Israel is a startup nation that turns ideas into ventures. Korea is a scale-up nation that grows ventures into global corporations. Technological synergies between the two can redefine whole industries. In this post, I will address two such industries: medical and health technology.
There are many reasons for the exceptional cooperation between Israelis and Koreans, which I explored in a previous post. One reason is the unique cultural similarity of appreciation for visionaries who can change the world for the better. The Israelis have entrepreneurs that envisage. Koreans can mobilize to achieve their goals. I have seen it firsthand: so much becomes possible when you mix big dreams with big capabilities.
The Challenges of MedTech Startups
Israeli MedTech has long been world leading. We have high-quality scientific research and an incredibly high number of medical device patents. Recent years have also seen a surge in HealthTech companies, which received a significant boost from Corona.
We have had successful exits that are transforming medical practice worldwide - but not enough. Why? Companies need to contend with a market dominated by a few large international corporations that have been in operation for many years and have developed an entrenched culture that is very difficult to change. As a result, an entrepreneur will find it tough to make enough noise to be noticed and the chance to move into R&D, trials, and production.
With so much potential, what these startups need is a scale-up partner.
The Korean Advantage
Korea is home to exciting developments that can create unique opportunities for Israeli startups. As the country copes with the growing health problems of an aging population, there is a noticeably strong drive for medical innovation. Moreover, surprisingly, this drive is not coming solely from startups but also large, well-established companies and other sectors.
Take Korean Telecom companies. They are leveraging their experience in IT infrastructure to revolutionize health tech. What may seem like an unlikely match, on closer inspection, makes a lot of sense: Korean Telcos have deployed 5G in Korea, which brings with it better performance, reliability, and security – exactly what is required to enable AI and IoT to enter the picture and transform health tech.
Korean Telcos also understand the post-pandemic dynamics of a tech-savvy, digital-first society that demands remote personalized services – including in healthcare.
IT in the Service of Healthcare
Here’s an example: the telecom giant SK Telecom recently co-founded a digital venture to support the development and advancement of digital healthcare ventures such as telehealth services, chronic disease management initiatives, and hospital management and operations software.
In addition, SK Telecom, together with KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp., began an initiative with local health care companies to create new contactless services for the post-Covid world.
The Israeli Advantage
Korean companies are open to new ideas, available to act on these ideas, and with an ample supply of the highest quality engineers (indeed, there is excess capacity of engineers in fields that overlap medical technology, such as AI, semiconductors, and hardware production). Korean conglomerates also have ready access to the Southeast Asian market.
What are they missing? Innovation. That is where Israeli medical and healthcare innovators come in.
I believe that Israeli entrepreneurs should venture to step into the Korean market. Startups can find their Korean match through the help of government reps in both countries. From experience, I know they are set up for it.
This is a truly exceptional opportunity for companies in both countries to affect and make a change in a field that is probably - especially in light of the last year in a half - the most important industry today.