2021 has been a breakthrough year for the Korean startup ecosystem despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Korean Chat API startup Sendbird raised $100 million in Series C funding with a valuation of $1.05 billion.
Sendbird is now one of the 12 unicorn startups based out of South Korea. South Korea’s largest e-commerce company, Coupang, raised around $4.6 billion in the biggest US initial public offering (IPO) this year.
In the first quarter of 2021, at least 34 companies (many of which were tech startups), have applied to the Korea Exchange (KRX) for IPOs.
South Korea wants to grow its tech ecosystem and digital economy by making it easier for startups from abroad to expand in the country. The South Korean government aims to attract global startups to set up operations in South Korea.
Founded by an Ex-Googler in 2017, California-based Bear Robotics is a developer of robots designed to carry food in restaurants.
The company’s robots use AI to help employees deliver food from a kitchen to a table with less human workload. Bear Robotics expanded to South Korea and Asia through the K-Startup Grand Challenge in 2017.
FreeD Group is an award-winning travel and lifestyle AI digital solution company. FreeD Group’s TravelFlan is powered by over 20 million daily unique data points with its home-grown machine learning capabilities.
Its AI Concierge Chatbot interface serves as a commercial transaction and travel booking platform that also offers smart recommendations and unique experiences to users.
The AI-driven travel and lifestyle AI- solution startup from Hong Kong is 2016 alumni of the KSGC program.
Texas-based health-tech startup Ommo technologies spread its reach to the Asian markets with participation in the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 program.
Since joining the KSGC program in the summer of 2020, Ommo technologies has raised US $3M led by Korean investors.
Kyul Ko, Co-founder & COO, Ommo technologies shared, “KSGC helped pave the way for us to reach out to potential investors and partners.
Not only does the Korean government support domestic startups, but it also helps international startups find their home in Korea to take advantage of the support it provides, KSGC being the epitome.
Once you are able to run your business successfully in Korea, then all of Asia is within reach.”
Benefit of the program
The top ten chosen startups will also win grants worth $320,000, with the first-placed team receiving $120,000.
Criteria for selection
- To apply, startups must be less than seven years old, and their representative must be of foreign nationality
- They must also demonstrate a clear interest in expanding into the Korean and East Asian markets
- KSGC 2021 will offer 60 teams and entrepreneurs a 3.5-month residency program in South Korea that includes access to expert guidance, co-working spaces, state-of-art R&D labs, corporate partnerships, entry to Asian markets, and more.
How to apply
Startups from around the world can apply to K-Startup Grand Challenge 2021 here. The deadline for application is Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
The program, first launched in 2016, aims to promote the expansion of an open entrepreneurship ecosystem in Asia and assist in South Korea’s evolution into a prominent startup and business hub in the region.
In the year 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the program saw a 58% surge in applications, with 2,648 teams applying from 118 countries.
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