Global Opportunities

K-Startup Grand Challenge: A gateway to Pangyo and Asia

Pangyo Techno Valley is playing an important role in innovation as a hub for technology start-ups in Korea. The IT district is initiated by the government through policy measures such as tax-cuts, low interest loans or an expansion of the infrastructure. It has been called as the heart of the Korean future technology and dragged talented and promising Korean startups. In addition, these days, rapidly increasing number of foreign startups are also entering the district to enjoy advantages of the rising cluster. K-Startup Grand Challenge, a government driven competition for foreign startups, is one of the gateways to the Pangyo Techno Valley and young companies from diverse countries in Europe, Asia and North/South America have already participated in the competition.

Startup challenge

Pangyo, Korea’s Silicon Valley

Pangyo Techno Valley, touted as Korea’s Silicon Valley, is a technology cluster located in Gyeonggi Province, the surrounding province of Seoul. Beginning as a government initiative, this power center has transformed itself into the fourth core business district in Korea in less than a decade. Indeed, Pangyo is the only and unique up-to-date technology-oriented IT cluster that Korea has never experienced before. Including 150 startups, around 1,400 companies in the district are mainly specialized in the field of AI, big data, game as well as blockchain, just like Silicon Valley. Within the district of less than 1, the total sales of these companies reached nearly KRW 80 trillion in 2017 and more than 65% of the professionals in the area are in their 20s and 30s, mostly IT specialists who are keen to the new trend in Korea.

What’s new in Pangyo: K-Startup Grand Challenge, an opportunity for foreign startups

Pangyo is considered as the most ideal business district in Korea for technology startups. The knowledge-based companies are located right next door to each other in the small district and create synergy through close R&D exchanges and discussions for investment. Decisions are made in just a few days and success or failure is determined in just a few years. The business environment is supported by the government of Gyeonggi Province which provides implementation of various supports facilities such as R&D centre and diverse programs.

One of the programs run by the Gyeonggi Provice is the K-Starup Grand Challenge which is currently getting applications until 15 June 2019. In its third year, it is a project conducted and financed by the Korean government. Ultimate objectives of the challenge are to promote the expansion of an open entrepreneurship ecosystem in Asia and to assist in South Korea's evolution into a prominent startup business hub in the region. The program selects 40 companies from around the world and grants them KRW100million in support funding and free office space for a year as well as assistance in finding investors. The Ministry of SMEs and Startups (Minster Hong Jonghaak) and the National IT Industry Promotion Agency said that 1,770 teams from 108 countries applied the online registration of the 2018 K-Startup Grand Challenge.  K-Startup Grand Challenge has the highest number of applied teams among the world’s major tournaments as a start-up competition for foreigners and has enhanced its status as one of the world’s largest start-up competitions. A startup can be registered and established only within seven days.

Swiss startup’s participation

Swiss fintech company AAAccell entered the Pangyo Techno Valley in Korea through the K-Startup Grand Challenge. The company was selected in 2017 as one of the top 40 and have been well on its way in establishing its first presence in Asia. It was able to establish a partnership with SBCN – a Korean robo-advisory founded in 2014 and located in Seoul. In addition to the robo-advisory solutions, SBCN offers services related to blockchain development, big data analytics (including machine learning and artificial intelligence) and financial analysis. Not only AAAccell, but also there are many other foreign startups in Pangyo. Most foreign tech start-ups at Pangyo Techno Valley are small players with fewer than 10 workers established just two to three years ago. However, increasing number of startups are expanding their businesses in Seoul and to the Asia by leveraging Pangyo as a foothold. 

How to apply

Startups from all around the world who are interested in expanding their business in Asia or Korea are encouraged to apply:

- until 14 June: Reception of Applications (14 June 13:00 GMT +9)
- 19 - 23 June: Application Review
- 26 June – 20 July: Global Auditions – top 40 selected startups from global auditions will be invited to Korea
- 15 August – 30 November: Acceleration Program
- Support for living & daily expenditure : $3,097/month/team
- Up to two members per team
- December: Demo Day & Settlement Program



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