South Korean e-resident Gi H. Nam, founder of Sportties OÜ, on the opportunities and challenges of running a business in 2020
Recently, Gerli Koort from K Challenge, which is a partner of e-Residency in South Korea, caught up with e-resident Gi H. Nam to discuss his business, his journey as a e-resident, and how he is adapting to the changing times as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea has reported just over 9,000 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases since the start of the outbreak, which puts it among the top 10 countries by total cases. However, the country has managed to suppress transmission of the virus by employing high amounts of testing, which has minimised further spread and relieved the country’s health system. And the country has even managed to rein in the outbreak without some of the stricter lockdown strategies deployed elsewhere in the world. The nation’s measures and results have been held up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries’ health authorities as the benchmark for emergency response.
Read on to learn how this savvy South Korean e-resident entrepreneur is dealing with the crisis.
What does your e-Residency company Sportties OÜ do in a nutshell?
We are currently developing a web and mobile application solution for a global sports community. Members of the community will be able to connect with each other, discuss and debate their common interest in sports, play sports together, and so on.
How has the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affected your business and your life in Korea as an entrepreneur?
Since my business is all online, my professional routine hasn’t changed much. However, I am cautious about the virus situation. So, I am staying at home most of the time. And I’m doing more meetings on Skype or emails rather than meeting at coffee places.
We were able to adapt to the situation quite quickly as we were already a remote working business. I do not have to go to the city hall to file certain documents or file taxes, for example. Rather, I do all the administrative stuff online.
When did you hear about e-Residency and why did you apply?
I found e-Residency quite randomly by accident. I first heard about it when I was studying in Europe, around 2015 — I think it was on YouTube.
A Korean IT startup faces multiple challenges regarding various Korean Government registrations and regulations. Of course, it would be easier to operate my business in the Korean market as a business entity registered in Korea. However, it is very hard to attract foreign users due to these strict regulations. This was one of the reasons why I was looking for somewhere else to start my business. And Estonia through e-Residency seemed like the perfect place!
What has e-Residency enabled you to do?
E-Residency allowed me to create my business entity in Estonia completely online from the comfort of my home in Korea. I opened a private limited company, known as an ‘OÜ’ in Estonia, over which I have full control outside of Estonia (basically, everywhere I go). With my digital ID and the convenience of cloud computing, I can securely sign and encrypt contracts and other documents and manage my company online from anywhere.
E-Residency is very beneficial to those who are freelancers, entering the EU market or just need to choose one place to start a company.
I hope to see e-Residency grow in the future. This digital residency concept is very new and there are many possibilities to expand its services in many directions and hopefully soon it will not just be about opening a company in the EU.
Your company has been founded/based in South-Korea. What were the challenges in creating your company through e-Residency?
Firstly, it was a challenge to find the location where I had to collect the e-Residency card in South Korea! But luckily I found it and once I had my card, it took no time to setup and create my company.
Secondly, after I had set up the company, I had to do a lot of research about how to run my business and legal compliance. This included which service providers and business banking and payment solutions to use, how to pay taxes, and which business regulations I needed to be aware of. Of course, now there is more information regarding tax rates, but back then I found it difficult to understand the details. Now I know there are service providers you can hire to do all the work for you and provide you with accurate information. So, my advice to the team is to continue giving clear guidance with necessary and useful information for e-residents in multiple languages. This is extremely helpful!
Thirdly, finding the right banking solution was a challenge. Originally, I thought I would need to open a bank account with an Estonian bank, but this turned out to not be the case as there are many fintechs that are also available for e-residents to use. Eventually, I did end up going with an Estonian bank, which meant I did have to physically visit the country to set up the account. Even though I didn’t really need to given the alternatives available, it was a bonus to visit the country!
Do you think e-Residency has helped you in expanding your business to the European market?
Definitely. In my case, I am directly targeting European consumers and e-Residency is like taking an ‘aspirin’ to avoid unnecessary headaches from various requirements in Korea. Being registered in Estonia, my company is not forced to use certain services in order to approach foreign users (like it would be if it were a Korean entity). In Korea, to use such services, users need to verify their identities in order to process payments, meaning my entity would need to be registered in Korea. Of course, there are other less scrupulous methods to avoid these requirements, but thanks to e-Residency I can run my business with a clear head and flexibility in the service providers I use.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Korean or otherwise, interested in the e-Residency program?
I encourage you to apply for e-Residency even if you do not have a plan to expand to Europe or start a company. It doesn’t hurt to just have it, just in case. It will help you quickly open a company whenever you need it. For those who are considering opening a company and have not decided how, I highly recommend e-Residency and Estonia as an option. It is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest solutions as a foreign non-EU citizen. The e-Residency programme from Estonia is the gateway to enter the EU market for you and your company.
Can you offer some tips to other aspiring remote entrepreneurs about how to start and run your business using e-Residency?
At the moment, we are a team of only a few people and have organised our tasks remotely since the beginning. We did this to spend less time commuting and to work wherever we want. E-Residency is definitely designed to support this. We don’t have any issues running the business and can take care of administrative work like filing taxes all online.
Many bosses or decision makers must be very frustrated when they do not have a face-to-face interaction with their teams. They want to check if their employees are being productive or not and also want to be sure that team members are on the same page and understand their tasks and the company vision. It is a very common r
eaction as a manager.
However, working remotely can help you to identify who are efficient vs. who are not and whether systems in place in the company are outdated or whether there is room to improve. There should be clear inputs and outputs communicated to the team that can be measured. And in the long term, remote work will help improve communication skills, managing time, project management, and more. So, if you manage to set up a proper structure and communication process, working remotely can help you increase the productivity of your firm or team.
You can learn more about Gi and Sportties at the Sportties website: