San Leandro, CA

Learning from Seoul

Learning from Seoul

The New York Times recently ran a story, What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Seoul, that starts out:

South Korean companies are building software for smartphones that’s chaotic, multifunctional and exciting — everything that American apps aren’t.

Like most young people in the Bay Area, Mike Kim grew up believing that the future of technology was being forged in Silicon Valley. Raised in Piedmont, an affluent suburb of Oakland, Kim was in college during the rise of Facebook, and he watched in amazement as tech start-ups transformed the world around him. After graduating in 2006, he found work in the industry, at Zynga, and LinkedIn.

Then, five months ago, he accepted an offer to work for Woowa Brothers, a South Korean company that runs a food-delivery start-up called Baedal Minjok. The job was great — but living in Seoul was nothing less than a revelation.

“When I was in S.F., we called it the mobile capital of the world,” he said. “But I was blown away because Korea is three or four years ahead.” Back home, Kim said, people celebrate when a public park gets Wi-Fi. But in Seoul, even subway straphangers can stream movies on their phones, deep beneath the ground. “When I go back to the U.S., it feels like the Dark Ages,” he said. “It’s just not there yet.”

Indeed, we recently cited the Mayor’s talk about providing Wi-Fi downtown. It feels like a big step to us, and it is a big step relative to our neighboring cities. But what if tech in San Leandro could be part of a more innovative landscape? What would you like to see and be part of?