List of Startup Accelerators and Incubators in South Korea

The Korean startup scene has come a long way and startup accelerator programs have been a major part of creating hundreds of startups.  Some have become unicorns, such as Coupang, Bluehole, Yello Mobile, Woowa Brothers, L&P Cosmetics and Viva Republica.  These startup accelerators and incubators in South Korea are not just accelerators and incubators but also coworking spaces, mentorship programs for product development and support.  Most have a large network outside of Korea to help Korean startups go global. Furthermore, there are new programs launching in Korea every few months.

These days accelerator participation has become a kind of rite of passage for most Korean startups.  So it is important for Korean startups to know which program is most effective, but more importantly which program is the best fit.  Therefore, here is a list of startup accelerators and incubators in South Korea and we will continue to add to the list as we cover the Korean startup Ecosystem.

List of Startup Accelerators and Incubators in South Korea

DREAMPLUS

Dreamplus AcceleratorDreamPlus is an ICT accelerator powered by Hanwha Corporation. It aims is to create a startup ecosystem not just in Korea but throughout Asia by forming an alliance of accelerators from all over the world.  They provide seed funding for promising startups throughout Korea, Japan, China, and Southeast Asia.  In addition, they also provide office spaces, expert mentoring, investor relations, and specialized marketing solutions.  Their main focus is on Fintech and they are considered one of the biggest Fintech accelerators in Korea.

DreamPlus picks the startups themselves and they focus on startups that are in fields such as cryptocurrency, payment, security, and lending.  There are three DreamPlus centers in South Korea as well as one in Japan and another in China.

The DreamPlus located in Gangnam has the whole 9th and 10th floors dedicated for early to mid-stage startups.

WeWork Labs Korea

WeWork Labs KoreaWeWork Labs is a startup acceleration space in Yeoksam that helps early-stage Korean startups go global.  It is also a shared working space where Korean entrepreneurs can join a variety of acceleration programs, get networking support and consulting, and have access to WeWork’s vast network of mentors, investors, VCs, and successful entrepreneurs.

WeWork Labs Korea has partnered with D.CAMP, Fintech company Dayli Financial Group, and Naver-backed startup hub Startup Alliance.  Furthermore, former Naver CEO Kim Sang-hun and Nexon co-founder Kim Sang-beom will take part in Labs’ programs as advisors.

WeWork Labs holds many community events where everyone in the building can network with each other.  They currently focus a lot on helping female entrepreneurs and empowering women to become strong leaders.

More WeWork Labs coming to Korea

In addition to Yeoksam, new WeWork Labs locations will be coming to Korea.  Euljiro in central Seoul, Yeouido in western Seoul, and Seolleung branch are due to open in 2019. Korea is the first Asian country where WeWork has opened Labs. Furthermore, WeWork Labs does not take any equity from its members and just collects a rental fee. Prices start at 400,000 won ($371) per person, and each branch of Labs can host an average of 100 members.  Each of the four branches of WeWork Labs in Korea will focus on a different field. WeWork Labs Yeoksam Station II is designed around nurturing consumer goods start-ups. The Euljiro branch will specialize in education technology, the Yeouido branch in Fintech and blockchain and the Seolleung branch, southern Seoul, on biopharmaceuticals and healthcare.

ActnerLab

Actner LabActnerLab is a startup accelerator for hardware startups.  The accelerator program works in cooperation with Lab IX of Silicon Valley to help manage Korea’s finest hardware startups.  ActnerLab helps entrepreneurs in Korea manufacture prototypes directly and quickly.

Those wishing to join the ActnerLab startup accelerator program need to have the following requirements.

  • Must have two or more members
  • A Business plan
  • Apply for at least one patent
  • Teams should be looking to get a working prototype within three months
  • Products should focus on wearables, IoT, connected car or healthcare, or the human interface market

Once accepted into the program ActnerLab will provide startups with a seed funding investment of $20,000 to $100,000 in return for 5-10% equity.  In addition, Korean startups will have free office space in Gangnam for 2 months.  They can also be a part of the 3-month startup institute education program where they will have access to mentors and industry leaders from successful companies and universities.

