South Korea’s bustling startup scene is a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurial ventures. Behind this surge of creativity and business acumen are the country’s top accelerators, each pivotal in nurturing and propelling startups to new heights. Let’s look at some leading accelerators that have become the launchpads for Korea’s next-generation businesses.
In its annual report, the Startup Alliance and Open Survey ‘Startup Trend Report 2023′ has listed the leading accelerators preferred by startup founders and entrepreneurs. KoreaTechDesk lines up the lead accelerators in South Korea
Primer is a trailblazer in the Korean startup ecosystem, making significant contributions since its establishment in 2010. As Korea’s first
Primer focuses on fundamental growth strategies and provides invaluable mentorship and resources, ensuring that startups survive and thrive in the competitive landscape. Noteworthy initiatives like the Overseas Expansion Support Program, Primer Demoday, and the Entrepreneurs’ Dinner Seminar showcase Primer’s commitment to comprehensive support.
Led by CEO Kwon Do-gyun and a team of seasoned partners, Primer’s unique approach, emphasizing management over money and authenticity over talent, has propelled it to prominence, earning recognition as a top-choice investment company among entrepreneurs. Their extensive portfolio includes successful startups like Style Share, My Real Trip, and Daily Hotel, reflecting Primer’s prowess in nurturing early-stage ventures.
Established in 2014, FuturePlay has become a leading force in South Korea’s startup ecosystem, specializing in deep tech startups and making notable contributions to areas such as cryptocurrency and brain science.
With a portfolio featuring standout ventures like VUNO, Finda, DeepSearch, and Innospace, FuturePlay has invested in 229 startups, forming key collaborations with global enterprises like CISCO, DeNA, LG, NHN, and SK Planet.
The accelerator offers impactful programs like TechUP and TechUP+, bridging the gap between startups and established firms, evident in strategic partnerships with LG Electronics, Nongshim Co., Mando Corp., and Amorepacific. The recent creation of ‘Unicorn Fund No. 2’ in collaboration with Samsung Securities underscores FuturePlay’s commitment to supporting early-stage tech companies and expanding its domestic and international influence.
FuturePlay’s exceptional track record showcases an initial startup investment rate of 90% and an impressive survival rate of 91%, emphasizing its dedication to nurturing startups through crucial early stages. With a significant focus on deep tech startups, accounting for 61% of its investments, FuturePlay stands out as a key player driving technological innovation in South Korea and beyond, setting high standards for investment success and contributing significantly to advancing cutting-edge technologies.
Bluepoint is a dynamic and partnership-driven startup accelerator and early-stage VC fund focusing on discovering and investing in innovative entrepreneurs and startups.
Recognizing the challenges inherent in gauging early-stage potential, Bluepoint leverages its extensive network of experienced individuals in technology startups, industry professionals, and researchers. Their proprietary discovery system, combined with the know-how of their team, allows them to identify promising ventures ranging from pre-startup to Seed, Pre-Series A, and Series A stages.
Bluepoint provides crucial financial support and comprehensive assistance across various domains like decision-making, reducing uncertainty, facilitating optimal choices for sustained growth, support for follow-up investment, and assistance in promotion and recruitment. With a track record of accelerating over 140 startups since 2014, Bluepoint emerges as a valuable partner in guiding startups through their growth journey locally and globally.
SparkLabs, a global accelerator founded in 2012, has established itself as a powerhouse in the Korean startup ecosystem.
The accelerator’s industry focus spans a diverse range, encompassing the internet, online gaming, mobile, digital media, health, manufacturing, and e-commerce sectors. SparkLabs stands out for its robust mentor network, contributing to the success of its Demo Days, which are widely regarded as some of the best in Asia. The accelerator takes pride in being a part of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), a highly curated community fostering opportunities for startups worldwide to access human and financial capital.
SparkLabs offers investments of up to $40,000 for a 6% equity stake, with flexibility for negotiation. Startups benefit from mentorship, weekly sessions with mentors, access to SparkLabs’s General Partners, office spaces at MARU180, cloud services, legal advice, and a grand finale at Demo Day, where startups present to potential investors, gaining valuable feedback.
The Ventures Korea stands as a prominent seed-stage investor with a rich history rooted in the experience of its founders, Changseong Ho and Jiwon Moon.
Established in 2014, the company was founded on the mission derived from the success of Viki, a global community-powered video service co-founded by Ho and Moon. Notably, Viki achieved significant acclaim with 22 million users and a lucrative acquisition by Rakuten for $200 million in 2013. As a major connector in the Korean startup scene, The Ventures Korea has garnered a stellar track record and, backed by blue-chip limited partners and investors including Kakao, NCSoft, and Com2Us, has invested in over 100 startups since its inception, accumulating a portfolio value well over US$1 billion.
