All you need to know about the world’s largest 3-month global accelerator programme: The K-Startup Grand Challenge

By Ryan Frantz|1st Jun 2020
As the world’s largest three-month global accelerator programme, the K-Startup Grand Challenge (KSGC) is a project conducted and financed by the South Korean government. It offers a fantastic global platform for startups looking to expand across the robust Asian market, via South Korea.
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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 to 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. They were given additional funds for 3.5 months that helped them to successfully startup in South Korea.


Speaking on 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 should I 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

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

3. Grants and living expenses during the programme

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

5. Expert mentorship

6. Corporate partnerships

7. Potential for additional investment.


Participating in the challenge will also 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.

What is the eligibility criteria to apply for the challenge?

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 if they meet the key requirements below:

  1. The startup should be not more than seven years old.
  2. The team leader and members must not be disqualified from staying in Korea or acquiring a related visa in Korea
  3. The team must have one or more members with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  4. The team must have members who can communicate in English (required) and Korean (optional) to establish a business in Korea.

What are the evaluation criteria for KSGC?

The evaluation for the application document shall be based on the business plan, idea, Asian market fit, strategy and execution, and the team. The interview evaluation will assess the applicant’s target market, the relevance of the problem, need and solution, the team, the board, mentors and advisors, traction, competition vs. competitive advantages, revenue model, financial Projections, Asian market fit, overall presentation and the Q&A.

Do I need to be fluent in Korean to participate? What is the official language in the KSGC programme?

The official language for the KSGC is English. All participating teams are required to have at least one English-speaking member. Having a Korean speaker would be optional. Teams will also have Korean interns working with them (one intern for every two teams) to help with language and cultural barriers during the programme.

Will my living expenses be covered during the programme?

Yes. 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.


Furthermore, 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 from January to April 2021. ·

Will I have access to mentors from the local ecosystem?

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.

Will I have access to corporate partnerships in Korea?

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

Is there potential for additional investment through the programme?

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.

Where do I learn more about the challenge and apply?

Know more about K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 by registering and applying for here. Hurry! Applications close on June 24, 2020.