Primer

Primer Primer has been around for a while and is one of the most well-known accelerators in Korea.  It is a Korean startup accelerator started by entrepreneurs in Korea in 2010.  Primer has invested in over 130 startups that are focused on IT and software services.  To get into Primer’s accelerator program, startups need to first participate in Primer’s entrepreneurship training program.  The training program will allow startups to verify their business ideas through both online and offline activities and tasks.  The progress will take a total of 2 months.  Furthermore, during the 2-month process, Startups will have access to Primer’s mentors who can help with marketing education and business verification.

Primer Demo Day

Primer holds Demo Days every year where hundreds apply from not just Korea but all around the world.  On average around 13 startups get selected and they can then showcase their product or service on stage.

Lotte Accelerator

Lotte AcceleratorLotte is one of the biggest retail companies in all of Asia.  They launched Lotte Accelerator in 2016 to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in Korea.  Their aim is to act as a bridge between large corporations and startups.  Lotte has a strong network of over 75 affiliates that operate in many different industries.  Through the Lotte Accelerator program, Korean startups can get mentorship, have access to Lotte’s network and resources, and get business/investment opportunities.

L-Camp Program

The L-Camp Program is a 6-month long program and so far 50 startups have graduated this accelerator program.  Two of them being Mobidoo (Payment solutions startup) and Buxi (ride-sharing startup) both combined have raised over $2.5 million.  Over 450 startups apply for only 15 spots at L-Camp.  Thanks to the L-Camp Program provided by Lotte Accelerator, the company has gained a positive reputation in regards to helping the Korean startup ecosystem.

Recently Lotte Accelerator invested $1.3 million in a shared kitchen service startup called Simple Project.

Fast Track Asia

Fast Track AsiaFast Track Asia has a solid reputation when it comes to helping Korean startups expand outside of Korea.  The accelerator program has been around a while.  They were founded in 2012.  The countries that they target mainly are Japan and Southeast Asia.  In addition, they also have begun helping Korean startups expand into the United States.  However, their key strengths are in Japan and Southeast Asia.

Fast Track Asia is a Korean VC company that has both an incubator program along with an accelerator program for Korean startups and entrepreneurs.  They mainly focus on the internet industry and Korean startups that are looking to disrupt that space.

They are strong in marketing, PR, IT development, management, financing, and human resources.  At Fast Track Asia, they are all about creating an ecosystem where startups can mainly focus on the operational area by offering all that is required to run a facility.

Startup Nomad

Startup Nomad KoreaThe Korean government is not alone when it comes to helping Korean startups.  Big Korean companies are getting into the startup scene. Mobile messaging unicorn Kakao’s Kakao Investment has created an accelerator program for South Korean Startups that specialize in AI technologies and help them enter the global market called Startup Nomad.

Startup NOMAD Partnerships

They have partnered with Venture Square and the National IT Industry Promotion Agency to create the startup accelerator program Startup Nomad.  Applications are open until June 30th.

So far over 30 Korean startups have participated in the accelerator program.  Their targets are startups that are under 5 years old, AI-based, and looking to go global.

The accelerator program offers mentorship and legal consulting.  Furthermore, they also cover the cost of airfare and accommodations so Korean startups can travel to other accelerator programs around the world or startup events.  Best of all they will get mentorship from the AI team at Kakao.  If a Korean startups gain traction then Kakao would be a great potential partner moving forward.

DEV Korea

DEV KoreaDEV Korea Discovery is an accelerator program in Korea that connects Seoul to New York.  Their main focus is on Korean startups that create transformative digital and mobile products.  They help Korean startups go global through their platform that includes entrepreneurs with over 20+ years of experience going global.  They have a cross-border lawyer to make the transition easier for Korean startups.  This accelerator program is a one-stop solution for those looking to cross into the United States.  Their fund called the DEV Korea Discovery Fund invests in 20 startups a year.

Benefits of DEV Korea

The main benefits of DEV Korea are their legal consulting services which helps with venture formation and global entity structuring.  They also help Korean startups on their business models and marketing strategies for the US market.  Those Korean startups that show a lot of potential for growth will be able to access DEV Korea’s large network of investors in Korea and the U.S.  Lastly, DEV Korea has specialists that have experience with M&As, global exits, and IPOs for those Korean Startups looking to sell their company.

