South Korea’s government launches its first accelerator program for international startups

The Global Startup Campus in Pangyo, South Korea

The Global Startup Campus in Pangyo, South Korea

In a bid to make South Korea’s tech industry more diverse, the government has created an accelerator for startups from around the world.

Called the K-Startup Grand Challenge, the program is being organized by South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), in partnership with Seoul-based accelerators SparkLabs, DEV Korea, ActnerLab, and Shift. It will accept applications through June 14.

MSIP director and spokesman Dr. Chang-yong Ahn told TechCrunch that this is the first time the government—which has pledged $2 billion per year since 2013 to the local startup ecosystem—has directly supported foreign startups. It wants to encourage more companies to set up business there and plans to make K-Startup Grand Challenge an annual program.

“Most innovation is borne from diversity—just look at Silicon Valley,” he said. “At this stage the startup and business ecosystem in Korea lacks a high level of diversity and the K-Startup Grand Challenge is one step towards creating a more diverse business environment in Korea.”

Forty startups will be selected to participate in the three-month long program, which begins in September and includes mentoring from 15 leading Korean tech companies, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Kakao, and Naver.

A demo day will take place in December, after which twenty startups will receive $33,000 in funding from the government, with the top four getting an additional $6,000 to $100,000.

All companies will work out of the Pangyo Global Startup Campus, which was opened earlier this year by the government as part of a new startup hub.

The program is accepting applications from companies in all industries with growth potential, but it is particularly focused on gaming, finance, bio-tech, software, and information and communication tech.

“We would love to see some of the companies incorporate in Korea, leading to the creation of jobs and development of Korea as a regional technology and startup hub,” said Ahn.