In 2006 Junghee Ryu founded Olaworks, an augmented reality technology company, which would be acquired by Intel in 2012. That a Western tech giant the size of Intel acquires Korean tech startups, especially a technology-driven one, doesn’t happen often. The Olaworks case is, according by Mr. Ryu, by chance: Olaworks and a Silicon Valley-based tech company, both of which were funded by Intel Capital, reached partnership before the former was acquired by Intel. That company continued the collaboration with Olaworks and helped it become part of Intel.
Now Mr. Ryu and his team want to make it happen for more tech-centric startups in South Korea or other Asian countries. FuturePlay is a venture capital firm he co-founded to invest in and help technologies or products by those startups grow big.
Instead of investing in smart young founders fresh out of college with tech ideas which may take time to develop or fail at all, FuturePlay plans to lure talented and experienced engineers at big tech companies like Samsung who may have had mature ideas in mind and are capable of realizing them.
South Korea is full of talented tech people who have been working at big tech companies for a long time. FuturePlay believe they are able to build cool technology-driven startups that Western tech giants may be interested in buying — they’ve bought a lot of Israli tech startups. The problem right now with Asian ones, Mr. Ryu reckons, is the Aisan are not so well known by westerners as the Israli. His team are working on connecting those startups to the outside world. Another approach is investing in startups based in countries such as the U.S. who have R&D team in Asian regions such as South Korea.
Apart from South Korea, FuturePlay is also looking at tech-centric startups in Japan and Taiwan who have abundance of highly talented tech people too. As for the mainland China, Ryu believes engineers there are equally talented but haven’t come up with “Sexy” products.
Three startups of its portfolio have been disclosed: smartphone keyboard & text input solution developer Keukey, cross-device clipboard service Skip and “stick and shoot” camera Podo (based in Silicon Valley). So far the funds FuturePlay raised are from partners who are tech influencers in South Korea.