Taking the Seoul Train to the Sharing Economy Part III

Editor’s Note: The Sharing Economy is about a profound shift in consumer values from ownership to access. Together, entire communities and cities around the world are using network technologies to do more with less by renting, lending, swapping, bartering, gifting and sharing products on a scale never before possible. A wide variety of sharers are involved, from Tool Libraries and Maker Faires through to Car-shares and the open government movement. Organizations like Collaborative Consumption, Peers and Shareable are working to foster the sharing economy. SiG believes that this movement is a force for social innovation and systems change. In this spirit, SiG will produce blogs and grow a knowledge base highlighting the people and concepts emerging out of the sharing economy.

Seoul LandscapeWith robust government support, South Korea is fast becoming one of the world’s most advanced sharing economies. In the course of one day criss-crossing Seoul’s vast metropolitan area by efficient public transit, I was able to visit three very different new sharing economy ventures that boast stories illustrating the value of the new national and municipal policies facilitating the growth of the sharing economy. Part I and II blogs highlighted my visit to Dream Bank and My Real Trip. In this final post on South Korea’s sharing economy, I offer my experience visiting Kozaza.

Kozaza

From suburban Pan-gyo, we headed by express bus to Bukchon, a unique neighbourhood “village” of Seoul that is peppered with royal palaces and shrines and a large number of Hanok traditional-style Korean houses. There we met Sanku Jo, a serial entrepreneur whose passion for protecting the Hanok heritage led him to start Kozaza.

KozazaKozaza is an online service that connects travellers with a trusted community of families offering unique accommodations throughout Korea. Kozaza sees its service built on the values of the sharing economy. Its social benefits are multiple: providing host families with a new source of income; assisting a city like Seoul to expand tourism without having to worry about its relatively limited stock of hotel beds; making it possible for people to share their homes, and increasing exposure to Korean culture and food.  Finally, with its current focus on shared Hanok accommodation, Korea’s slowly disappearing traditional houses, Kozaza hopes to rekindle interest and promote conservation of this increasingly scarce cultural resource.

As a start-up, Kozaza benefitted from a program of the national government that provided a 50% match on privately raised start-up funds. The Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-Soon, has also been an enthusiastic supporter. He personally stayed at Kozaza Hanok providing moral encouragement for Kozaza and what they do. In addition Seoul’s Sharing City program has promoted Kozaza by publicizing the service through city owned media platforms.

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The Kozaza team with Canadian guests

Kozaza’s founder and CEO, SanKu Jo, combined his love for Korea’s traditional Hanok homes with his commitment to the sharing economy. He visualizes the sharing economy as portending the shift from Web 2.0 to Life 2.0. For him, the sharing economy offers cost savings, improved environmental stewardship, and social capital building as people share their homes and culture. Sanku Jo thinks Kozaza has reinvented Airbnb to create a “Life Sharing Platform”. Going further, he thinks of “sharing as the new communication”. Sanku Jo, a student of the internet, spent over a decade in California’s Silicon Valley, is using SlideShare to share compelling resources on his vision of where the sharing economy is headed.

D.Camp, My Real Trip, and Kozaza all have analogues that sprang up earlier in other countries. Notwithstanding that, each of them has evolved a unique model reflecting the specific needs and culture of Seoul and Korea in order to create a valuable sharing economy offering. Good ideas, whether new or not, are quick to travel and just as quick to be adapted and improved.

IMG_2463Note: Thanks very much to April Rinne, from The Collaborative Lab, who introduced me to two Seoul members of TCL’s Global Curator Team, DaYe (Diane) Jung and Seokwon (ejang) Yang. They in turn connected me with our indispensable guide Seokjoon Choi. Seokjoon navigated us through Seoul with great aplomb.

