South Korea’s startup ecosystem is one of the most vibrant systems driven by innovation and technology. South Korea has been ranked second on the Bloomberg Global Innovation Index 2020 and has gained attention from global investors, accelerators, and VCs for its growing startups. Government programs, private fundings, incubators, are propelling the growth in the startup sector in Korea and global startups should also look towards establishing ventures in the country.
South Korea is not only a powerhouse for its home-grown startup ecosystem but it is also now becoming an increasingly attractive destination for foreign startups. The Korean government has started many programs to support foreign startups and made it easy for entrepreneurs to apply for a visa to start a business in the country. There are many foreign startups that have established their business in Korea now.
The country’s ‘Overall Assistance for Start-up Immigration System(OASIS’ is a system designed to issue startup visas to non-Koreans who wants to start a business in Korea based on their advanced technologies. Programs like K- Startup Grand Challenge and events like COMEUP are funding promising non-Korean startups.
Here are some of the agencies and programs that can help foreign startups succeed in Korea.
1. K-Startup Grand Challenge
K-Startup Grand Challenge is one of Korea’s largest accelerator programs that invite foreign startups for a four-month acceleration program at Pangyo Techno Valley. The challenge pairs the startups with tech giants and accelerators who help train and mentor the new startups.
At the end of the challenge, one startup is awarded $100000 and given office space to start a Korean branch. Since its inception in 2016, the accelerator program has received more than 20000 applications from over 120 countries and recorded over $28 million in investments.
2. Seoul Global Startup Center
Founded in 2016 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul (GSC) startup incubation center supporting foreign entrepreneurs in Korea to begin their startup journey in Seoul. The center was started to create a foreigner-friendly startup hub to ease the challenges foreign startups faced when trying to set up shop.
N15 and WeWork Labs run the center and provide high-quality mentors, office space, seed funding, and industry leaders access during their 12-month incubator program.
3. Seoul Global Center
The Seoul Global Centre is a multi-lingual, comprehensive support center that provides various services to enable Seoul’s foreign citizens to lead a hassle-free life. The center has free educational programs such as Korean classes, business seminars, and new residents’ orientation.
They also offer incubation services for foreign-owned startups by providing office space, comprehensive consultation, business support, and mentoring for up to a year.
TIPS (Tech Incubator Program for Startups) is a major government-backed incubator for local and foreign startups. The program was designed to identify and nurture promising startups with groundbreaking technologies or innovative ideas and support them to enter the global market.
TIPS appoints and designates new startups to industry leaders and angel investors. It also provides incubating, networking, mentoring, and R&D funds to help startups turn their ideas into reality.
5. Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA)
SMBA is another affiliate organization under the Ministry of SMEs and startups that aim to encourage innovation in small, micro and medium-sized businesses. The agency’s mission is to foster startup growth, connect startups with growth opportunities, and support micro-enterprises.
SMBA also runs the Global accelerator program for startups, aiming to identify and support 13 foreign startups with office space, startup education, and funding.
6. Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA)
The growth of K-pop, K-movies, and other Korean creative content has taken the world by storm in recent years. KOCCA was started to continue promoting Korean content worldwide and support Korea’s digital innovation.
The agency oversees and coordinates numerous promotional events and events such as Korean Game Agency, SXSW Music Festival, Korea Culture & Content Agency, and COMEUP events. KOCCA acts as an incubator to content startups providing mentorship, education, and office space.
7. Pangyo Techno Valley
Pangyo Techno Valley located in Seongnam, is a vast industrial and startup campus that supports, educates, and motivates young startup companies. Pangyo provides startups with office space, funding, education, and a large network of local and international companies located in the valley, such as Kakao, Nexon, and SK planer.
Pangyo is also home to many incubation and accelerator programs, including LAUNCHPAD, Tech Stars, K-Startup Grand Challenge among others.
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