Ben Weiss – The Israel-Korea Innovation Ecosystem

Israel and Korea have a great deal in common. Both countries received their independence in 1948, have tensions along their borders, have compulsory military service and look after their diasporas. Israel is the largest consumer of Korean automobiles on a per capita basis and Israel looks to Korea as a testing ground for its newest innovations.

Ben Weiss is a Venture Partner with SoftBank Ventures Asia and a Managing General Partner at CE Ventures. He is also the Chairman at Alicorn as well as a Director at Glassbox and Pliops.

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TODAY’S GUEST:

Ben Weiss – The Israel-Korea Innovation Ecosystem:

Listen to this unique podcast and learn the answers to questions such as:

  • How does making financial projections for early-stage companies differ in Israel and Korea?
  • What risks are associated with making concessions too early in negotiations with large Korean companies?
  • To what extent is Korean culture becoming more receptive to risk-taking and entrepreneurialism?
  • What should Westerners expect in terms of socializing during lunches and after work in Korea?
  • How did Israel and Korea help each other during COVID?
  • How proficient are Korean businesspeople in speaking English?
  • What opportunities exist for Israel and Korea to collaborate in the fertility and cosmetics industries?

SHOW NOTES:

00:00:59 – I but got to know the group SoftBank very well during my time living in Japan.

,I grew up in the Asia Pacific region and I always had a keen interest to explore that geography further.

So once I graduated out of university and finance and law, I moved to Hong Kong that was. Probably about 20 years ago now and I then spent about eight years living in Asia, initially in Hong Kong and following that in Japan and later on for a short period in Singapore as well.

So during that period, I was able to obviously work and travel extensively through the region, spent time as well along the way in Korea, but got to know the group SoftBank very well during my time living in Japan.

00:09:48 – What’s also interesting for both countries is they both have very little natural resources.

They do share hostile neighbors and both countries need sort of the early warning detection systems that Israel’s you know, develop obviously very well through Iron Dome.

In collaboration with the US government and given obviously South Korea is a close ally of the US, there’s quite a bit of technology, radar technology etcetera that is useful for both countries.

What’s also interesting for both countries is they both have very little natural resources. I mean more recently in the last 10 years or so Israel has been fortunate with some of the gas discoveries, but for a large part of their, you know, formative years as countries.

00:28:23 – So there was that tension for probably around 10 years at that time.

We can think back to the period of the embargo. And during that period, Israel and Korea didn’t have very close diplomatic ties. Obviously, they needed or they had to pick a side. Not every country did.

But in the case of Asia, most of the large Korean companies boycotted the Israel and chose to, you know, sell their exports to the country, the other countries in the Middle East. So there was that tension for probably around 10 years at that time.

And then later on, the embassy and officials returned and diplomatic relations returned as normal. But they were very much caught up in that tug of war.

00:34:47 – I think the statistic is they sell more towards per capita.

A very valid point the Korean national airline, Korean Air. Was actually the first Asian carrier to initiate direct flights to Israel. That was back I think in 2008 And they have quite a large population of Christians and Catholics that fascinated and grow up very interested in Israel.

So they cater to that tourist market as well. So that’s something quite unique to career that other countries in Asia don’t have. And I think that’s a large part of why the relationship will always need to be strong.

In fact, you know, growing up in Korea, I think the statistic is they sell more towards per capita there than anywhere else because a lot of the learnings, Jewish learnings, are instilled at an early stage through the schooling. So that’s quite an interesting statistic to look up after this.

00:40:16 – The market share of Korea and Israel is the highest in the world.

One of my colleagues here but that Israel is the number one market for Kia, for example, so.

The market share of Korea and Israel is the highest in the world. So Israel is considered a very important market for automobiles and electronics, obviously a fraction of the size of the Chinese market, but nevertheless it is an important and valuable market for companies like Hyundai, Kia or Samsung that shipped globally and I think that.

Area is obviously, you know, dependent on the export economy for its own economic growth and I think they do a good job of maintaining very good relationships to the best they can with both countries. They require both export markets to grow for the Korean economy to perform well.

00:48:46 – They’re the most connected country…

So if you look back in time. You know, casual gaming as social media, broadband Internet is. So Korea has the fastest broadband connectivity or Internet connectivity speed in the world.

They’re the most connected country they’ve got. Lte LTE coverage is 100 %. They were embracing 5G before anywhere else in the world.

So for Israel, Korea represents a good testing ground for new technologies, because culturally in Korea. Businesses and consumers are early adopters. So, for example, we’ve hosted Korean gaming companies in Israel to meet some of the local players here.

And if you look at some of the largest gaming companies in the world, they’re Korean.

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