South Korean entrepreneurs meet Milwaukee investors

Silicon Pastures hears presentations from accelerator visitors

Jin ah Hwang of Livicon presents on its film technology.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm

Jin ah Hwang’s business card is unique. It’s a thin, clear film with a rectangle that has been turned an opaque white, superimposed with multi-colored text.

The card is a demonstration of the products made by her company, Chungju, South Korea-based Livicon Co. Ltd. Its 0.39 mm to 0.12 mm thick film can attach to glass or plastic and has a range of potential uses.

Hwang described those possibilities Monday night at The Milwaukee Club upon meeting Robert Tatterson, Ph.D., an advisor and investor in early stage companies. Having retired a few months ago from his position as chief technology officer at Sealed Air in Racine, Tatterson has been evaluating new technology companies for investment and mentorship opportunities, he said.

“It’s been interesting to meet businesses in all different stages of maturity,” he said. “I have a background in technology and I’m really passionate about new product development and innovation.”

Livicon films are installed at the tallest building in South Korea, the 123-floor Lotte World Tower, on a glass skywalk floor. Visitors walk out onto the opaque skywalk, and suddenly it turns clear, revealing Seoul below. The films are also installed in some offices’ glass-walled conference rooms to offer privacy during meetings, and on companies’ storefronts to either allow customers to see in during the day, or display a large advertisement on the opaque screen off-hours. The films could be used as blinds in a home or to block the sun on car windows, she said.

“We just contracted an apartment where the living room glass is our film” in a 1,000-unit development, Hwang said.

Hwang told Tatterson she was seeking a U.S. distributor, as well as an office and investors. He recommended she speak with a friend who works at a display manufacturer in California. Both technology-minded, they discussed the haze and transparency on Livicon’s films and its supply chain solution.

Hwang is a member of a group of 12 South Korean entrepreneurs who mingled with Milwaukee angel investors like Tatterson Monday at The Milwaukee Club downtown, hoping to make connections that would lead to a partnership or investment. Their visit was arranged by Teresa Esser, managing director of the Milwaukee-based Silicon Pastures Angel Investment Network. The entrepreneurs are taking part in an accelerator program at the Midwest Energy Research Consortium and participating in a whirlwind of networking opportunities while they’re here. Gov. Scott Walker met with them, ahead of their visit, on his recent trade mission to Japan and South Korea. Esser formed a partnership on behalf of MWERC with South Korean university Daegu Gyoungbok Institute of Science and Technology and Madison-based Greenpoint Asset Management to create the four-week business accelerator exchange.

About 25 investors from Silicon Pastures shared a meal and heard presentations from each company, then asked them to leave the room as they discussed whether to move forward with due diligence and a potential investment. Those interested may continue to meet with the entrepreneurs while they are here for the next several weeks, which is why this meeting happened early in the visit, Esser said.

Jae Hyung Kim, for example, presented his chatbot development company, Seoul, South Korea-based Fount AI.

The natural language processing technology is being targeted to financial institutions so they can provide answers to customers 24 hours a day online.

“Basically, a chatbot is a Q&A machine,” Kim said. “These simple questions, it’s really just playing on your smartphone gadget and it will give you all the answers. We give finance all these questions to be answered 24 hours every single day without people always having to be there for you.”

A spinoff of a larger company formed in February, Fount AI has been growing quickly and expects to have 25 employees by the end of the year. As of July, it was already breaking even and expects more than $1 million in revenue this year.

The entrepreneurs arrived Saturday and spent time touring open houses and looking at school districts in the area, for those interested in moving to the area as they expand their business relationships here.

“Each person they meet is a meeting, so we want them to collect business cards,” Esser said.

At the PDS IT conference on Wednesday, the entrepreneurs will network with about 500 Milwaukee businesspeople at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

“That is an opportunity for them. They will be singled out, they will be welcomed,” she said. “We’re kind of keeping it loose because things will emerge.”

The other companies represented on the trip are:

  • Moim Soft. Manufactures hair and skin analysis device and linked smartphone app that cosmetics sales clerks can use to advise consumers on products.
  • Endovision. Creates medical devices such as specialized plasma probes and spinal scopes used by spine and orthopaedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, and urologists and gynecologists.
  • Jinsung Industrial. Manufactures cable ties that construction companies use to hold air ventilation ducts in place.
  • Crespirit. Developed customizable Internet of Things module to monitor factory equipment and fleets by attaching sensors.
  • Haebora. Makes noise-canceling earsets under the name Ripple Buds.
  • Lab by Lab. Created software platform to encourage collaboration between universities and research labs.
  • Jinjoo Soft. Developed web application and web-based logbook for hotels.
  • GIB Korea. Manufactures thermal camera and analysis algorithm to detect slag in the steel manufacturing process. The system is used by POSCO.

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