgan Evans, business development director of the company.

“Communication is now a key driving skill for all business endeavors. So we are trying to help companies restructure their communication strategy,” he said.

Arcticpod

Arcticpod is a software developer for air conditioner controlling interface that allows users to more easily control a room’s temperature.

“It’s very complicated for users, because you never know what temperature will be comfortable for you,” said Mario Garcia, co-founder of Arcticpod.

“But on the engineering side, manufacturers just make a very simple temperature-up-temperature-down system, and they don’t really care about users’ comfort.”

He said the company will soon file a patent, so he is not able to disclose further details about the company’s product. The astrophysicist-turned-software developer estimated that integrating advanced technologies in research into the home appliance market will likely be the cash cow for his company in the future.

NYK Media Group

NYK Media Group is an advertising agency that makes video advertisements friendlier to Western-based audiences, and was established by independent filmmakers from the U.S.

“Many Korean companies do Korean-styled advertising for foreign markets. But in many cases, foreigners fail to understand the advertisements, because of cultural differences and language barriers,” said Gerald Lee, managing producer of the company.

He said the company’s goal is to service one video that everybody in the world will respond to. He said it will help Korean companies to make their products attractive to Western companies.

The company is currently working on an advertising campaign for the International Vaccine Institute, a non-profit vaccine research institute headquartered in Seoul.

Entrepreneurs said the center’s support has been a huge help for them.

“I believe their free counseling services for basic things like taxes, labor law and regulations, provided by trustworthy experts are of great assistance to start-ups,” said Garcia.

“Steven McKinney is doing great running this center and helping us meet the right people in the business world. That might be the one of the greatest benefits that we can get from this center,” said John Weeke, managing director of NYK Media Group.

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