DEV Korea Accelerator Program

The 3-month program is all about global expansion.  The help Korean startups by bringing in guest speakers for business discussions.  In addition, they also have Demo Days in New York and Seoul.  These Demo Days are attended by over 70 investors, mentors, and angels.  After Korean startups finish the acceleration program, DEV Korea offers Alumni Nights and Angel Investor pitch sessions to help them get funding and expand their network.

D2 Startup Factory

D2 Startup FactoryNaver has created one of the top startup accelerators in South Korea called D2 Startup Factory.  They mainly invest in Korean startups that deal with AI technology, machine learning, and IoT.  The program was launched in 2015.  Their accelerator program includes a workspace, mentorship, networking opportunities for partnerships and collaboration opportunities with Naver.

Startups that join the accelerator program at NAVER will have access to NAVER’s technology which will help in rapid growth.  D2 Startup Factory’s office space has three main parts.

  • The Offices – To help Korean startups to create ideas.
  • The Meeting Rooms – To help Korean startups develop their products and services.
  • The Lecture Hall – To help Korean startups showcase their results.

Grant4Apps

Grants4apps SeoulBayer Korea said on Feb. 5th that they are now taking applications from Korean startups that specialize in digital healthcare/smart farms for their accelerator program called Grants4Apps Korea.  One of the few startup accelerators in South Korea that have focused on one sector.

Bayer Korea has partnered with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and is focused on helping health tech Korean startups develop their business and enter the market locally or internationally.  They have seen successful results after launching in 2017.

The accelerator program is open to all info-tech startups that specialize in digital healthcare, life sciences, animal health, medical big data processing, and agriculture.  Only three applicants are chosen per year (over 400 apply) and those chosen will get the opportunity to collaborate with Bayer.  The Korean startups will get office spaces at Bayer Korea in Seoul.

The program will be for 14 weeks where the Korea startups will have access to Bayer Korea’s support team but also KOTRA employees al.  Korean startups will get mentorship in regards to R&D, clinical trials, marketing, approval, and market entry strategies from Bayer Korea.  From KOTRA the startups will learn more about Korea’s regulations regarding health tech. This is great because healthcare startups need to work hand in hand with government regulations.

Grants4Apps Korea also offers a demo day event in July to present to investors and grow their network.

TIPS

TIPS KoreaTIPS Korea Startup Accelerators and Incubators in South Korea is an accelerator/investment-driven tech incubator program for Korean Startups.  It is one of the most popular startup accelerators in South Korea.  The program was created to nurture some of the top Korean startups that focus on innovative and groundbreaking technologies.  The program matches each startup with successful venture founders to help them go global.  They have a large network of angel investors and offers mentorship through professional support and matching Korean startups with R&D funds.  This includes up to 1 billion won per tech startup for up to 3 years.

How to Apply

Korean startups that wish to apply need to be tech related and have at least two people with a concrete technical R&D plan.  Once accepted they will sign an Investment Agreement in order to receive the R&D funds from the government.  The R&D Fund will be given by the Korean government.  Therefore, the Korean startup does not have to give up equity.  However, if the startup is successful they will have to pay back 10% of the R&D Fund in installments up to 3 years.  Furthermore, if the business fails they will not be liable for this payment.

Finally, the CEO of the Korean Startup must hold Korean citizenship.  However, there is no problem if the Korean citizen is a Co-CEO of the company.  Furthermore, the Korean co-founder must hold more than 60% of the company’s shares.

Angel Investment (100M KRW) + Business Incubation and Mentoring from Successful Angel Investors + R&D Funding (500M KRW) + Additional Financial Assistance (400M KRW; comprising in Startup Funding, 200M KRW in an Angel Matching Funds, 100M KRW in Overseas Marketing Assistance).

Future Play

Future Play KoreaFuture Play is a high-tech startup accelerator in South Korea that has been known to get the best entrepreneurs from Samsung that have new and innovative ideas in the tech space.  The accelerator program which focuses on early-stage startups was launched in 2014.  It was founded by entrepreneurs that want to help Korean startups go Global.

Future Play’s Program

Future Play is a 4 month paid program.  In addition, since 2014 they have helped over 60 Korean tech startups get funding and mentorship.

Future Play has formed partnerships with LG Electronics and Amorepacific to bridge the gap between startups and big firms.  Therefore, this will reduce the risk of many of the Korean tech startups that join the accelerator program.

