The trip served as an opportunity for businesses to gain hands-on experience of working in the Korean marketplace, pitch their business to industry professionals and take part in a day-long 'hack' event to help hone and refine their business models.
The trip also allowed entrepreneurs to experience a different way of thinking and running their business and for some it completely influenced the future direction of their company.
We asked Benjamin Gibbs, CEO of hospitality app Flowify, to share his experience visiting The Korea Foundation and explain how it was crucial in helping his company pivot into a exciting new direction. Read his full interview below...
What did you take away from your experience observing the Korean market?
We run Flowify which is a hospitality app to improve efficiency however after the South Korea trip we had a big deal fall through which almost made us run out of cash. Flowify is still there but we have now come up with a new idea which is social enterprise focused and nearly all of that idea came from the trip to South Korea. What we actually got out of the trip, from a hospitality point of view, wasn’t much. What we were exposed to was a lot of social enterprise and the social enterprise products that South Korea is pushing. We were also shown how big corporations are kicking off projects to help the community and make a social impact. It was just really enlightening to see because in the UK we don’t really do anything on that scale. It was actually breath-taking to see all these different social enterprises being picked up by corporates.
So visiting South Korea directly influenced your new venture?
Yes, what we’re doing now has got a big social enterprise aspect. We have just got some money through a UK investment fund that specialise in social enterprise and we’re still working on Flowify. The big thing that we noticed during our trip was that there is a massive social enterprise aspect in South Korea. Five of the ten teams that went with us were social enterprises themselves. People think a social enterprise is a charity but really social enterprise isn’t about that. In Korea it’s about what you can do with tech and how you use social enterprise to make money and a big social impact and how you can make a difference,
What would you say the benefits of the trip were?
Before the trip we spent six months working with a big client which burnt a lot of money. Then they pulled out at the last minute and because we’re a start-up we didn’t have lots of recurring revenue. At that point we had two options: we could close it down or we could find something else that could keep us going. Because of the South Korea trip, we set up a social enterprise app based around helping parents be more engaged with their children’s education. It lets you crowd source video content so you can go on a trip or event; upload the video to one place, someone can edit it and you get your final edited video. While on the trip to South Korea we were trying to exchange photographs and videos but some services only support video, so we took the idea to push images and videos to a recent depository and applied it to schools. Now that our social enterprise has started and we have funding, schools can take fly-on-the-wall photos and post them to a central depository that can be used by head teachers and schools to show images to parents.
Would you recommend the trip to other companies?
Yes absolutely, I don’t even need to think twice. Remember: don’t think about what you can get out of it as a company there and then. At first, I wasn’t sure what we got out of it apart from a good time but four months later and the impact that it had on what me and my co-founder are doing is drastic. It has inspired 95% of what we are doing with this new venture. I would recommend anybody does it because for us, it turned out to be crucial.
To find out more about Flowify, read our interview with Co-Founder Laura Baines.
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