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.
While Pyongyang remains the most glitzy and booming city in North Korea, Pyongsong has emerged as one of the country’s most important trading hubs. It’s also home to a growing community of ambitious entrepreneurs. So when the latest group of CE volunteers arrived in the DPRK earlier this month, there was a sense of excitement — and a room full of North Koreans who were eager to show the progress they had made over the past year.
China has Alibaba and Taobao, the rest of the world has Amazon.com — except the DPRK, where a team of North Koreans pitched our volunteers for an e-commerce platform on the domestic intranet that would connect customers with businesses through web- and mobile apps. The pitch was part of our latest Pyongyang Startup Bootcamp, a series of talks and mentoring sessions with CE volunteers who spent a week in the DPRK to help more than 80 Koreans develop business ideas for the local market.