Earlier in October, we unveiled plans for the inaugural Pyongsong Startup Festival. It was slated to be a new direction for Choson Exchange workshops, and even bigger and better than our previous November workshops in the DPRK. With a revised format and record number of workshop leaders, it was tricky, it was risky, but it was also — a success.
And it couldn’t have been done without our workshop leaders.
With our largest group of 16 workshop leaders and 100 participants from the DPRK, the Pyongsong Startup Festival also featured a revised format that encouraged greater peer- to peer learning and more opportunities for intimate interactions between workshop leaders and participants — including hilariously spontaneous ones like this:
New orientation activities like these marked significant departures from the traditional format of lectures and limited meet-and-greets between workshop leaders and participants. Since our first workshops in 2010 , it is heartening to note that our DPRK participants have gradually warmed up to more open and casual modes of learning, networking and enjoying the learning process.
Every workshop leader was assigned to a group from the start of the festival, and remained as their mentor and champion for the duration. Just as ideas steadily grew from words on paper to minimum viable products, leaders and participants got together into a friendly community where learning was a (really busy) two-way street.
Many of our distinguished workshop leaders expressed enthusiasm at embarking on this journey with us, and were impressed with the unique insight into the DPRK that these workshops offer. Many, like our May 2018 workshop leader Don Duncan, even recall their memories with a certain heartfelt fondness.
Many ideas that were floated during the 6-month acceleration program that our partners had conducted in the run-up to the visit produced commendable results. We were impressed by the range of product ideas that participants came up with, with everything from fertilisers, reusable technology and plastic recycling to more exotic ideas like milk bath therapy and silk waste - mushroom cultivation. In the final day’s voting, the silk waste - mushroom cultivation idea was awarded the prize for most viable product.
As participants effectively translate their experiences into entrepreneurial success, we hope that they will eventually become a core part of our knowledge ecosystem. One former workshop participant, whose idea for a surge protector has since gone from idea to product, also shared some of his insights gleaned off his experience attending our previous workshops. Hearing success stories from Korean workshop alumni was particularly inspiring for first time attendees.
Choson Exchange has come a long way since our inception in 2010, and much of our progress would not have been possible if not for the enthusiasm and dedication of our workshop leaders. The Pyongsong Startup Festival is a major milestone that marks a huge leap forward for us, and we look forward to having more business luminaries help us forge ahead on this new direction in 2019 and beyond.