According to a recent study, KAIST startups annually engage 33,000 people, and their sales total nearly 10 billion US dollars. Also amongst 1,245 companies, 50 were listed in stock markets including KOSDAQ and KONEX. President Kang of KAIST commissioned an evaluation of KAIST startups last year. The report consisted of six chapters: current status of entrepreneurs and companies, cross analysis based on individuals’ background and academic degree, annual performance analysis, and current status of startup assistance.
The report categorized the startups with respect to the founders’ background. Of 1,245 companies, KAIST alumni founded 929 (74.6%) of the companies under study: 191 (15.3%) were located within the KAIST campuses, 91 (7.3%) were founded by enrolled students, and 74 (2.7%) by professors. The startup founders had different levels of education: 515 (41.4%) founders had master’s degree, 443 (35.6%) Ph.D. degree, and only 213 (17.1%) had only bachelor’s degree as the highest level of education attained. The reason behind the majority of founders having a master’s degree or higher degree is that many people established a startup after obtaining specialized knowledge and skills.
Focusing on the founders’ college majors, 719 (70.6%) founders were from the engineering department, 111 (10.9%) from the business administration department, 103 (10.1%) from the natural science department, and 86 (8.4%) from other departments. Looking at the companies' locations, 462 (37.5%) were placed in Seoul, 355 (28.8%) in Daejeon, and 273 (22.2%) in Gyeonggi.
By the end of 2013, the total asset of 1,069 companies came to 12 billion and 444 million dollars. Their total sales figure was 10 billion and 13 million dollars, and annual employments summed up to 33,000 people. The companies generated a significant portion of gross regional domestic product (GRDP) in each region. They formed 0.49% of GRDP of Seoul, took up 1.67% GRDP of Gyeonggi, and 5.53% of that of Daejeon.
Along with the performance analysis, the report also took a survey of suggestions on future startup assistance and opinions on current startup assistance policies. To a question asking what constituted the most difficult part of startup, 31.7% of respondents answered “attraction of investment,” 22.8% chose “a lack of human resources,” and 16.8% said “consulting” amongst 214 respondents. The study showed that major and medium enterprises face difficulty in finding human resources whereas small businesses experience obstacles attracting investment. Some startups had help from KAIST: 44 startups were provided with the office space, 21 had educational supports, and 18 were supported in research and development.
The report demonstrates that startups established by KAIST alumni and members play a key role in the South Korean economy despite KAIST’s short startup history, which began only since the end of 1990s. Based on this report, KAIST plans to listen continuously to the needs of alumni founders, and use those responses as a guide to entrepreneurship education for current students.
The Dean of the Office of University and Industry Cooperation, Joongmyeon Bae, who oversaw the publication of this report, said, "As this report is the first in Korea to study the status of alumni startups, it will be incredibly valuable in modifying the startup assistance policies.”
To spread an entrepreneurial spirit and start-up cultures in the campus and enhance the startup supporting system, KAIST has founded various startup centers on and off the campus.
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