Ubergizmo’s Best of Korea-US Startup Summit

Ubergizmo was invited to be a jury member of the Global Media Awards of the Korea-U.S. Startup Summit (aka, Korea-US SMEs go TOGETHER) innovation event held in New York City on September 20 and 21, 2022, and we obliged. For an overview of the event, read our previous post.

After talking to more than 20 companies at various pavilions and evaluating their products and technologies, we have nominated five companies whose products resonate with us. Here they are below, in reverse order:

#5 Lawfully

Lawfully is a service that helps hopeful US immigrants track their cases with the US Immigration Services. CEO Joon Ahn leads the company, and one of its co-founders is an NYC immigration attorney.

Having gone through the visa, green card, and US Citizenship process, I could have an informed view of their product. Lawfully uses the latest government data feeds and processes to give prospective immigrants a global perspective that is updated daily, sometimes multiple times.

For example, it is possible to know if the specific immigration center in which a person’s file is making steady progress by monitoring the number of cases processed daily. By analyzing the successes and rejected cases, Lawfully can also spot specific pain points and raise awareness to users as they file their applications. That could save months by avoiding a re-submission, for example.

The basic service is free, but there are premium features, and more accurate data users can pay for. There’s also the possibility of asking questions to immigration attorneys and get a reply in minutes. The attorneys determine the fee by slices of 15mn. From what we can tell, prices in the range of $45-$65 are reasonable for this service. Lawfully pockets a small fee as the intermediate.

Overall, I would have used this if it existed back then to ensure that things were moving and that the information I submitted didn’t need extra caution.

#4 Teuida Inc

Teuida is a Korean-learning app for English or Vietnamese speakers. The app takes a different approach by focusing on real-world situations where you can understand the context and vocabulary, and grammar.

That is an excellent method of learning languages, in my opinion. I Speak three languages (English, French, and Vietnamese), and this methodology looks pretty conducive to fast and durable learning, in my opinion. That’s in stark contrast with other methods I have been exposed to, especially the academic style we’ve learned at school.

Based on their data, Teuida noticed that more than 90% of their users are women (teens to young adults) learning Korean because they follow KPOP artists or TV Show actors. They’ve added interactions based on these topics and universes that might provide extra incentive and fun to their user base.

Teuida CEO Ji Woong Jang mentioned that virtually everyone in the company speaks more than one language, and I can’t think of a better way to relate to their customers.

#3 POEN

POEN stands for POsitive Energy and is a startup focused on re-purposing used battery packs. As such, they are ahead of the incoming wave of used batteries, which I about to hit the world as EV skyrocket in popularity.

Battery recycling is a challenging problem and an afterthought for most of the industry and the general discourse around going “all-electric.” However, it’s one of the most critical challenges to tackle if we want to make that green future happen.

POEN aims to rebuild new battery packs by re-using individual cells when possible and re-grouping them together into a new pack. They work with different types of cells and have developed a failure cause analysis and inspection methodology that allows them to spot cells that can be reused.

In some cases, it’s possible to reconstruct a battery pack fit for an electric vehicle (EV), which is the best option. Other times, the cells can be re-assembled into packs destined to less-demanding applications such as power banks or e-bikes.

CEO Seong-Jin Choi mentioned that if the batteries are not usable, POEN can discharge them with a self-developed system and process the raw materials to recuperate the crucial ingredients to produce the “Black powder,” which is essential to Lithium-Ion batteries.

#2 Mycell

Mycel is a company that uses mushrooms’ mycelium (the root structure) as its base component to produce artificial leather and even food products. The idea came from Mycel CEO Sungjin Sah and has yielded an impressively close reproduction of leather.

Even upon close inspection and touch, it’s difficult to tell if it’s genuine leather since Mycel can reproduce the look and feel of genuine leather and its natural durability. According to the company, the Mycel leather performance is comparable virtually to natural leather.

Since leather has fallen out of grace because of changes in corporate practices and its high carbon footprint, a product of this quality satisfies high-end brands seeking better ESG scores without compromising the quality.

As for the food aspect, Mycel points out that it could produce a natural ingredient that would add texture to a plethora of plant-based meat products. However, while the market is potentially larger, there is a need to customize the mycelium product for each region/culture. That is a well-known challenge, and companies like Coca-cola or McDonals adapt their products on a regional basis.

#1 Greenwhale Global

Greenwhale global has impressed us with a bio-degradable,non-toxic, plastic material that looks and feels just like our electronic gadgets’ regular plastic (one could even eat it). However, their bio-degradable product will completely disappear after a couple of years, while plastic might stay around and remain toxic for centuries.

Greenwhale’s bio-plastic is not only better-looking than any competitor we’ve seen, it is also cheaper to produce, a significant advantage in an industry where costs drive many decisions. While their product remains 1.5X more expensive than polluting plastics, it is up to 2X more affordable than bio-degradable alternatives.

And just like regular plastics, Greenwhale’s bio-plastic is delivered in pellets, and there are only minor tweaks to the production line to use it.

That said, Greenwhale founders Jiyoung Hwang and Taekyun Yoon note this product is organic, so if exposed to constant moisture, some decay might appear, unlike polluting plastic. That said, the immediate goal is to replace one-time-use plastic such as plastic bags, utensils and other products with short life spans.

Filed in Events. Read more about Innovation, Korea, New York City and Startups.