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  • Writer's pictureThe Citypreneurs Team

2018 Citypreneurs Seoul Challenge Workshop: Tackling Seoul-specific Urban Issues

Participants work on their business model charts at the Seoul Challenge Workshop @D.CAMP on 25 June 2018.

On Monday June 25th, #Citypreneurs hosted the Seoul Challenge Workshop, bringing together entrepreneurs and Seoul city officials to solve specific #urban issues facing the #city. The event was geared towards Seed Track participants, whose innovative startups will have a better chance of being recognized if they can address challenges that public officers are currently grappling with. Representatives from Seoul governmental organizations gave presentations on issues that correspond with the three themes of the 2018 competition: #GreenEnergy, #UrbanMobility and #SocialProtection. A total of 32 teams assembled at D CAMP in Southern #Seoul.

After presentations, the participants had a chance to mingle with the officials, Citypreneurs organizers, and other high-level attendees. The highlight of the event was the workshop segment, where entrepreneurs put thought into action by brainstorming comprehensive and sustainable business models in response to the issues raised during the presentations.

The following is a recap of the presentations by the public officials (session 1) and the workshop (session 2).

Session 1: Introducing Seoul’s Urban Challenges and Potential Solutions

Moderated by Seoul Digital Foundation’s Senior Manager Hyomin Choi, the first session featured presentations delivered by Seoul city officials. The attending agencies were grouped into 3 categories representing the 3 themes of the 2018 competition. Each presentation focused on specific issues the agency is actively working on. They suggested ways in which startups could use technology to solve these problems more effectively.

You can find videos of the presentations with English subtitles on our Youtube channel if you’re interested in the full experience. Translated presentation materials can be found here (Korean version available here) on our website.

First off, Dr. Jung-Woo Lee, Managing Director of Seoul Digital Foundation, delivered the Seoul City Challenge Overview. This informative talk used tech lingo to explain how startups can partner with Seoul City to “troubleshoot” city problems. He emphasized key features of Seoul as a smart city such as its high tech infrastructure, open government, strong public-private partnership, and ready adoption of ICT to solve urban issues. Seoul is a thriving center of innovation in part because of its citizen-driven digital governance, multiple business incubation centers, and willingness to adopt new technology. However, Seoul faces problems like any other city. In terms of green energy, Seoul citizens endure periods of fine dust pollution spikes. Renewable energy and trash disposal technology still need to be better implemented. For Urban mobility, parking space in Seoul is limited and road congestion is rampant, causing the focus to be limiting the number of cars on the road. Social Protection is an important area of SDF’s focus, dealing with the distribution of welfare for its ageing citizens and affordable housing. Seoul Digital Foundation is confident in vetting digital solutions will be the way to solve these challenges.

Next up, Directors Jung-Mi Hwang and Seung-Ho Han from Seoul Energy Corporation examined Seoul energy issues, broadly including Green Energy, Recycling, and Smart Energy City. Their overall goal is to introduce more robust renewable energy by 2030. One initiative is the implementation of solar panels in urban areas such as apartment building verandas and city rooftops. Another pressing issue is the collection, sortation, and proper disposal of the tons of trash produced daily in Seoul. Since China will soon no longer accept plastic waste, Seoul needs to find sustainable new outlets for trash & recycling disposal. Their plan is to reduce plastic waste by 50% by the 2030 deadline through the combination of reducing, reusing, recycling, and upcycling plastic. Finally, the Seoul Energy Corporation also sees a future in smart homes that can produce renewable energy. In brief, homes would collect solar energy produced by rooftop solar panels in special electrical storage units that could then be used to power appliances and electric cars.

The Seoul Facilities Corporation gave three presentations targeting urban mobility and social protection concerns. Team Manager Sang-Rok Jang and Assistant Managers Yeong-Min Yu and Kyun-Hee Cho introduced digital techniques to deal with:

· Passenger cars cutting-in on crucial roadways in Seoul, hindering traffic flow.

· Alleviating traffic congestion by improving toll exemption systems.

· Hazardous obstruction in Seoul’s many underground shopping malls.

Common to all these problems is the need for data-driven scanning technology to enforce foot and vehicle traffic in these heavily utilized shopping malls and roadways. Startups dealing in ICT and big data could help out along these lines.

The final presentation in Session 1 was delivered by Associate Fellow Dr. Sorang Kang from the Seoul 50+ Foundation, tackling the impending problems caused by Korea’s aging society. She introduced the concept of a “new middle age generation”, the 50+ group: between 50-64 years of age. This demographic comprises 1/5 of Seoul’s population, is highly educated, experienced in advanced careers, and are the main source of their family’s financial support. The Seoul 50+ Foundation suggested ways for this generation to obtain a second job after retiring that would benefit both themselves and society. Their mixed generation startup campus successfully pairs retirees with young startups to act as mentors.

Session 2: The Seoul Challenge Workshop

After a brief networking coffee break and photos ops on the outdoor patio overlooking Joseon-era tombs (where some absolutely fabulous group photos were taken), attendees split into separate groups by theme. Social protection was by far the most popular, although the groups in urban mobility and green energy were no less passionate. WFUNA facilitators guided participants as how to best to visualize the solutions to specific urban challenges. The teams worked together to complete business model charts they could use to develop a Seed Track startup. The most exciting aspect of this session was the opportunity for attendees to not only interact with other potential applicants, but also to get direct feedback from Citypreneurs organizers and Seoul City officials.

The chart you can see teams filling out contained an outline for a viable business to tackle their problem of choice. Participants were given the challenge to indicate key partners (such as the Seoul agencies present), the cost structure, revenue streams (from products or advertisements for example), customer relationships/segments (millennials/elderly etc.), business channels (online stores vs. physical stores etc.), and value proposition (reducing pollution, easing traffic, etc.) for their startup idea.

Without being too specific to give away anyone’s great ideas, here are just a few of the innovative strategies raised by the attendees that night:

· Utilizing IoT technology to help individual units in apartment buildings communicate with one another to respond to emergencies or report on pollution levels. #social protection #green energy

· Collecting perfectly reusable furniture that would otherwise be discarded by households and then redistributing them to people in need. #green energy #social protection

· Enabling all young people to obtain high quality education. #social protection

· Encouraging a zero-waste lifestyle through commerce by targeting eco-savvy millennial consumers. #green energy

· Substituting plastic packaging for biodegradable replacements to circumvent issues with the recycling system. #green energy

The Seoul Challenge Workshop was a success thanks to all the people who participated (and fun to boot!). Shout out to D Camp for once again providing an excellent space for the workshop and for all the Citypreneurs who attended! If you have any more questions about how to align your startup with our three themes and UN SDGs, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

Applications to the competition open on June 1 and last until August 29. Your business model should ideally take into consideration the interlinked nature of the UN SDGs. For more information, check out our website.

Feel free to get in touch with us via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Youtube), we’re glad to assist you with any questions or enquiries you may have. We look forward to your application!

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