Teaching startup skills and business knowledge to the frontier entrepreneurs of North Korea is often one of the most amazing things our volunteers have done. The recent Pyongsong Startup Bootcamp was particularly interesting: Instead of just telling us about their ideas, North Korean participants presented working prototypes and products they had already launched, looking for advice on how to improve their offerings.
In addition to the vacuum-sealed vegetables one team presented with the catchy tagline “Green pepper in winter is no longer a dream!!!”, a team of Koreans calling themselves the “Empire Of Longevity” showed off a brand of sprouts they said lasts longer and is healthier than competing products. Another natural remedy for longer life was a capsule containing winter mushrooms. The pitch: “No terrible injection” and “no deathbed regrets” compared to non-mushroom options for extending your lifespan.
Not all pitches were about nutrition: Team “Magic Calendar” worked on the business model of a mobile scheduling app for kids that would run on local smartphones, allowing parents and teachers to make sure children stay sufficiently busy. “Do you wish your children to be grown up as a positive and self-motivated person?”, they challenged our volunteers. “Magic Calendar” is the answer, they explained: While it helps kids plan their day, it also offers motivational messages when schedules seem too empty. “Hey my friend, you’re loafing nowadays”, the app would warn. And since it’s syncing with parents and teachers via the local intranet, it would be easy for them to intervene.
The app won’t be free, the team said, but no similar apps exist in the North Korean app markets yet, so competition would be limited. Also, they pointed out, a self-motivated child should be worth paying for: “The most important thing is he will find out the meaning of his life.” Nothing less.
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