Taking the Seoul Train to the Sharing Economy Part II

Editor’s Note: The Sharing Economy is about a profound shift in consumer values from ownership to access. Together, entire communities and cities around the world are using network technologies to do more with less by renting, lending, swapping, bartering, gifting and sharing products on a scale never before possible. A wide variety of sharers are involved, from Tool Libraries and Maker Faires through to Car-shares and the open government movement. Organizations like Collaborative Consumption, Peers and Shareable are working to foster the sharing economy. SiG believes that this movement is a force for social innovation and systems change. In this spirit, SiG will produce blogs and grow a knowledge base highlighting the people and concepts emerging out of the sharing economy.

 

pan-gyo3Seoul is earning a reputation as one of the world’s most developed sharing economies. South Korean citizens and civil servants support the development of the sharing economy because it addresses issues inherent in high-density cities like overpopulation and housing shortages. In the course of one day criss-crossing Seoul’s vast metropolitan area by efficient public transit, I was able to visit three very different new sharing economy ventures that boast stories illustrating the value of the new national and municipal policies enabling the sharing economy. In Part I, I outlined the enabling government environment and my visit to Dream Bank. The second sharing economy venture, My Real Trip, is featured in this post and Kozaza will follow in Part III.

 

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My Real Trip

Having the benefit of an extensive and spectacularly well-organized subway system (the second most used in the world), I was able to travel rapidly many miles out to the new suburban innovation hub in Pan-gyo from the Seoul city center. Referred to as Pan-gyo Techno Valley (PTV), it is Korea’s bespoke answer to Silicon Valley. The government has facilitated the construction of block after block of gleaming new office towers, which by 2015 will support a population of 80,000 people and house the country’s leading hi tech ventures.

 

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Pan-gyo Techno Valley

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Korea’s Silicon Valley

 

I visited the brand new tower of NEOWIZ, a successful gaming company that is creating an incubation environment for new start-up technology ventures. There we met the co-founder of My Real Trip, Donggun Lee, a serial entrepreneur whose first venture was a successful crowdfunding platform.

My Real Trip, similar to Peek (an online portal connecting travellers to local curated travel experiences), allows Korean-speaking travellers access to a global network of guides in 130 cities around the world. Geared to the cultural interests of Asian travellers, a local actor in New York might act as a guide for a Broadway tour. Elsewhere, a guide in Vancouver provides a Caffeine Crawl of that city’s unique and diverse scene of coffee shops.

My Real Trip creates income opportunities for part-time guides and full-time guides allowing the guides to set their own rate and retain more income than they would if employed by a mainstream touring company.

 

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Visiting My Real Trip Team

 

My Real Trip is in rapid growth mode, having started in mid-2012 it has already supported 5,800 travellers in 123 cities. It expects to reach 10,000 by the end of 2013. My Real Trip benefitted from six months free rent in the NEOWIZ tower ecosystem before becoming a paying tenant.

The emerging global network of sharing cities is accelerating people’s ability to ingeniously adapt to new forms of urban living while at the same time reducing their environmental footprint. Stay tuned for part III’s train to Kozaza sharing economy venture.

 

IMG_2463Note: Thanks very much to April Rinne, from The Collaborative Lab, who introduced me to two Seoul members of TCL’s Global Curator Team, DaYe (Diane) Jung and Seokwon (ejang) Yang. They in turn connected me with our indispensable guide Seokjoon Choi. Seokjoon navigated us through Seoul with great aplomb.

Taking the Seoul Train to the Sharing Economy Part I

Editor’s Note: The Sharing Economy is about a profound shift in consumer values from ownership to access. Together, entire communities and cities around the world are using network technologies to do more with less by renting, lending, swapping, bartering, gifting and sharing products on a scale never before possible. A wide variety of sharers are involved, from Tool Libraries and Maker Faires through to Car-shares and the open government movement. Organizations like Collaborative Consumption, Peers and Shareable are working to foster the sharing economy. SiG believes that this movement is a force for social innovation and systems change. In this spirit, SiG will produce blogs and grow a knowledge base highlighting the people and concepts emerging out of the sharing economy.

