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Google Opens First Asia Campus in High-Tech Seoul

  • Brian Padden

People talk at the entrance to the Google Campus start-up space in the Gangnam district of Seoul, May 8, 2015.

People talk at the entrance to the Google Campus start-up space in the Gangnam district of Seoul, May 8, 2015.

In Seoul Friday Google opened its first campus in Asia to support Internet start-up entrepreneurs. Google hopes the new venture will give Korean high-tech programs and applications access to the world market, and give Google more access to the Korean market.

Compared to the sprawling complex of buildings and green spaces that make up Google’s main campus and corporate headquarters in California’s Silicon Valley, “Campus Seoul, A Google Space” is a small venture.

Located in an office building in the trendy Gangnam neighborhood, it consists of 2,000 square meters of open office space for Korean Internet entrepreneurs to work.

But Google's expectations for this facility are much bigger than its dimensions. The company wants to make it an incubator for innovation in Asia.

Mary Grove, director of Google for Entrepreneurs says at Campus Seoul, aspiring Internet program developers will get encouragement, mentoring, opportunities to network, and help finding investors. This supportive environment that Google is providing free of charge, she says, also helps the company to penetrate the Korean market.

"Google benefits when start-ups succeed as well. We understand the more start-ups that are created, companies do come on line, use the Internet, use Google, use Google products. It benefits us as well,” said Grove.

First campus in Asia

South Korea is one of the few countries in the world where Google is not the top Internet search engine. Instead the Korean company Naver dominates that market.

Google has similar facilities in London and Tel Aviv, but this is the company’s first such venture in Asia.

In the three years it has been in operation in London the Google campus helped start up companies attract over $110 million in venture capital and create 18,000 new jobs.

One of the Campus Seoul members is April Kim, who started an Internet based translation company called Chatting Cat. She says she likes the workspace and conference areas.

"What’s even better is that they can share information and concerns with other start-ups residing in the campus, and this can be a positive motivation for each other," she said.

Great potential

Google decided on Seoul because it has some of the fastest Internet speeds, a large talent pool of well-educated engineers, and one of the highest percentages of smart phone users in the world.

Jung-min Lim, the director of Campus Seoul says the South Korean government has also made it easier to start new business ventures.

He says a few years ago the South Korean government eliminated many regulations for new businesses and provided policies supporting start-ups.

President Park Geun-Hye was on hand for the opening of Campus Seoul. In 2013 her administration allocated $3 billion to assist new high tech companies grow and compete in the global market.

VOA Seoul Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

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