KOREAN STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
Korean startup ecosystem has been lopsided for a very long time. Until 2012-2013, the startup scene in Korean had remained homogeneous despite the many calls by foreign entrepreneurs to rake in foreign startups. Korea is becoming a hotbed for startups. But not just startups but also global businesses, particularly due to the support from the central government and its supporting agencies. Therefore, some of these supports are now being designed and channeled into foreign startups in Korea.
Creative Economy Drive
The government since 2015 have been trumpeting the buzzword ‘Creative Economy’. A move by the Korean government to expand job creation, innovation and stimulate economic growth. With the advent of the 4th Industrial revolution, Korea is investing heavily in the technological infrastructure and logistics. Furthermore, they are creating a conducive environment for startups to thrive. Every now and then, there’s been an ascension in startup events, startup accelerators, angel investors, coworking spaces, venture capitalism and incubator programs.
Most of all, there’s been an unparalleled financial injection into the startup development. As a result, the Korean government is inviting foreign startups to come and start their entrepreneurship journeys in Korea.
Furthermore, Seoul has become a prominent destination for not only attracting foreign independent travelers but also, foreign startup entrepreneurs. Due to this, it is important to outline the programs that support foreign startups in Korea. In addition, give directions to prospective entrepreneurs.
Programs For Foreign Startups in Korea
This is unarguably your first foot to launching a startup business in Korea. OASIS (Overall Assistance for Start-up Immigration System) is a visa point-system specifically targeted at foreigners who wants to establish a technology-based startup in Korea. Participants are required to take classes in Intellectual property, Patent, Business Laws, Korean Culture, and Society. Completion of the necessary required and elective course will earn you points. These points will qualify you to obtain the D-8-4 Startup Visa.
Every legal foreigner (tourists, students, teachers) is eligible for this type of visa. Promulgated in 2015, this program has continued to attract many foreigners with brilliant ideas to stay in Korea. Applicants must:
- have a bachelor’s degree or above
- obtain 80 points or more in the IP education and corporate registration
It takes a quite some time to complete but it is worth it. You can find more updated information about the class schedule programs at the OASIS VISA Website.
The K-Startup Grand Challenge is Korea’s first global accelerator program that invites foreign startups to Korea for a 4 month-long acceleration program that includes funding and office space. Established in 2016, the program received over 1500 applications from 118 countries in the 2017 batch alone. Selected startups are offered a congenial space at the Pangyo Techno Valley Startup campus to operate. They are paired with some of the reputable tech companies and accelerators for mentoring and business training.
80 teams are initially invited to Korea after which the top 40 will go through intensive acceleration and incubation to battle it out the K-Startup Grand Challenge Demo Day in December. The winner of the Demo day is entitled to a whopping $100,000 cash prize. It is noteworthy that, since 2016, 41 startups have successfully incorporated in Korea with over $26 million in investments recorded.
The applications for 2018 batch is already closed but you can find more information on the K-Startup Grand Challenge to help you prepare for the next intake. It is a fully sponsored government program run by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, National IT Industry Promotion Agency and other subsidiary supporting organizations.
The Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA), a Korean Government Agency has been running this program since 2012. It aims to find and support foreign (prep) start-up entrepreneurs having excellent business items and providing them with commercialization fund, office, mentoring, start-up education, and various supporting program. Up to 13 teams are selected every year. The support also includes a Startup Visa. Visit https://www.k-startup.go.kr/main.do for more information. (Site is in Korean)
TIPS is one of the major government-backed Startup programs for both Korean-owned and Foreign startups in Korea. It ensures the growth and success of all the startups that pass through the program. They support these startups to enter the global marketplace. TIPS town, the hub located in Yeoksam, Seoul nurtures promising tech startups with office space, investor matching, mentoring, R&D and many more other support. Take your startup to TIP by checking them out here: http://www.jointips.or.kr/global/. Applications are open year-round.
Seoul GSC is a startup incubation center established to support foreign entrepreneurs to start their business journeys in Korea. It was founded by the Seoul Metropolitan City Government but operated by Rehoboth, a private business and incubator services provider. The center provides support for early-stage startups in their 1-year incubator program, including Free office space, Seed Fund of about 10 Million KRW, Mentorship and skills training. Furthermore, if you are interested, visit www.seoulgsc.com for more updates.
Born2Global as the name suggests has its main focus on helping potential startups go global. The “K-Global Startup Hub” helps over 100 startups every year to enter new global markets. Born2Global is a Korean government agency under the Ministry of Science ICT and Future Planning (MSIP). They provide support in terms of education, PR, marketing, patent, incubation office space, demo days and more. If your startup operation is in the target areas of “Healthcare, Mobility, Energy, Agritech, Safety/Security,” then visit Born2Global for more updates.
SEOUL GLOBAL CENTER (Incubation and Big Think Demo Day)
Seoul Global Center is a full-government run support center that assists foreign residents in Seoul. The center also incubation service for early stage and most promising foreign startups by providing free office space in the business centers at Jongno and Gangnam. In addition, selected startup teams usually spend 6-months in the program and are given coaching, 1:1 mentoring, and special lectures.
Furthermore, they host the “Big Think Demo Day” for foreign startups in Korea with technology-based business ideas.