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

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.

Startups will come to South Korea for three months? In the midst of a pandemic?
Yes, and here is why that’s possible:

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.

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.

Accelerating A Wide Range Of Innovative Startups

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)

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.

“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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