BENGALURU: For early startups looking to test out their technology ideas in the South East Asian markets, the first K-Startup Grand Challenge promises an invitation to accelerator programme Gangnam-style and more.
“Over the last three to four years we have shifted focus to globalisation and establishing an open ecosystem for the Korean startups.
With a population which is an early adapter of technology we want global startups to look at Korea as a testing bed for the launch of their product in South East Asian market,” says Kyung Hwan Lee, executive director of National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) at Korea-India SW Cooperation Center.
He adds that the programme also looks at diversifying the startup ecosystem within the country where market leaders in the technology and on-demand space have been startups from Korea focused on the domestic market. As fintech becomes a major area of interest across India and South East Asia, Lee adds that payments and on-demand services are sectors which will pick pace in a growing startup economy.
“In the Indian startup scenario, we have seen that ecommerce companies from Korea find it difficult to integrate payments services and this is an area which will be of great interest. Secondly, through our lived experience in Korea, we have seen that as the system matures, hedonic services take over the utilitarian on-demand app,” says Lee.
Last year Korean ecommerce startup Coupang raised $1 billion from SoftBank, while adtech company Yello Mobile has raised over $100 million in funding. According to data from Tech in Asia, the total amount of investments made in the Korean startup ecosystem last year adds up to $1.7 billion.
“Close to 85% of investments by Korean investors have been in domestic companies, followed by the US, Japan and China. India has evolved as a good bet for the investors in the Asian market and it will take time for them to understand the ecosystem,” adds Lee.
The K-Startup Grand Challenge will see selected startups interacting with accelerators and conglomerates in Seoul, $33,000 for starting a legal entity in Korea and office space at Pangyo, close to the startup hub in Gangnam.
The programme will select 80 startups across the US, Latin American, European Union and South East Asia for the first phase based on applications received before June 14. The final shortlist will select 40 companies.