Korea Offers Startups a $1M Opportunity to Expand in Asia
The program requires startups to have been founded within the last five years and have a minimum viable product (MVP).
The K-startup Grand Challenge allows startups to take a bold step into the Asian market through government support, investment opportunities, and business partnerships. Startups selected for the acceleration program will receive $12,000 to cover living expenses over four months. They will also be provided with funding towards round-trip flights to Korea.
The program, which runs from August this year, will further provide startups with office space and prototyping facilities in its $160 million, purpose built, Global Startup Campus. The campus is situated in Pangyo, home to many Korean tech giants like Kakao and Naver, and is just 14 minutes from Gangnam by subway.
Throughout the four months acceleration, operated by five of Korea’s top accelerators, startups will be given support in rapidly achieving product market fit in Korea, with a goal of securing real business outcomes by the close of the program in December. To facilitate deals, startups will be given support in networking with major companies such as Samsung, Hyundai Motors, SK, LG, Lotte, GS, Hanwha, Hanjin, Doosan, KT, CJ, Hyosung, Kakao, and Naver. In fact fourteen of Korea’s top brands have officially offered to support the program.
The program will culminate with a Demo Day in early December, where the startups present their achievements in front of investors. 25 startups will be selected for additional grants of up to USD $100K, as well as potential investments from accelerators and local investors.
The case for a $1 million opportunity
In 2016, startups secured over $5.5M in local and international investments, as well as signed 30 contracts and 120 MOUs. A striking 70 percent of all startups that accelerated in Korea established an entity in Korea and 80 percent had a local member join their team during the program.
The grand prize winner Fingertips Lab received US$100,000 grand prize at the demo day, and also funding from 500Startups following that.
The team entered the K-Startup Grand Challenge to find a manufacturer in Korea and China. During three months acceleration, they were able to meet companies such as Hyundai Motors as well as smaller distributors. Being a part of, and especially securing the top spot at Demo Day, gave them privileged access to local companies as well as media exposure across Asia and beyond.
"When you are in Pangyo, it's really convenient to be so close to these IT companies. I heard people saying that it's easier to collaborate or have meetings," Ben Park, co-founder and CTO of Fingertips Lab, explains.
Preksh, the runner up, registered a patent for its unique technology-based service and even signed a deal with one of Korea's major department store chains. Fourth place winner, Imagga, collaborated with KIA Motors and is still finding the network formed during the program extremely valuable for growing their business in Asia and beyond.
How to apply
Over 2,400 startups from 124 countries applied for the K-Startup Grand Challenge last year. The competition was most fierce in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Owing to the high-quality of applications from last year’s program, the judging procedure has been dramatically simplified this year. Representatives from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) and five accelerators will simply review online applications to select the final 50 startups to accelerate in Korea.
The startups will then be invited to a follow-up interview, either in their home country or via video conference, through which the five accelerators will decide their preferred mentee. Up to two members from each startup will receive approximately $833 in cash (1M Korean Won) for participating in the interview.
All technology-based startups that have been established within past 5 years, that have an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) are eligible to apply.
Applications will remain open to startups through June 7. Startups can apply at http://www.k-startupgc.org.