Market Trend

3 Powerful Lessons from Mongolia's Rapidly Growing Startup Ecosystem [Bridging Continents]

Dae Eun Park
May 10, 2024

In the calm post-pandemic year of 2024, I finally connected with Mongolia in April, following an invitation from Bolormaa Luvsandorj, the founder of KITE, a leading social innovation accelerator in Mongolia. Bolormaa invited me to participate in this year’s Social Innovation Week, an annual event hosted by KITE aimed at energizing Mongolia's social innovation ecosystem.

(Source : KITE)

The relationship between underdogs and the Mongolia startup ecosystem dates back to 2018. 

From then until 2020, underdogs introduced entrepreneurship education programs in various countries including Cambodia, Philippines, Myanmar, and Mongolia. Particularly in Mongolia, in 2020, we conducted the 'Global Social Innovation Camping' program online with local entrepreneurship coaches participating as partners. 

That same year, underdogs held the 'Global Coach Training' program, transferring our entrepreneurial methodologies and coaching expertise to six local coaches in Mongolia. In 2021, we also signed an MOU with WEMC, a professional mentorship organization aimed at fostering female entrepreneurs in Mongolia.

(underdogs Global Coaches include several coaches from Mongolia, Source: underdogs)

Attending this event was a long-awaited re-connection with the Mongolian startup ecosystem, after global operations were temporarily halted due to COVID-19.

For the Korean startup scene, Mongolia might seem an unfamiliar country. However, Mongolia is quickly emerging as a prominent player in the global entrepreneurial ecosystem among Asian countries

With over 60% of its population under the age of 35 and a per capita GDP exceeding $10,000, Mongolia boasts a robust domestic market with increasing purchasing power. 

The country is diligently working to activate its startup ecosystem, including the area of social innovation. Although still in its early stages with just about ten accelerators, Mongolia is rapidly advancing its entrepreneurial ecosystem through international exchange. 

The theme for KITE’s 2024 Social Innovation Week was the future of social innovation, and I was honored to speak at the first session on 'Entrepreneurial Spirit in Social Innovation and SDGs Impact'.

(Source : KITE)

From my direct experience with the Mongolian startup ecosystem, I’ve learned three significant lessons:

  1. Unlike other Asian countries with resource limitations, Korea's economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem often focus on the domestic market, with major corporations playing a central role. This sometimes results in a lower sense of belonging or identity with the global market compared to other regions in Asia. In fact, Seoul's globalization index is reportedly lagging despite the prominence of the Korean Wave.
  2. Surprisingly, cultural differences often pose greater barriers to collaboration with other countries, institutions, or individuals than language. Expertise and insights valued within a specific culture may not hold the same significance in other cultural contexts. In this context, the key to successful global collaboration is not just business competence but also the adaptability to localize content to understand and align with local markets and cultures over the long term.
  3. underdogs' extensive experience in conducting nationwide entrepreneurship education and collaborating with diverse stakeholders remains relevant in Mongolia’s entrepreneurial landscape. We have continually devised strategies to bridge cultural and lifestyle differences, a process that has laid the foundation for cooperation with local partners in Mongolia and other Asian countries including Japan in 2024.

This participation in Mongolia's event reaffirmed the importance and potential of global expansion. underdogs, having cultivated practical coaches since 2015 and connected with numerous corporations and organizations as entrepreneurship education partners, is keenly observed for its ability to actively link data platforms and investments based on the expertise and data from training over 16,000 entrepreneurs. 

Going forward, underdogs aims to revitalize its brand 'Asia Tomorrow' as a platform where Asia’s innovation network can converge, continuing to contribute to entrepreneur and coach development across Asia from 2024 via the Asia Tomorrow website

We look forward to underdogs’ efforts to showcase the strength of Korean entrepreneurship education globally.

Written by Park Dae-eun, Partner at underdogs (Global TF)

※[Insight Column] The views expressed by the author are independent of this publication's stance.


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Dae Eun Park
Head of Strategic Planning and Global TF Partner
One of underdogs' earliest alumni and founding members, now Head of Strategic Planning and Global TF Partner