List of Government Programs that Support Foreign Startups in Korea

KOREAN STARTUP ECOSYSTEM

The Korean startup Ecosystem has been lopsided for a very long time. Until 2012-2013, the startup scene in Korean had remained homogeneous. There have been many calls by foreign entrepreneurs to raise the number of foreign startups in Korea. The Korean government has responded by setting up many programs that support foreign startups in Korea. Korea is now becoming a hotbed for startups. In fact, not just startups but also global businesses. This is mainly due to the support of the central government and its supporting agencies. Now there is a strong foreign entrepreneur community in Korea and they are helping to change the working culture in Korea for the better.

Creative Economy Drive

The Korean government has been trumpeting the buzzword ‘Creative Economy’ since 2015. This was 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 technological infrastructure and logistics. Furthermore, they are creating a conducive environment for startups to thrive. Since then there’s been a rise in startup events, startup accelerators/incubators, angel investors, coworking spaces, and venture capitalism.

Most of all, there’s been an unparalleled financial injection into startup development. As a result, the Korean government is inviting foreign startups to come and start their entrepreneurship journeys in Korea. Foreign startups from all around the world are now in Korea helping to grow the Korean startup ecosystem. As more Korean startups get exposure to foreign entrepreneurs, their potential to go global becomes a lot easier.

Furthermore, Seoul has become a prominent destination for attracting foreign independent travelers along with foreign startup entrepreneurs. Therefore it is important to outline programs that support foreign startups in Korea. In addition, give directions to prospective entrepreneurs.

Here is a List of Programs For Foreign Startups in Korea

OASIS STARTUP VISA PROGRAM

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 for foreigners who want to establish a technology-based startup in Korea. The program even offers seminars on setting up your business in Korea and filing your taxes in Korea.

Required classes are the following:

  • Intellectual property
  • Patent
  • Business Laws
  • Korean Culture
  • 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 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.

K-STARTUP GRAND CHALLENGE

k-startup-grandThe K-Startup Grand Challenge is Korea’s first global accelerator program. It invites foreign startups to Korea for a 4 month-long acceleration program at Pangyo Techno Valley that includes funding and office space. Established in 2016, the program received over 1500 applications from 118 countries in the 2018 batch and more in 2019. There they are paired with reputable tech companies and accelerators to help with mentoring and business training.

Korea invites a total of 80 teams. Then the top 40 will go through intensive acceleration and incubation to battle it out the K-Startup Grand Challenge Demo Day in December. There is a cash prize of $100,000 for the winner of Demo Day. It is noteworthy that, since 2016, 41 startups have successfully incorporated in Korea with over $26 million in investments recorded.

The applications for the 2020 batch are already closed but you can find more information on the K-Startup Grand Challenge to help you prepare for the next intake. The Ministry of SMEs and Startups, National IT Industry Promotion Agency, and other subsidiary supporting organizations sponsor this program.

GLOBAL ACCELERATOR PROGRAM FOR STARTUPS (GAPS)

The Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA), a Korean Government Agency has been running this program since 2012. It aims to find and support up to 13 foreign (prep) start-up entrepreneurs that have excellent business items.  They provide them with a commercialization fund, office, mentoring, start-up education, and various supporting program. The support also includes a Startup Visa. Visit https://www.k-startup.go.kr/main.do for more information. (Site is in Korean)

Applications Open for 2020

Applications for the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 is now open for promising and determined entrepreneurs in Asia. The top 50 teams will be selected by the accelerator program. They will stay in Korea for their 4-month accelerator in Pangyo. Furthermore, after the program is over, the Korean government will select 25 startups for their Demo Day. Startups will get additional financial incentives, and if they establish their business in Korea, they will get additional support from the Korean government. The top startups will not only get grants but also will be offered equity investment opportunities from accelerators and local VCs. In addition, they will get free office space and opportunities for corporate sponsorship and support.

Application Deadline: June 2020

TECH INCUBATOR PROGRAM FOR STARTUPS (TIPS)

tips koreaTIPS 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 in Korea 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 GLOBAL STARTUP CENTER (SEOUL GSC)

Seoul Global Startup CenterSeoul GSC is a startup incubation center that supports foreign entrepreneurs to start their business journeys in Korea. It was founded by the Seoul Metropolitan City Government but operated by N15, the top hardware accelerator in Korea and WeWork Labs. The center provides support for early-stage startups in their 1-year incubator program. They have a strong global community and network, something that is very hard to find in Korea. The N15 staff is constantly on the lookout to bring in high-quality mentors are educational programs to help startups succeed. Once you are accepted into their program, startups are given free office space, free coffee, access to industry leaders, mentorship, and seed funding. Therefore, if you are interested in joining their program, visit www.seoulgsc.com for more updates.

BORN2GLOBAL STARTUP PROGRAM

Born 2 GlobalBorn2Global, 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 CenterSeoul Global Center is a full-government run support center that assists foreign residents in Seoul. The center is also an incubation service for early-stage and most promising foreign startups by providing free office space in the business centers at Jongno and Gangnam. Furthermore, selected startup teams spend 6-months in the program. In addition, the program offers 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.