Apply For The K-Startup Grand Challenge By 25 June & Break Into Asia!

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If you are looking for a gateway into the Asian market, the K-Startup Grand Challenge (KSGC) is right for you! Apply by 25 June 2020 to receive a $120K cash prize, expert support, co-working space, living expenses, and extra fundings - provided by the government of South Korea!

The key purpose of the global acceleration program K-Startup Grand Challenge is to promote collaboration and exchange of ideas among startups from Korea and around the world. For this, startups will come to Korea for an initial 3 month period* before selected startups will enter the settlement phase to break into Asia.

Expanding Horizons In The Midst Of COVID-19

Startups will come to South Korea for three months? In the midst of a pandemic? Yes! KSGC Europe & Africa Lead & Deputy Director of NIPA, Eunyoung Park, explains why the acceleration program is more important than ever: “Pivoting your business plan and adjusting to periods of uncertainty is crucial and even more so for startups. Given the current pandemic, we had some initial concerns over whether or not to run the program this year.”

“Whilst we understand that participants may be concerned about taking part and expanding horizons in the midst of COVID-19, we can say with confidence that South Korea has put in place all the necessary preventative protocols when it comes to social gatherings and opening businesses. While the pandemic has been sweeping the world, leaving vast economic aftermaths, starting a business in Korea would be an unmissable opportunity to scale your startup. In that sense, KSGC is particularly suited to those who have been preparing to do business in Asia and within the Korean market”, she continues.

South Korea is one of the only countries globally that has successfully brought the COVID-19 outbreak under control. While other countries are struggling, South Korea is relying on high tech solutions to contain the novel Coronavirus, allowing its population to return to normal – with restaurants, shopping malls, and parks filled in recent weeks. Thanks to its grasp on emerging technology that ensures safety, South Korea develops into a facilitator for international events at a time where large scale events are restricted in most regions. Moreover, South Koreans themselves are known to be early adopters of technology, offering many opportunities for tech startups from all industries to rebuild and scale their solutions.

Accelerating A Wide Range Of Innovative Startups

Organized by NIPA & funded by the South Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups, the K-Startup Grand Challenge is looking to support startups in various sectors and technologies – from mobility to energy and artificial intelligence to additive manufacturing.

The KSGC is a global acceleration program conducted by the Korean government, which began in 2016 to assist global startups to expand into the Korean market and the broader Asian markets. The key purpose of the K-Startup Grand Challenge is to promote collaboration and exchange of ideas among startups from Korea and around the world.

If you start your company in Korea, you can take advantage of the various supports of this program as well as a surge of momentum into the Asian market thanks to the growing influence of the Korean Wave.

Because South Korea is one of the world’s most tech-savvy countries, KSGC is looking for innovations in a variety of sectors. These include: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud Computing, Networking, 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics, AutoTech, Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Augmented Reality (AR), Smart City (Agri, Gov, Factory), Health, BioTech, Semiconductor, Green Energy, 3D Printing, Blockchain, FinTech, Information Security, eCommerce, Smart Home, Logistics, Media (Gaming, Social Media, Digital Content).

Moreover, your company should be founded in 2013 or after and be headquartered in the EMEA region to be eligible for the K-Startup Grand Challenge.

Advantages: Financial Support, Free Office Space, Corporate Sponsorship & More

South Korea is home to 11 unicorns and it is an active and well-designed startup ecosystem that attracts investors and international companies such as Google. In addition to this, major Korean companies have actively expressed interest in collaborating with startups from across the globe.