The Ventures Korea focuses on early-stage, high-growth tech businesses. It has invested in diverse domains, including e-commerce, community, FinTech, online-to-offline, biotech, healthcare, FoodTech, and sustainability. The company has played a crucial role in the success stories of various startups, with portfolio companies experiencing valuation multiples ranging from five to an impressive 800 times over the years. Companies like Sellit, Wedding Book, and Riiid are notable among these successes.
Expanding its reach beyond Korea, The Ventures has ventured into Southeast Asia with the launch of The Ventures Singapore (TVSG). Leveraging its capital, resources, and extensive startup experience, TVSG aims to nurture and scale multiple regional startups. The founders, Ho and Moon, who continue to be influential figures in the startup community, have contributed to the growth of startups in Korea and extended their impact to the United States, India, and Vietnam.
Sopoong Ventures prioritizes environmental concerns, mainly supporting eco-conscious tech founders in South Korea and Southeast Asia.
Specializing in early-stage investments, ranging from seed to Series A stages, Sopoong Ventures boasts an average check size of $150,000, extendable up to $600,000. Aligned with its accelerator program, the firm has invested in 16 startups, including MetaTexture, Selex, Myorange, and Function 12. The six-month accelerator program offers participating startups up to $350,000 in investment, mentorship, co-working space, administrative support, and networking opportunities with industry experts.
Sopoong Ventures has also initiated a fellowship program to nurture climate tech entrepreneurship, supporting individuals with master’s or doctoral degrees in environment-related majors providing monthly grants of $1,700 and participation in the accelerator program. Furthermore, the firm operates as a Korean Social Venture Accelerator, incubating successful startups like Socar, Tumblbug, and Spacecloud, contributing to a portfolio with a market value exceeding $400 million and reinforcing its position in the Korean startup ecosystem.
Mashup Angels, a leading early-stage startup accelerator in Korea, stands at the forefront of fostering innovation across diverse sectors.
Mashup Angels have played a pivotal role in shaping Korea’s startup landscape with a robust portfolio encompassing over 160 startups, including notable investments like Drama & company (Remember), Style Share, and Noom. Beyond financial backing, the accelerator distinguishes itself with a mission to reduce trial and error for early startups. Through value-up programs and networking events, Mashup Angels provide crucial support for the growth of its portfolio companies, reflecting its commitment to establishing them as industry leaders.
With a cumulative investment of ‘24.4 billion won’ in 152 startups by 2022 and the establishment of the Value Growth Venture Investment Association in 2021, Mashup Angels continues to make significant strides in catalyzing startup success.Mashup Angels’ dynamic investment approach, ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 for a 10% equity stake, showcases the accelerator’s agility in fast and aggressive decision-making. The partners at Mashup Angels bring over six years of angel investing experience, offering a comprehensive management program through a network of entrepreneurs and industry experts.
The accelerator’s commitment extends beyond funding, which is evident in its Startup Counseling program, which focuses on crucial aspects of business development, monetization, investment, and marketing strategies. Mashup Angels is a cornerstone in Korea’s startup ecosystem, driving innovation, fostering growth, and providing invaluable support to emerging startups.
Krypton, a trailblazer in the Korean startup ecosystem, is the longest-running startup incubator and accelerator since its establishment in 2000.
Krypton operates globally for its diverse industry focus, spanning manufacturing, advanced technologies, agriculture, education, content, and services. The company’s fundamental philosophy revolves around incubating, accelerating, and supporting entrepreneurs, emphasizing a shared journey of challenges and triumphs.
Krypton’s impactful role in guiding startups through the entire growth process, from management consulting to M&A and IPO, underscores its commitment to driving positive change globally. Its hands-on and co-founder-like involvement in the acceleration process is at the heart of Krypton’s approach. The accelerator teams work closely with startups one-on-one, immersing themselves in the intricacies of the companies they support.
This personalized approach aims to cultivate deep and collaborative relationships, enhancing the success potential of the startups in their portfolio. Krypton’s comprehensive offerings include the ‘Cluster’ tenancy program, providing incubator space for aspiring entrepreneurs to establish business foundations, and the ‘Crypton 36’ hands-on startup school, offering a 10-week curriculum covering essential entrepreneurial themes. This dual-program strategy positions Krypton as a dynamic and supportive force in nurturing startup success.
Fast Ventures, established in 2019, has swiftly positioned itself as a notable venture capital and accelerator firm based in Seoul, South Korea.
Specializing in investments across seed-stage, early-stage, and later-stage companies within the technology sectors, Fast Ventures brings a dynamic approach to supporting startups in their growth journey.
