A unique opportunity to expand your startup across Asia via Korea: The K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020

As the world’s largest three-month global accelerator programme, The K-Startup Grand Challenge is a project conducted and financed by the South Korean government and offers a fantastic global platform for startups looking to expand across the robust Asian market, via South Korea.

22nd May 2020
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As Industry 4.0 merges with the new normal as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has created a paradigm shift for the whole world. In this new normal, as technology and infrastructure pivot to adapt, South Korea is at the centre of all, particularly from the entrepreneurial point of view. With 221 accelerators and 134 innovation centres (as of February 2020), South Korea provides the best support and environment for startups innovating for the new normal or even those with innovative ideas just beginning their journey.


South Korea is also bullish on the growth of the startup scene by endorsing tax breaks and incentives for angel investors and venture capitalists, tax benefits for mergers and acquisitions in the technology and R&D sectors, and improvements in visa regulations for startup and entrepreneurs from abroad, crowned by the annual K-Startup Grand Challenge — its largest outreach programme for the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The world’s largest three-month global accelerator programme

The key purpose of K-Startup Grand Challenge is to promote collaboration and exchange of ideas among startups from South Korea and around the world. The challenge helps startups leverage the fantastic startup ecosystem in the country together with the various advantages of the programme (funding opportunities included) to launch and scale across Korea and Asia.


Last year, 1,677 startups from 95 countries competed to be selected for the 2019 K-Startup Grand Challenge. Of them, 38 were selected to participate in the 3.5 month-long acceleration programme and received initial funding and office space. The top 20 teams were then chosen at the Demo Day in December. The selected teams were given additional funds for 3.5 months, which helped them to successfully startup in South Korea.


Talking about how South Korea can be a good business market for foreign startups Matei Psatta, CMO of TPS Engage from the 2019 cohort said, “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.”

Why apply for the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020?

In 2020, the K-Startup Grand Challenge can provide you and your startup with the support and opportunities for investment that you need to launch your business in Asia. The benefits include:


1. Access to state-of-the-art Korean R&D Labs

The challenge will give you access to world-class prototyping, testing facilities and expert support. The Pangyo Techno Valley is an innovation hub where SMEs and startups can participate in a mutual exchange of information with technology research institutes and large, global companies.


2. A $240,000 prize pool for the winners

Each of the selected top 5 startups will be eligible for prizes as below, paid in Korean Won.


1st Prize : $120,000 (₩135,600,000)

2nd Prize : $60,000 (₩67,800,000)

3rd Prize : $30,000 (₩33,900,000)

4th Prize : $20,000 (₩22,600,000) ·

5th Prize : $10,000 (₩11,300,000)


3. Living expenses are covered during the programme

Each of the 60 startups in the programme will receive $10,840 (₩12,250,000 per team of one person), or $15,490 (₩17,500,000 per team of two people) to cover the living expenses over 3.5 months from August to November 2020.


4. Grants for 30 startups

Each of the selected top 30 startups subsequently, will be eligible to receive $10,840 (₩12,250,000 per team of one person) and $15,490 (₩17,500,000 per team of two people) as funding for 3.5 months January to April 2021. ·


5. Working out of a brand new, centrally located startup campus

The Global Startup Campus is strategically built just 14 minutes from Gangnam – Seoul’s thriving, upscale business district.

6. Expert mentorship

You have the chance to be mentored by some of the world’s top tech companies with experience in providing a global platform for startups and SMBs.


7. Corporate partnerships

The challenge will give you access to Korea’s top tech companies with expertise ranging from smartphones and software to semiconductors.


8. Potential for additional investment

Startups will have access to VCs and investors who may choose to invest in them. The programme’s accelerators may also make equity investments in the most promising startups.

Who can apply

Promising startups with a clear objective to expand into Asia by using the Korean market as a stepping-stone may register and apply for the challenge. Know more about K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 by registering and applying for here.


Hurry! Applications close 24th June 2020.

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