Start Local, Scale Global: Why We’re Building in South Korea

Start Local, Scale Global: Why We’re Building in South Korea

At NPE, as we reinforced in our most recent blog post, we aim to be proximate to the people we’re building for. We want to be immersed in areas where technology is being used in innovative ways, and where there is a density of entrepreneurial talent forging the new trends and products that will carry us all into the future. We believe this will enable us to more quickly identify opportunities and develop solutions for emergent needs that arise.

So in addition to our small team of builders in Lagos, Nigeria, I’m proud to share that NPE is hiring a team right here in Seoul.

South Korea has a long history of embracing new advances in technology. I can remember Cyworld, a social networking pioneer that was one of the first platforms to make digital goods a viable business model. This also is where the world saw early adoption of mobile-optimized media in webtoons, and the rise of eSports, a billion dollar market that attracts hundreds of millions of viewers from around the world. More recently, South Korea has embraced blockchain technology for driver’s licenses and vaccine verification. We even saw presidential candidates participate in VR town halls. 

Because we prioritize listening and learning, we’ll be paying close attention to South Koreans’ unique circumstances and needs. Right now, we see two main trends: like in other countries, the Korean population is both urbanizing and aging. More than 50% of South Korea’s population now lives in the Seoul Capital Area, the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. With rising life expectancy and declining birth rates, Korea’s the fastest aging country in the world, and its population 60 and above will grow by almost 50% over the next decade.

Alongside these demographic shifts, our research reveals societal shifts as well: an increase in competition for jobs and financial stability, a growing sense of polarization, and digital experiences like gaming filling more and more social needs. To address these and more, we’re going to explore ways technology can help support Koreans navigate our changing world. Like all NPE experiments, we’ll start with small tests, see how things work, adjust where we need to, and grow from there. At every step, we’ll put people and their needs at the center of the conversation.

For me personally, this has been years in the making. Early in my career at Meta while living in Palo Alto, California, I had the chance to visit my grandparents and work from Seoul for 6 weeks. The office was small at the time – just myself and two other people – but ever since, I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to be here full-time. And now, here I am. 

Over the past decade, the growth of Korea’s tech ecosystem has been nothing short of inspiring, and I am so excited to learn from and, hopefully, contribute to it. Building products that are useful and valuable to everyone has motivated me throughout my 15 year career at Meta, and I’m looking forward to continuing to do so from Seoul.

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