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Korea opens applications for 50 startups to join global accelerator


The Korean government is seeking 50 high-potential startups from around the world to join the K-Startup Grand Challenge for four months of business acceleration in Korea.

The programme, which is now in its second year and starts in August, is run by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) and the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA).

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Startups founded within the last five years with a minimum viable product (MVP) can apply.

Participants selected for the acceleration programme will receive $12,000 to cover living expenses over four months, while funding towards round-trip flights to Korea will also be provided.

Startups will also get office space and prototyping facilities in a purpose-built $160-million Global Startup Campus. The campus is situated in Pangyo, home to Korean tech giants like Kakao and Naver, and just 14 minutes from Gangnam by subway.

Business support will be provided by five of Korea’s top accelerators (namely SparkLabsShiftCNTTechN15 and Ventureportand startups will be given support in launching their product in Korea.

Participants will get $12,000 for four-month programme and can win $100,000

Participants will also get the chance to network with 14 major brands, including Samsung, Hyundai Motors and LG.

The programme will culminate with a demo day in early December, where 25 startups will be selected for additional grants of up to $100,000 as well as potential investments from accelerators and local investors.

Over $5.5m in 2016

Last year 2,400 startups from 124 countries applied to join the programme. The 40 selected participants were able to secure over $5.5-million in local and international investments, while 70% of participants set up entity in Korea and 80% had a local member join their team during the programme.

The grand prize winner Fingertips Lab, from San Francisco received $100,000 in prize money at the demo day and went onto get funding from 500Startups.

The team entered the K-Startup Grand Challenge to find a manufacturer in Korea and China. During three months of 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,” commented Fingertips Lab co-founder Ben Park.

Runner up Preksh, an Indian augmented reality startup, registered a patent for its unique technology-based service and even signed a deal with one of Korea’s major department store chains — while fourth place winner, Imagga — a Bulgarian startup which develops image recognition technology — was able to collaborate with KIA Motors.

NIPA Vice President DJ Kim said the K-Startup Grand Challenge is particularly relevant for startups that want to make an entrance into or expand within Asia.

“We are hoping to attract startups to the program that can create synergy with existing Korean companies, including local startups, SMEs and large enterprises, but we are open to all startups with potential in a number of broad ICT areas.

Selection simplified

Owing to the high-quality of applications from last year’s programme, the judging procedure has been dramatically simplified this year.

Representatives from MSIP and NIPA and the five participating 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 about $833 in cash (one million Korean won) for participating in the interview.

Applications for the programme are open now and close on 7 June. Startups founded in the last five years that have an MVP can apply here.

Featured image: Global Panorama via Flickr (CC 2.0, resize)

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