In an effort to bolster its startup community, South Korea has launched a program for startups looking to operate their businesses in the country. Applications for the K-Startup Grand Challenge, as it's been named, are being accepted through June 14.
As the program's website states, the ultimate goal of the K-Startup Grand Challenge is to "promote the expansion of an open entrepreneurship ecosystem in Asia and to assist in South Korea's evolution into a permanent startup business hub in the region." The country's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, is sponsoring the program. Accelerators including SparkLabs and DEV Korea are also backing the initiative.
In an interview with TechCrunch, MSIP Director and Spokesman Dr. Chang-yong Ahn emphasizes that, ideally, the K-Startup Grand Challenge will become an annual program.
Applicants of the K-Startup Grand Challenge will have an opportunity to vie for a number of packages and prizes, including a chance to come to South Korea and court investors. To start, companies will display their solutions this summer to vie for a spot at Demoday at Pangyo Tech Valley in Seoul. A total of 80 applicants will be invited to pitch their products and services in August 2016. The list will eventually be narrowed down to 40 startups that will advance to Demoday in December 2016. At this event, Korean and foreign investors will be invited to mingle and gauge the competition.
The largest prize package will be given to 20 startups that make a splash at Demoday. Each one will receive $33,000, with cash prizes up to $100,000 awarded to the top four startups. Accelerators participating in the event, like SparkLabs, may also invest in some of the finalists.
Finally, the most dedicated startups will be eligible to receive a free extended stay in South Korea to further establish their businesses abroad. The Settlement Program, as its been titled, will provide six months of support in South Korea.
The South Korean government has spent $2 billion on its startup ecosystem each year since 2013. The country also intends to invest nearly $3.7 billion in the startup industry over the course of the next three years.