As soon as you get off the subway, a few buildings fall apart at once. The countless blue windows, covered in a subtle gray, stand out against the traditional stamp of white houses embedded in the middle of the valley. Modernity against costumbrismo. Or what is the same, the disembarkation of startups and technology against agriculture and livestock. Because this is now Pangyo, in Gyeonggi Province about 40 kilometers south of downtown Seoul. A non-existent city until 2001 that has found its place in Korean geography, by government decision, in order to relieve the congestion of Gangnam, one of the economic engines of the capital.
Pangyo's ambition does not understand limits. With the arrival in 2011 of the so-called Techno Valley, an urban complex dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurship and technological innovation, its objective is to become a Silicon Valley capable of being the reference of startups in Asia. "We have to create a new successful growth formula and we are going to find it in the creative economy," says Finance Minister Kim Dong Yeon.
The numbers, for the moment, guarantee the initiative. More than 1,300 small businesses already installed, 70,500 entrepreneurs spread across different spaces and sales of more than 55,000 million euros, according to the latest data from the Gyeonggi Institute for Science and Technology Promotion.
Paymentwall, Hyperconnect and AhnLab are some of the startups most successful companies that have located their operations center in Pangyo. As Sungmin Park, researcher at JLL, explains the Tech Valley can call himself without hesitation the Silicon Valley of Korea. "It is a technological complex that has grown exponentially to become the fourth business center in the country in less than a decade," he adds.
This evolution would be meaningless without the support of the Government. The policies of tax rebates and low interest rates for loans and infrastructure expansions have been key to harvest part of the new jobs and innovation developed.
The majority of companies located in the valley are related to information technologies, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Although the concept startup is more or less widespread in most developed economies, in Korea it represents almost Rare avis. The large family conglomerates, denominated chaebol, are the masters of almost all business edges of the country.
Samsung, LG, Hyundai, SK and Nonghyup share most of the business. The same sell phones that have a large department store. This is the importance of fostering an entrepreneurial zone like Pangyo. Diversify innovation and bring it closer to individuals who do not have to work by decree for large organizations.
In Korea they are very tenacious, although everything is easier when you put a specific ministry to work with 1,800 million per year
Obviously, the big firms were not going to miss the opportunity to take part of the project. Some, like SK, have settled on Pangyo with some business divisions such as chemicals and telecommunications.
In order to try to revert this possible dominion already prevailing, the Government has supported the construction of the Techno Valley under the premise of unconditional support for entrepreneurs. "For there really to be an impact on the economy, we will support the startups in mentoring, marketing, internationalization and R & D, "says the finance minister. And is that, if you really want to become that hub Asian, the disruption has to start changing hands.
A good example of what Pangyo has become, south of Seoul, with the construction of the so-called Techno Valley is found in its streets. At the initiative of the provincial government of Gyeonggi, the startups from the valley , the Zero Shuttle Bus. Although it is in tests, it circulates without problems on the roads to communicate the five kilometers that separate this technological complex from the metro station. Its speed is 25 kilometers per hour, it can transport 11 people and, for the moment, it has not had any mishap. "This shows how Pangyo is setting the course for Korean economic innovation," said Lee Jae Myung, the town's mayor.
Apart from the small entrepreneurs who have moved to Pangyo, the Government is looking for more ways to attract talent estartapero to your country. Two years ago he launched the K-Startup Grand Challenge to accelerate to 50 startups for three months to expenses paid.
The promised reward of 90,000 euros for the winner, added to the preferential treatment with the Korean technological innovation, has led to more than 2,000 candidates to request their access to the program annually. All formulas are valid to become a new reference. In Korea they are very tenacious in their work, although it is true that everything is easier when you put a specific ministry to work with an investment of 1,800 million euros per year with the intention of growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The good health demonstrated these years by Pangyo has led the different public powers to agree to launch a second Techno Valley in this same location. Although the works are not expected to be completed until 2022, the project promises to be almost as large as the existing one.
Little trace will remain of that agricultural municipality before the innovative avalanche that is coming upon it. The windows will start to be the norm instead of the white houses. Korea is very serious about the startups. It has been proposed to be a disruptor pole -even for its own economic model- and tries to compete on an equal footing with China and the United States. Welcome to the Korean Silicon Valley.