SparkLabs, the startup accelerator that wants to inject South Korea’s startup ecosystem with Silicon Valley expertise, announced its second intake today. Its latest class is an international lineup of companies that represent a variety of sectors and are at widely different stages of funding, from bootstrapped financing to those that have closed a Series A round.
Founded in 2012, SparkLabs’ offers a three-month-long mentorship driven program. Co-founder Bernard Moon says that one of the main challenges faced by South Korea’s startup industry is the lack of role models and guidance for founders. For example, many angel investors and venture capitalists have a financial background but lack entrepreneurial experience. SparkLabs has focused on building an impressive roster of mentors, many of whom are Silicon Valley founders.
“We’re not the first accelerator or incubator in South Korea, but we are the first with a tangible outside network that is easily accessible by Korean entrepreneurs,” says Moon. “We also get applications from China, India, Taiwan, everywhere in Asia. Our dream is to be a gateway not just into Silicon Valley, but also to high-level people these founders never thought it would be possible to access.”
While SparkLabs’ first class consisted of South Korean companies hoping to break into overseas markets, the latest intake include companies from Singapore and the U.S. that view South Korea as a gateway into Asia.
“They see South Korea as more developed in terms of technology and a large early adopter base. A good foothold and feedback in South Korea helps them expand into Japan and possibly China,” says Moon.
SparkLabs is also hosting its first annual conference, NEXT, on June 14 in Seoul. The event will focus on innovation and technology, with speakers including Ray Ozzie, the founder and CEO of Talko, Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Maria G. Gotsch, president and CEO of Partnership Fund for New York City and Jonathan Levine, CIO and CTO of Rakuten Group.
SparkLabs’ inaugural cohort included educational tech startup KnowRe and WePlanet, the developers of Step Journal. Here is its second class:
StyleWiki: A Seoul-based social wiki platform for fashion enthusiasts.
iBabyBox: A Palo Alto-based online community where parents can share and sell secondhand baby products.
Megaphone: Founded in New York City, this participation TV platform’s clients include NBC, Bravo, BBC, Amex, LG, Sprint, NFL and the New York Knicks. Megaphone integrates game graphics that can be controlled by Web browsers into TV shows and allows viewers to see aggregated results of all user activity and 30-second ads in real-time.
MangoPlate: A mobile app that offers personalized restaurant recommendations in Seoul. Its search engine fine-tunes results each time a user adds a review or wish-list entry.
Zoyi: A Korean tech company that has built products including AdbyMe, Korea’s first social media advertising platform and Cooki, a news summary curation service. Zoyi is backed by StoneBridge Capital, a leading Korean venture capital firm.
HeyBread: One of Korea’s leading curation commerce companies, HeyBread focuses on delivering premium organic breads from local bakeries to customers. The company plans to expand its service to the entire fresh food industry.
Petsbe: A Seoul-based premium subscription service that delivers personalized orders of pet food and monthly supplies.
Lateral: Headquartered in San Francisco, Lateral wants to redefine the fundamentals of online search by revamping outdated search methods.
DesignPlusD: A Seoul-based productivity app that includes note taking, alarm reminder and calendar functions. The company’s Remember-Block memo app was the App Store’s number one productivity apps in 12 countries and was the top paid app in South Korea during January.
TrakInvest: A Singaporean online social investment platform for equities that will be launched next month. The company, which is led Bobby Bhatia, the former managing director and head of principal investments at AIG for APAC, provides tools to identify and create future “alpha” generators. It has partnered with Thomson Reuters to provide research and analytics to its user base.