The firm’s flagship initiative, the START accelerator program, is a batch-based program designed to support startup teams. Conducted four times a year, the START program adopts a compressed format, offering investment of up to 500 million won through the SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) method with ‘No Valuation Cap.’ This innovative approach reduces barriers for startups and encourages growth. The program includes a three-month startup space, high-density advice, and practical tips linkage to facilitate the development of the participating startups.
Its focus on tangible business growth rather than traditional pitch preparation for Demo Day presentations is what sets the START program apart. Fast Ventures CEO Park Ji-woong is directly involved in all meetings and activities aimed at helping the START teams achieve substantial growth. The START Alumni include notable names such as Celeb V, Lineup, Assler, Y10 Plus, STODIO, and Play. Fast Ventures extends its impact beyond the accelerator program with initiatives like TEXTBOOK, an online entrepreneurship education program tailored for prospective and early-stage entrepreneurs; Rewarding Talent, a program focusing on early startup founders; and MATCH program, a business match program in collaboration with DIO.
Founded in 2012, Bigbang Angels, as one of the first-generation accelerators in Korea, focuses on supporting local startups in expanding globally and facilitating the entry of global startups into the Asian market, mainly through Korea.
In 2017 Bigbang Angels founded the Across Asia Alliance platform, an international community comprising reputable investors, corporations, and organizations.Bigbang Angels operates at the intersection of diverse industries, particularly emphasizing AI, healthcare, AgTech, and cross-border initiatives aimed at creating a sustainable society. With a focus on cross-border startups, Bigbang Angels has played a crucial role in supporting research and development by connecting with various government funds in Korea. Having originated as an angel investor club in 2012, Bigbang Angels believes in the holistic role of angel investors, viewing them as financial backers and experts who can contribute valuable networks and expertise to the companies they invest in.
The success story of investment in Lezhin Comics, yielding an impressive 80x return on investment in the first fund, added to the firm’s credibility and reputation. Since then, Bigbang Angels has continued to form private investment funds and has successfully invested in over 100 companies, showcasing its prowess in identifying and nurturing promising startups. In 2022, Bigbang Angels strategically partnered with Farquhar Venture Capital (FVC), a Singapore-based early-stage innovation ecosystem enabler.
Orange Planet Foundation
The Orange Planet Foundation, established as a startup foundation within the Smilegate Group, a leading game developer in South Korea, is actively cultivating a sustainable startup ecosystem, fostering the growth of innovative ventures dedicated to building a better world. At the core of Orange Planet’s mission is promoting social value creation.
Since its inception in 2014, Orange Planet has played a pivotal role in the startup landscape, supporting over 280 startups. Notably, the foundation has contributed to generating more than 4,000 jobs.
As an independent corporation since September, Orange Planet has transformed into a distinctive startup support platform with a three-dimensional approach. This approach spans from nurturing startups in their preparation stages to guiding them to becoming unicorns in the business world.
Digital Healthcare Partners (DHP) stands out as a pioneering force in the Korean startup ecosystem, focusing exclusively on digital healthcare startups and filling a significant void in the market since its establishment in 2016.
The firm, founded by medical and healthcare experts, has been instrumental in catalyzing growth in this crucial sector, boasting investments in 38 startups and maintaining a reputation as one of the most engaged investors nationally and globally.
DHP’s unique strength lies not only in its financial contributions but also in the collective expertise of its partners, who bring a diverse range of skills spanning medical, clinical, legal, management, accounting, user experience, artificial intelligence, and innovative business models. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that the startups supported by DHP receive comprehensive guidance and support, making it a strategic partner for early-stage digital healthcare ventures.
DHP’s proactive commitment to providing more than just capital sets it apart. The firm actively offers valuable advice and fosters collaboration networks for the startups under its wing, addressing the unique challenges faced by digital healthcare startups in their formative stages. DHP’s global outlook and dedication to advancing the digital healthcare landscape position it as a catalyst for innovation and growth in an industry intersecting healthcare and technology. In essence, Digital Healthcare Partners emerges as an investment firm and a driving force behind the evolution of digital healthcare startups, contributing significantly to the future of healthcare innovation in Korea and beyond.
CNT Tech stands out as a pioneering force in the food tech and accelerator landscape in Korea, boasting an impressive two-decade track record of excellence.
In the realm of food tech, CNT Tech has been at the forefront, delivering essential technologies such as delivery apps and POS to the domestic restaurant industry since 2003. As a trailblazer, the company sets industry standards for main number, online, and mobile ordering and operates Kakao Ordering directly.
With an unassailable position as the No. 1 ICT food tech company in Korea for the past 14 years, CNTTech has secured a formidable domestic presence and demonstrated its potential by exporting food tech software to seven countries. In its role as an accelerator,
CNT Tech entered the investment and incubation business in 2012, surpassing milestones by exceeding 300 investment portfolios, achieving record-breaking annual investments, and setting benchmarks for successful startup recommendations.
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