To facilitate this, benefits of the K-Startup Grand Challenge include a $120K cash prize, expert support, co-working space, living expenses, extra fundings, and more:

  • State of the Art R&D Labs for prototyping, testing facilities, expert support
  • 3 Months Acceleration: The top 60 selected teams will be invited to stay in Korea to participate in a 3 month-long acceleration program. This program will give you access to 1-on-1 mentoring, information sessions, coaching on Korean and Asian business culture, and seminars on topics like patents, accounting regulations, tax laws, and more.
  • Access to a brand new Startup Campus: You will work at Korea’s new Startup Campus in Pangyo, located within a walking distance of many of Korea’s top tech companies and just a 14-minute subway ride away from the Gangnam district of Seoul.
  • Free Office & Project Space: You will receive an office space for your team as well as all sorts of equipment and space. Also, you will have Korean interns working for you to help lowering language and cultural barriers while pursuing local business.
  • Corporate Sponsorship & Support: Korea’s largest tech companies will participate in various seminars, workshops, and 1-on-1 mentoring with expertise ranging from smartphones to software to semiconductors.
  • Financial Support: The top 60 teams selected for the acceleration program will receive USD 10,840 for one-person teams and USD 15,490 for two-person teams to cover the living expenses over 3.5 months (including 2 weeks of quarantine expense*).
  • Settlement Phase: A 3.5 Month Settlement Fund is available for each of the selected 30 top teams after the acceleration phase (total USD 40,000)

Eunyoung Park sums up the advantages for tech startups joining the KSGC: “I would also like to highlight the Korean government’s extensive support for startups. In addition to the total amount of $240k cash prize, the KSGC program also guarantees additional investment from the government to help with establishing a new business venture in Korea alongside continued support after the acceleration program under a Scale-up and Open Innovation program.”

“Once you are invited to Korea for the acceleration program, you will work in our co-working space, and in case there are any language barriers, Korean interns will be on hand to assist. The co-working space is the perfect backdrop to share ideas and inspiration with other international participants. Startups will also connect with a series of reputable Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai in this phase of the program.”

KSGC – An Acceleration Program With A Proven Track Record

In 2019, 1.677 startups from 95 countries competed to be selected for the K-Startup Grand Challenge. 38 of them were selected to participate in a 3.5 month-long acceleration program and received initial funding and office space. Following this, the top 20 teams were then chosen in the Demo Day in December and given additional funds for 3.5 months which help them to successfully claim their place in Korea.

Overall, the results of startups that participated in the KSGC 2016-2019 made astonishing accomplishments until last year. The following is a glimpse of their achievements:

  • 89 established entities
  • USD 1.2 billion domestic & international investments
  • 881 corporations
  • 374 contracts signed
  • 906 meetings with major Korean companies, SMEs, startups, VCs, etc.

“As many people know, the geographical epicenter of venture capital is shifting. Venture capital funds founded by giant Asian tech companies (e.g., Samsung NEXT, Kakao Ventures) are big players. Being able to connect with these funds via KSGC represents an unparalleled opportunity for your startup. Matei Psatta, a participant from the 2019 edition, attests to being able to meet with Samsung NEXT to discuss venture capital opportunities upon having a partnership”, says Eunyoung Park.

“From my experience, South Korea is like a window to global expansion. When you make collaborations with international companies like Hyundai, Samsung, LG, etc., you also get the advantage of extending services to other countries.It is definitely worth doing business here as long as you are really mindful of the Korean culture and accept that you have to adapt your style”, states 2019 participant Matei Psatta, CMO at TPS Engage.

2019’s winner Jordan Monnet, CPO at nr2, appreciates KSGc as a shortcut to understanding ecosystems in Korea: “Being here and seeing things at firsthand really made me realize how innovative Korea was. That was the reason I decided to stay here. Another thing that makes me stay in Korea is the life in the city, Seoul. You can have whatever life you want. You can have a party, go to the lake, and hike mountains. This is the only place in the world where I can do all the activities I want to do.”

2020 Timeline

  • 15 May – 25 June: Application Phase
  • 29 June – 2 July: Application Review
  • 9 – 15 July: Global Auditions
  • 17 July: Final Announcement
  • 1 Sept – 30 Nov: Program Acceleration in Korea (incl. 2 weeks quarantine)
  • 19 – 21 Nov: Demo Day where the top 30 teams will be selected for the next phase
  • 15 Jan – 30 April 2021: Settlement Program

To break into Asia, apply for the K-Startup Grand Challenge by 25 June 2020!



*Editor’s Note: Before the acceleration phase starts, participants will be required to quarantine for two weeks.



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