S. Korea woos startups in India with ‘grand challenge’

Wants them to look at Korea as a testing bed for their ventures

Updated - September 16, 2016 09:34 am IST

Published - June 01, 2016 12:00 am IST - Mumbai:

To transform itself into the startup hub of Asia, South Korea is wooing Indian startups among others through its K-Start-up Grand Challenge project.

South Korea, which is known for its manufacturing and hardware strength, plans to invest $3.8 billion by the end of 2017 to promote startups and entrepreneurship.

The move also comes when investors from other nations such as Japan and China are actively investing and planning further investments into Indian startups.

K-Startup Grand Challenge is the first initiative by the Korean government to enable startups from Asia and other parts of the world to know the market opportunities the country presents.

Kyung Hwan Lee, executive director of National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) at Korea-India SW Cooperation Center, said: “Korean consumers are willing to test products and are early adapters of technology. We want global startups, including the ones in India, to look at Korea as a testing bed for the launch of their products in the Southeast Asian market.” He said that Korea has opened up its startup ecosystem.

Mr. Lee said despite the huge presence of Korean giants such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai in India, Korean investors have not invested in Indian startups. “This is because investors are still trying to understand the Indian startup ecosystem.”

K-Startup Grand Challenge is calling for applications from the US, Latin America, European Union and South East Asia, to be submitted by June 14. At least 80 foreign startups will go to Korea for a week’s pitching, where 40 will be selected to participate in three months of acceleration in Pangyo, south of Seoul. At the end of the acceleration programme, the government will host a demo day to select the top 20 startups.

The top 20 startups to emerge from the next round will be in the six-month acceleration programme, and also receive $33,000 support each if they establish a legal entity in Korea. The final four from the demo day will receive up to $100,000 in additional funding.

During the nine-month span of the project, startups will have the opportunity to be invested-in by the accelerators and the venture capital firms based in South Korea.

The selected startups will receive sponsorship and mentoring from incubators and conglomerates in the country, such as ActnerLab, SparkLabs, Samsung, LG, Lotte, Hanwha, Doosan and Kakao.

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