 

IMG_2449Seoul is gaining recognition as one of the world’s most developed sharing economies.  Accounting for half of South Korea’s 50 million people, Seoul has become a unique launch pad, with the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-Soon, working hard to promote the broader agenda of social innovation:

 

“As the mayor of Seoul, I have striven to create innovative ways of governing that are based on cooperation and collaboration. I have made a point of soliciting greater citizen input and getting citizens more directly involved in decision-making, fostering social enterprises that use innovative approaches to tackle social problems, and expanding collaboration between government, the market, and civil society.” (SSIR Summer 2013 insert Innovation for a Complex World entitled Forging Ahead with Cross-Sector Innovations)

 

Specifically, in 2012 Mayor Park created the Sharing City initiative as part of the Seoul Innovation Bureau’s goal to tackle social, economic and environmental problems in innovative ways. The city is supporting the start-up of new sharing companies and pioneering its own sharing programs (e.g. those range from making city facilities available in off-hours, to a car sharing service, and a program matching seniors who have a spare room with students needing accommodation.)

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Seoul City Hall

The national government of President Park Geun-hye (no relation to Park Won-Soon) has a signature policy to catalyse the “creative economy”. The Korea Herald summarises its goal as “creating new business opportunities, industries and jobs through the fusion of information and communication technology, culture and others realms.” President Park says the existing economic model cannot address high unemployment and widening economic inequalities.

By taking a day just before the start of Social Innovation Exchange’s 2013 Summer School in Seoul, I had a chance — together with Michael Lewkowitz, the founder of socialsca.pe — to visit several exciting sharing economy start-ups: Dream Bank, My Real Trip and Kozaza. Each boasts stories that illustrate the value of the new national and municipal policies enabling the sharing economy.

Dream Bank

In 2012, twenty South Korean banks came together, pooling nearly $75 million, to create and fund Dream Bank, a new foundation.  It was born out d.camp3of the preoccupation that current tough economic times meant that the economy was unable to generate sufficient employment opportunities, especially for young graduates entering the labour market. Dream Bank explains that it “was formed in order to nurture a successful startup community and consequently create high quality jobs through emerging enterprises.” In fact, Dream Bank hopes to help South Korea become Asia’s number one hub for the new economy.

D-CAMP LogoAs a first step, Dream Bank set up D.Camp in 2013 in Central Seoul (facing the spectacular Seolleung Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site of two Royal Tombs). D.Camp is a 1,650 square metre, multi-storey, co-working space for young entrepreneurs. Those preparing to launch a new venture receive three months free rent and stay longer if they have made progress on their venture. Besides providing state of the art co-working space and dozens of monthly curated networking and educational opportunities in their large hall, D.Camp is also developing an online financing platform to connect ventures with investors. D.Camp is both a sharing economy platform and seeks to help strengthen ventures that feature collaboration and sharing business models. Dream Bank’s start-up Operation Manager, Seokwon (a.k.a. ejang) Yang who previously founded the co-working space CO-UP, is a well-known leader in the sharing economy space and a member of The Collaborative Lab’s Global Curator team.

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D.Camp co-working space

Following my exploration of D.Camp, I made my way to another inventive sharing economy venture, My Real Trip, which will be featured in part II of this series on Seoul’s Sharing Economy.

In a field of rapid innovation, public policy can either slow the advance of disruptive innovations (e.g. New York City fining Airbnb) or help them take root and evolve like Seoul is doing. The sharing economy appears headed to become the most impactful vector for scaling social innovation in urban settings.

Author’s Note: Thanks very much to April Rinne, from The Collaborative Lab (TCL), who introduced me to two Seoul members of TCL’s Global Curator Team, DaYe (Diane) Jung and Seokwon (ejang) Yang. They in turn connected me with our indispensable guide Seokjoon Choi. Seokjoon navigated us through Seoul with great aplomb.