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South Korea on the Lookout for Australian Tech Startups

South Korea on the Lookout for Australian Tech Startups
What's new: K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 for Australian/New Zealand Startups! More information here.

While Silicon Valley is synonymous with innovation and entrepreneurship, it’s not the only part of the world delivering life-altering, industry-disrupting ideas, products and services. Located in Seoul and built-in 2015, Pangyo Techno Valley is a thriving startup hub that has attracted the attention of investors, accelerators and incubators from all around the world. The local investment made in building up this startup ecosystem has led to Korea being the home of 11 unicorns, which currently ranks it 4th in the world.

Along with supporting local startups, Korea is also investing heavily in helping foreign startups make a footprint in the region. Suel A Kim, the founder of Kurly (a Korean startup that operates a grocery delivery service in Korea), highlights two key reasons why the Korean market is perfect for foreign startups, “One, because of the sheer size of the market (sixth largest in the world) and two, because customers are so willing to provide feedback”.

According to ANZ’s 2018 Asia Opportunity Report, Australian businesses could gain approximately $400 billion in additional revenue to flow into their Australian operations if they make plans to operate in Asia. Australian startups looking to grow and enter the Asian market need to look no further than the K Startup Grand Challenge. First launched in 2016, the K-Startup Grand Challenge is a startup inbounding program organized and financed by the Korean government. The objectives of the program 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. Over the last three years the program has:

  • Helped 89 foreign startups establish in Korea
  • Facilitated the investment of over USD 1.2 billion into startups 
  • Supported startups in developing 881 partnerships
  • Connected startups with major Korean companies, SMEs, Startups and VCs, resulting in 906 business meetings

Last year, 1,677 startups from 95 countries applied to the 2019 K-Startup Grand Challenge. Building on this momentum, the program in 2020 has a strong focus on tapping into the talent and innovative startups in Australia. If selected, the program can significantly fast-track the growth of your startup through the following benefits:

- Access to the 3 month accelerator program

- Expert support and corporate partnerships

- Living expenses covered (top 60 startups)

- Access to VCs/Investors

- Opportunity to receive financial grants in the top 30 (up to the amount of USD$120k for top startup)

- Office space in Pangyo Techno Valley 

- Visa Support


Matei Psatta, CMO at TPS Engage, was a member of the program in 2019 and highlights his first-hand experience, “South Korea is like a window to global expansion. When you make collaborations with international companies like Hyundai, Samsung, LG, etc., you also get the advantage of extending services to other countries”. The 2020 program is looking for startups that are working on technology across any of the target sectors below:

Applications for the 2020 K-Startup Grand Challenge close on June 25th and can be made directly via the official website -

Following the application process, there will be auditions in July for shortlisted startups and the top 60 teams will be selected to join the program. Find out more on the K Startup Grand Challenge website and the program trailer below.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 10 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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