African Startups can expand to Asia through the South Korean Government’s K-Startup Grand Challenge


South Korean government’s largest accelerator program for foreign startups K-Startup Grand Challenge (KSGC), is inviting applications from startups and entrepreneurs from around the world for its 2022 edition. KSGC is hosted by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSS) and organized by the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA). 

African startups can leverage the KSGC program to expand to South Korea. By using South Korea as a gateway, the startups can expand to other countries in Asia. The program provides regulatory support as well as industry linkages to establish a presence in South Korea. Team members receive settlement grants and visa support as part of the program. 

The startup accelerator program, launched in 2016, supports foreign startups that want to enter the Korean market and further explore the international markets. Over the years, the program has supported startups and businesses from multiple fields like Artificial Intelligence, fintech, logistics, biotechnology, robotics, game development, IoT, e-commerce, etc.

K-Startup Grand Challenge 2022 started accepting applications for its 3.5-month-long all-expenses-paid program on April 15th. This year the program will be held from August 1st to November 15th, 2022, at the Startup Campus in Pangyo Techno Valley near Seoul. Sixty startup teams will be selected to participate in the program. 

For 2022, the top ten performing teams will get monetary grants worth $320,000. Also, the top thirty startups will get further assistance to expand business in Korea. 

The Selection Process and the KSGC 2022 Program

The application and promotion of the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2022 started on April 15th, with the last date for submitting applications being May 31st, 2022. An expert panel of judges will then review the applications, and the global audition process for the top 60 teams will be held from June 20th to 24th, 2022, with the result announcement on June 30th. Startups less than 7 years old or Pre-entrepreneur stage whose representative holds a foreign nationality, can participate. 

The 60 selected teams will participate in the accelerator program from August 1st to November 15th, 2022. Each of the 60 teams will receive $11,136 to cover living expenses for the 3.5 months. 

At the end of the 3.5 months accelerator period, a demo day will be held where the top 10 teams will get prizes.  After the demo day, the top 30 teams will get a settlement supporting fee of $11,136 through a settlement program. The settlement program will be from January 15th to June 30th, 2023.  

What can startups expect at KSGC? 

In the last six years of the KSGC program, many startups have successfully established their businesses in Korea and Southeast Asia. The 3.5-month program supports startups financially and also gives them multiple opportunities to network with top tech companies, VCs, mentors, etc. Startups working in the tech industry can look forward to a wider market and also expand to Asia.

“If you’re working on some high-tech products, Korea is the country that will value and protect what you are working on,” said Aykan Ekici, co-founder of Khenda, the top winner of KSGC 2021. Khenda is a Turkish startup that operates an AI-based video analytics platform that helps manufacturing plants to increase their efficiency at production lines by analyzing manual activities. “Manufacturing in Asia is huge. Among the other countries in Asia, South Korea is the best country because there’s no cultural barrier here. Also, we believe that this is the best country to protect our intellectual property. South Korea is really good at adapting new technologies earlier. And what we are doing is a new technology. So that’s why we are here,” said Ekici.  

Shirley Vega, founder of Glowsome Beauty, one of the top teams in KSGC 2021 said, “It was like a dream for us to participate in KSGC because it’s not only the best program in the country but also has a lot of benefits. One of them is access to mentors and great networking. We were able to expand our business and meet partners in a way we couldn’t have done without being under the umbrella of this program. Another benefit was the free office space and the other facilities, like meeting rooms. And we got great discounts at the gym and cafeteria, as well. It made it really affordable for us. Three months go really fast! Start networking and meeting with potential clients from day one. That’s the key to validating your business and localizing it accordingly.” 

Korean Accelerators to assist startups’ growth 

This year, five excellent Korean accelerators are waiting to assist foreign startups in growing in Korea – CNT Tech, Yozma Group Korea, Bigbang Angels, Pen Ventures, and Nautilus Investment. 

CNT Tech is a tech-based global accelerator that has been part of the KSGC program six years in a row. It has a reputation for actively investing in early-stage startups in Korea. CNT Tech invested in over 70 startups in 2021, which is the country’s largest number of venture investments. 

Yozma Group Korea is a global accelerating and investment company specializing in the global accelerating and cross-border investment with more than $350 million in AUM. Yozma Group’s Interest is in ICT technology-based startups in Digital twin, Mobility, and Digital Healthcare. It is looking forward to working with the visionary startups who want to explore Korean partnerships and beyond. 

Bigbang Angels is a Korean early-stage VC with Singapore headquarters. The VC has invested in over 100+ AI, deep tech portfolio companies for ten years, with four successful exit cases and 3 Pre-IPO in the portfolio. It is interested in investing in global startups with IP capable of technology transfer to Korea. 

PEN Ventures is a venture capital and accelerator with offices in Silicon Valley, Singapore, Europe, and South Korea. It invests in startups and connects them to all kinds of game players. The company successfully supports startups and entrepreneurs in Fintech, Cleantech, and Digital Health care to enter the Korean market. 

Nautilus Investment is a global accelerator and venture capital in Korea. It focuses on cross border connection between Korea and Silicon Valley-based on the strong partnership with Nautilus Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital. Nautilus Investment supports startups financially through venture investment and strategically through the close networks of Big Tech companies in the US and large and mid-size Korean companies. 

For further information and the application for K-Startup Grand Challenge, visit the website – and check the Facebook page ( and the LinkedIn page ( for more information and further updates.


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