(Seoul, Korea – Nov. 30, 2016) Batch one of the K-Startup Grand Challenge, the Korean government’s massively popular acceleration program for foreign startups, culminated Tuesday in a marathon demo day, where judges selected the top 20 startups to receive additional funding and support.

“This was our first acceleration program bringing international startups to Korea and it’s been an incredible success from start to finish,” said Dr. Ahn, Director from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the government agency that organised the program. “We had more than 2,400 applicants from 124 countries, and selected 40 high-potential startups to come to Korea for the accelerator. Today, with the selection of the 20 finalists, everyone at the Ministry is incredibly excited to see what they achieve next. We’re committed to this program and plan to bring more foreign startups to Korea in 2017.”

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These final startups will receive the support they need to continue their time in Korea, with free office space for another six months, approximately $30,000 each in additional government grants, and further investments from VCs and other investors. This is on top of the $4,100 per month, office space and support the startups received during the initial acceleration period.

The top 20 teams come from 10 countries. They represent industries ranging from custom cosmetics to advanced online security, biotech and IoT.

Judges singled out and awarded extra prize money to the top four teams: Fingertips Lab took home first place with an additional $100,000, Prekesh ($40,000), Traversal Networks ($20,000) and Imagga ($6,000).

P.K. Mishra, Fingertips Lab’s CEO said, “The award is a testament to the importance of what we’re solving and the commitment of Fingertips Labs as groundbreaking tech for the Korean market, and beyond.”During their time in Korea, several of the top 20 startups had enormous achievements, made possible by the program.

During their time in Korea, several of the top 20 startups had enormous achievements, made possible by the program.

One of the biggest success stories was Malaysian startup YouthsToday, a platform that connects students with corporate sponsors for events. Valued at more than $1 million, they are now on 20 Korean university campuses, working with tens of thousands of students.

“We couldn’t be happier to make it through to the final phase of the program! What’s next for us, in a word, is expansion. We’re hoping to bring more Korean team members on board and continue networking and reaching out to Korean universities and students,” said Jazz Tan, CEO of YouthsToday.

Appiness, a Belgian startup that helps make TV content instantly shoppable, is in talks with a leading Korean broadcaster and content producer, which would make the company immediately relevant across the entire K-Drama crazed Asian continent.

“This is an incredible gateway into Asia for us, helping us to get business partners and paying clients. Our next step will be hiring locally,” said Herman Bosteels, Head of Business Development Asia-Pacific for Appiness.

The government’s intent with the program was to increase diversity in the Korean startup ecosystem.

“In Silicon Valley more than half of entrepreneurs are born outside of the United States. In Korea, it is just 17%. We need more diversity in Korean startups, and the K-Startup Grand Challenge proves that international startups can succeed in Korea, if they have the right support,” said Juno Kwon, Director of Shift., one of the four Korea-based accelerators that took charge of mentoring startups in the program.

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In addition to Shift., the other local accelerators involved in the program were, SparkLabs, DEV Korea, and ActnerLab. Each Took charge of 10 startups, providing mentoring, networking, and other support.

“I genuinely believe that Korea will become a true international startup hub, especially with government support, directed through smart programs like the K-Startup Grand Challenge,” said Rock Oh, CEO of DEV Korea.

Full List of Top 20 Startups (alphabetical)

  • Appiness
  • ChemiSense
  • Clear Flight Solutions
  • DarcMatter
  • DOV-E
  • Fashory
  • Favful
  • Fingertips Lab
  • Imagga
  • Kadho
  • Mind Rockets
  • MoonROK
  • Ourotech
  • Preksh Innovations
  • SoundRex
  • TravelFlan
  • Traversal Networks
  • Vanitee
  • YouthsToday
  • Yppuna

NIPA and the Korean Government have committed to running K-Startup Grand Challenge again in 2017.

In a surprise move, Korean angel investor Michael Hong, CEO of Red Herring, announced he would be investing in first and second place winners Fingertips Lab and Preksh. Of the program and the event he said, ”This event has brought some of the best startups from all over the world to Korea and has tremendously helped open up the startup ecosystem in Korea to international startups.”

To keep up on the latest news about the K-Startup Grand Challenge, visit the official website (http://www.k-startupgc.org) or the newsroom (http://kstartup.g3partners.asia/).