They also offer a 6-month intensive incubation program called TechUP.  In addition, Future Play focuses on entrepreneurs from some of the top schools in Korea like KAIST and Seoul National University.

Currently, they are focusing more on cryptocurrency and brain science.  Therefore, they have already started investing in early-stage startups related to those fields.

SparkLabs

Sparklabs Startup Accelerators and Incubators in South KoreaThis global accelerator was founded in 2012.  They already have the best team of mentors in Korea.  They invest in Korean Startups that want to expand to the U.S., Japan, and China.  Their main headquarters are located in Seoul but SparkLabs already has several overseas startups.  The industry they focus on the most is the internet, online gaming, mobile, digital media, and e-commerce sectors.  In addition, their Demo Days are some of the best in Asia due to their vast mentor network.  Which is why SparkLabs has one of the best startup accelerators in South Korea.

Global Startup Accelerator Program

Startup Accelerators in South Korea usually last about 3 months.  Startups that enter are in their seed to early stage and are looking to go global.  Sparklab invests up to $40,000 for a 6% equity stake in the startup.  However, this is negotiable per startup.

4 to 6 mentors will be matched with each Startup.  They get weekly sessions with these mentors through teaching sessions.  Also, Korean startups will have access to Sparklabs’s General Partners.  Furthermore, they will have office spaces at MARU180, cloud services, and legal advice.

Finally, there is the Demo Day where the Korean startups are highlighted and can present to potential investors and get feedback from SparkLab’s partners.  At Demo Day will have a large media presence and will attract influential figures from the industry.  SparkLabs is the first of the Startup Accelerators in South Korea to be a part of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN).

Born2Global

Born 2 Global KoreaIntroduced in 2016 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in Yongsan District, central Seoul, the Seoul Global Startup Center runs the Born2Global Accelerator Program for the recruitment of foreign technology startup entrepreneurs in Korea. 40 foreign participants are selected every year and are selected from a variety of sectors including cosmetics, childhood education and travel. The program offers:

  • 10 million KRW funding
  • office space at the startup center
  • legal and accounting consulting
  • 1:1 mentoring

All 40 startups in the program each receive about $15,000 (12,250,000 won) to cover living expenses in equal installments over 3½ months.

K-Startup Grand Challenge

K Startup Grand Challenge Startup Accelerators and Incubators in South KoreaThe K-Startup Grand Challenge is a systematic startup program in Korea.  In 2018, over 1,700 startups from 108 countries competed to be selected for the 2018 K-Startup Grand Challenge.  Of those startups, 73 were selected to participate in a 3 and a half month acceleration program, receive initial funding, and office space.  The top 40 teams were then chosen in their Demo Day which was held in December.  Those selected teams were given additional funds for 6 months.

Startups that applied for the K-Startup Grand Challenge were evaluated by specialists in each tech area and given a chance to network with them.  They were judged on their level of creativity, business concept, technologies, and their desire to base their business in Korea.  K-Startup Grand Challenge has been praised for its impartial selection process, competence, and passion.  Their aim is to promote collaboration and exchange of ideas among startups from Korea and around the world.

At the end of the acceleration program, the Korean government will host a demo day to select the top 20 startups.  These startups will get additional financial incentives, and if they choose to establish their businesses in Korea, they will get additional support from the Korean government.

DeBlock + ICX Station

DeBlock Korean Blockchain VC and AcceleratorDeBlock is not only an accelerator but also a Blockchain VC fund.  It was founded by ICON & AD4th Insight which is a Korean Blockchain marketing company.  They focus mainly on Korean projects that are looking to build on the ICON platform.  DeBlock provides funding as well as help in marketing, token economics advice, networking, and technical consulting.  They have already done 2 Dapps events in Seoul and are continuing to look for promising Korean Blockchain projects.  Last year DeBlock partnered with ICX Station for accelerating ICON projects.

Sopoong

Korean Accelerator SopoongKorean Social Venture Accelerator Sopoong focuses on aspiring social enterprises.  They have incubated startups such as Socar, Tumblbug, Spacecloud, and 50 other startups.  Their market value from their portfolio is over $400 million.  They provide an initial investment and incubating to aid future growth.   Sopoong runs seed investment and accelerator programs twice a year.  Their main focus is on early-stage social venture business models.  They also invested in South Korean education technology startup Jaranda.