one of the cool companies i previewed in the latest episode of the gigaom show is olaworks, a facial recognition software company based in seoul, korea. i stopped by their office while i was in seoul and saw a demo, played with a mobile phone that had their software and talked shop with the team.
founded by a very bright engineer from KAIST, junghee ryu, the team has been together since 2006. they have spent the past two years building a kick ass product that works better than anything i saw at techcrunch 40. yet, since they are so far from silicon valley, no one is familiar with them. names like riya and viewdle are more common place, but i do think the guys at olaworks have an edge on our SV natives in terms of tech, though they may be lacking in terms of business development.
this raises the question – how should overseas start-ups go about getting a foothold in the US market? do you go for the US bloggers first? try to partner with a good strategic US partner? open an office? hire white guys? or gals? the options are many, but any decision must obviously be influenced by the product, target consumer, natural viral strengths or disadvantages of the product, the team… however, i do think it is important to get people on the ground in the market you want to conquer, especially when you need to win over the tech folks. the speed of development and business and the vocabulary changes fast here. and it is very easy to fall behind.
well, with news that competitor viewdle announced a new round of funding today, i hope olaworks makes their grand entrance into the international stage sooner rather than later!