The K-Startup Challenge is back for 2021: Here’s all you need to know

Organised and conducted by the Government of South Korea, the K-Startup Challenge is a 3.5-month long global accelerator program for startups looking to expand across the robust Asian market
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The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of not just technology but also the pace of innovation. Entrepreneurs and their startups have been at the forefront of pivoting to the new ways of working, and developing new solutions in a radically altered business environment. Even as industries across sectors and sizes scrambled to adapt to the new normal, South Korea, with its robust startup ecosystem and unfettered access to cutting edge technology, has served as the hub of innovation in these unprecedented times.

While South Korea may be known for its industry-leading multinational corporations, the last decade has witnessed the rise of a vibrant startup ecosystem. In fact, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has committed to spending $1.6 billion to develop its ecosystem over the next three years. Additionally, Seoul also has a thriving network of organisations that provide startups with mentoring, office space, and other support.

These efforts are further complemented by the K-Startup Grand Challenge — one of the world's largest outreach programmes for the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

A project by South Korea’s National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA), the programme invites startups from overseas to leverage Korea's prominent startup ecosystem and expand across Korea and Asia. Launched in 2016, it aims to provide startups from around the world with the required support, investments and opportunities to launch their business in Asia.

And, after the resounding success of its 2020 cohort, the K-Startup Challenge is back this year with the aim 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 and the various advantages of the programme (funding opportunities included) to launch and scale across Korea and Asia.

To apply for this three-and-a-half -month long global accelerator programme, click here.

Applications close June 15, 2021.

What’s in store for you?

Apart from the opportunity to scale and expand your business across Asia, the top 60 selected startups also get:

  • Access to state-of-the-art Korean R&D Labs
  • Top 30 startups to get funding for 3.5 months
  • A prize pool of $320,000 for the final 10 startups
  • Living expenses are covered during the programme
  • Working out of the Startup Campus in Pangyo Techno Valley
  • Expert mentorship
  • Corporate partnerships
  • Additional investment potential

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. The startups should also be less than 7 years old or must be a pre-entrepreneur whose representatives hold a foreign nationality.

Know more about K-Startup Grand Challenge 2021 by registering and applying for here.

Join the league of winners

Last year, the K-Startup Challenge 2020 witnessed robust participation from startups with solutions across artificial intelligence, logistics, biotech, robotics, beauty wearables, gaming, urban solutions, and more. The South-Asian region received 62 startup applications from India, Sri Lanka, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Pakistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, and Palestine and were shortlisted to take part in a two-day online pitch session to a 11-member jury panel from the Indian startup ecosystem. Following the live pitching round, two promising startups were selected to enter into the robust Asian market, via South Korea.

Your startup could be next! Hurry - applications close June 15, 2021.


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