10 reasons why the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2021 is your gateway to Asia and the world


After five successful editions, the K-Startup Grand Challenge is back in 2021. Launched by South Korea’s National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA), the programme invites startups from worldwide to leverage Korea's booming startup ecosystem to expand across Korea and Asia. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing the need for innovative solutions and entrepreneurs building products that cater to the needs of the new normal, South Korea is evolving as a hub of innovation with its robust startup ecosystem and unfettered access to cutting-edge technology.

Here are the top 10 reasons why you should apply this year:

1. Gateway to Asian markets

With a burgeoning economy and a rising growth trajectory, South Korea is among the most lucrative markets in the Asian region. By making inroads into the country’s startup ecosystem, entrepreneurs can score opportunities in other countries like Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as well.

2. Cutting-edge technology

Apart from having the world’s fastest internet speeds and smartphone penetration rates, South Korea is also a leading manufacturer and consumer of cutting edge electronic and digital products. The adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain underscores how the country has embraced innovation.

3. Living expenses covered

Each of the 60 startups selected for the programme will receive $11,136 (₩12,250,000 per team) to cover their living expenses while living in South Korea for 3.5 months, from August to November 2021. (The living expenses include a quarantine fund for two weeks before the programme starts, in the wake of the travel restrictions introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

4. Funding and prize pool

The Top 30 startups selected on the Demo Day will be eligible to receive more grants worth $11,136 (₩12,250,000 per team) between January and April 2022. Additionally, there’s a prize pool of $320,000 that will be divided among the Top 10 finalists.

5. A special startup campus

Startups will work out of a free office and a project space in the Global Startup Campus in Pangyo. It is within walking distance from many of South Korea’s top tech companies and is just a 14-minute subway ride from Gangnam - its thriving business district.

6. Access to world-class R&D

The participating ventures will get access to South Korea’s state-of-the-art R&D labs for prototyping, testing and expert support. A South Korean intern will be helping two teams each in overcoming language and cultural barriers while conducting business with locals.

7. Collaboration and networking

The K-Startup Grand Challenge will offer you the opportunity to interact and collaborate with some of the most innovative and influential South Korean companies.

8. Expert mentorship

Startups will have access to one-on-one mentoring, information sessions, coaching on South Korean and Asian business culture, and seminars on topics like patents, accounting regulations, tax laws and more.

9. Corporate support

Some of South Korea’s largest tech companies will also participate in various seminars, workshops which will be conducted during the programme. The participants can look forward to one-on-one mentoring and a chance to score opportunities to receive their support, resources or expertise.

10. Additional investment potential

Startups will get to meet VCs and investors who may choose to invest in their ventures. The programme’s accelerators may also make equity investments in the most promising startups.

Who can apply?

NIPA is looking for promising startups from all sectors with a clear objective to expand in Asia by using the South Korean markets as a stepping stone. The participating startup should also be less than 7 years old or must be a pre-entrepreneur whose representatives are foreign nationals.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and apply for the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2021. Applications close on June 15, 2021.


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