Choson Exchange seeks speakers for North Korea startup festival

A street in Pyongsong, in North Korea

Fed up of Brexit Britain? Ruling out Hong Kong with its protests? Singapore too middle of the road? How about somewhere a little unconventional for your next gig – like North Korea?

A Startup Festival is coming to Pyongsong in North Korea (yes, I’m a little surprised too) in November 16-23, and social enterprise Choson Exchange is looking for applicants to take part in speaking and mentoring roles. I consider myself to be geographically quite astute, especially having lived in Asia for a number of years, but I’d not heard of Pyongsong.

A quick Google search reveals that Pyongsong is an hour north of Pyongyang, with a population of 284,000, making it the size of Derby (and probably just as exciting).

Improbably described as the Silicon Valley of North Korea, or more technically a tech-focused special economic zone, Pyongsong doesn’t appear to have many attractions.

There is the Atomic Energy Research Institute which, at a guess, you probably won’t get to visit unless you’re Dennis Rodman. Pyongsong also offers ‘attractions’ that include a town square, a school and a plastic leather factory.

Choson Exchange has been with entrepreneurs in North Korea for a while, as mentioned previously on this blog (Could you be the Choson one?), so it seems you’re in safe hands.

How to apply

If you have a background in entrepreneurship, marketing, economics or consulting, and wish to contribute to peaceful economic development in North Korea, sign up on the Choson Exchange website (but hurry: the application deadline is 25 August).

As can be expected,  citizens of the US, Japan and South Korea cannot be considered due to restrictions.  If you’re a British citizen, you should probably also read the FCO’s travel advice:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to North Korea (DPRK).

Few British people visit North Korea. Those that do are usually part of an organised tour. If you decide to visit North Korea, follow the advice of your tour group and the local authorities. Failure to do so could put your personal safety at risk.

Offences that would be considered trivial in other countries can incur very severe penalties in North Korea, particularly actions the authorities deem to be disrespectful towards the North Korean leadership or government.

SafetyWing targets digital nomads with a safety net

While in Ho Chi Minh City recently, I became a little sick.

I had the flu and spent a lot of the time looking at the ceiling and talking to my imaginary alter ego (the brain plays weird tricks when you’re running a fever) who was giving me a big task list in my delirious state. I dealt with it by going to the pharmacy and requesting prescription drugs…without a prescription. Not ideal.

It could have been much worse.

I’ve been fairly adventurous reckless over the years, prioritising exciting experiences over personal health and safety. I chose street food over fresh vegetables, for example, and allowed myself far too much exposure to the sun and often terrible air quality.

I thought often about repatriation (when you are flown to your home country in the event of an emergency) – especially while on the heavily trafficked streets of Vietnam – but did nothing about it. I very rarely visited a doctor. But I’m older now, and I believe wiser (though some might disagree).

Remote workers can feel more at ease when bouncing from one country to the next by doing the right thing and taking out insurance.

SafetyWing swoops in

Norwegian startup SafetyWing is targeting digital nomads specifically with  medical and travel insurance, which is which is available to everyone apart from nationals from Iran, Cuba and North Korea. The default length of coverage is 4 weeks (28 days), and helpfully moped/scooter accidents are included…

SafetyWing is not your typical insurance company: the business is staffed by digital nomads working across continents and time zones, so they get it and speak ‘our’ language – quite unlike the suits working for big insurance corporates, who have a very different travel experience. This is reflected on their easy to use website, though I’m not sure what the cartoon characters are about…

Coworking at an all time high, reveals CoworkingResources

I’m writing this from a nice café in Ho Chi Minh City – curiously named Bosgaurus, which sounds like the Bosporus’ answer to the Loch Ness Monster. I could be doing this from a coworking space, but it’s Saturday, the coffee is good, the WiFi is good enough and it’s a very reasonable location.

Glancing right and seeing a choppy-looking Saigon river, the scene of so much history in the 20th century, I’m thinking: why doesn’t the coffee shop option appeal more to solo workers?

The coworking boom is at an all time high and continues to grow. According to a new study by coworking industry publication CoworkingResources – who popped me a nice message through this website – more than 1,600 new coworking spaces are expected to open worldwide in 2019 and 42% growth is expected by 2022. This growth is mostly coming from new businesses rather than large chains and franchises.

Unsurprisingly it’s the big business cities of the world where this is happening fastest, and 80% of the top 10 cities are in North America, as the press release reveals:

  • London is the city where coworking is growing the fastest, followed by New York City and Toronto (see table below)
  • Four cities in Asia made the global top 20 list. Manila and KL are the two highest ranked Asian cities, curiously
  • Luxembourg, Ireland and Singapore are the fastest growing markets

Top coworking cities