The Korean startup ecosystem has been exploding over the last couple of years. As more interesting startups begin to emerge, so the support services to power their success also become more diverse and more mature.
There are a number of key accelerator programs in Seoul now, that offer a range of services and finance for early stage Korean companies. Interestingly there is also now a distinct push towards helping Korean startups connect with overseas services and finance, as Korean entrepreneurs widen their horizons and begin to tackle global markets.
Here we review some of the top players in the acceleration space in Korea.
Disclosure: Not all accelerators have received the same level of attention in this piece. This is by no means a reflection of their importance in the ecosystem. We will update this article as we gather additional information. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with additions / corrections on the following information.
SparkLabs unique differentiator is that they have an impressive, world-class team of mentors that are involved with thier entrepreneurs to accelerate and guide each company. Currently the team is searching for Entrepreneurs who want to build global companies and have a vision to expand to the U.S., China, Japan and elsewhere. While the accelerator is head-quartered in Seoul, Sparklabs has already accepted several overseas startups and expects this trend to continue into the future.
Sparklab's focus is on attracting entrepreneurs who are seeking to change the Internet, online gaming, mobile, e-commerce and digital media sectors.
What are the Perks?
- 3-month program for seed to early-stage entrepreneurs
- Each team will receive $25,000 investment
- Each company will be given "unparalleled mentorship", through the Sparklabs network
- Sparklabs also boasts "incredible perks", worth an estimated $1M in value
- Sparklabs provides free office space in Maru 180, a fully equipped, brand new centre for Entrepreneurship in Seoul
2013: DesignPlusD, HeyBread, iBabybox, Lateral, MangoPlate, StyleWiki, Trakinvest,Zoyi
2012: NFLabs, ABLAR Company, WEPlanet, MerryWind, Memebox, Knowre
Kstartup is one of the first Seoul-based accelerators to have opened in Seoul. It is now the No. 1 startup accelerator, operating under AppCenter and in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs, SK Planet, and the Banks Foundation. AppCenter is a non-profit organization which focuses on supporting and incubating application developers and startups and hosting various events for them. The Banks Foundation set up a facility for entrepreneurs in Seoul, and K-Startup is based in their offices in Gangnam.
What are the Perks?
- 3-month acceleration program based in Gangnam, Seoul, Korea
- Access to a network of experienced mentors who are entrepreneurs, teachers, investors and professionals, with a focus on expansion to Silicon Valley
- Seed funding for all startups that qualify for the program
- Free co-working office space
- Invitation to pitch in Silicon Valley to top VCs, including Sequoia capital
2014: Anbado, ChinChin, Easiaid, kBeat, eTalk, Jumping Nuts, myDrives, NetStory,REH, Linky, ModacTV
Fast Track Asia suffers from a problem that too many Korean organizations that claim to be global do (they don't have an English website). However, they have a good reputation in teh Korean startup world and several of their companies are very well known domestically.
Fast Track Asia was formed in 2012 by founders and investors in Ticket Monster. After being acquired by Living Social, the group decided to start Fast Track Asia.
Chester Roh (Ablar), Hyun Sung Shin (Ticket Monster), Stonebridge Capital, and Insight Venture Partners are the main partners in teh accelerator which originally focused on acelerating teams whose target markets were Japan, Korea and SE Asia. More recently they have expanded their scope to include the USA.
Future Play is a seriously high-tech focused accelerator, founded by Junghee Ryu who sold his first company to Intel around two years ago. Despite only having opened it's doors a few months ago, Future Play now has a portfolio of seven statups that have been invested by their VC arm and their Gangnam facility also houses seven inventors in the Future Play incubator.
Future Play has been able to lure talented and experienced engineers from big tech companies like Samsung who may have had mature ideas in mind and are capable of realizing them. This is incredibly rare in Korea, and demonstrates Junghee’s status in the Korean startup world as a key figure that exceptionally well regarded.
There will no doubt be lot's of exciting news to come out of Future Play over the coming months / years.
The Ventures are still in semi-stealth mode, so don't yet have a website, but you can check out their Facebook Page above. The company was founded by the husband and wife team that founded VIKI in Singapore (acquired by Rakuten in 2013). They have used the finances from their first venture to fund 'The Ventures' that is a startup accelerator and early stage investor.
Having spoken to the team there, I believe their key differentiating factor is that they are focused on building startups for global. They build Viki as a global company and have the networks in SE Asia to make a real impact on startups founded in Seoul.
We will be releasing more news of their portfolio, as it becomes public information.
Bootstrap Labs are one of the newest players in the Korean accelerator ecosystem. The team, based in San Fransisco, have a partnership with Coolidge Corner Investment (CCVC) to offer a local Accelerator with a dedicated Silicon Valley Fast Track™ program to bridge Korean startups to build global from Silicon Valley.
What are the Perks?
- Unique partnership between Silicon Valley Accelerator (Bootstrap Labs) and Korean VC (Coolidge Corner)
- Up-to $600K* investment
- 6 + 6 month special program, that starts in Korea and ends in US incorporation for successful startups
- Monthly on-boarding (no 'sessions' as with many other accelerators)
- Dedicated fast-track program to Silicon Valley
- Co-Working Space is available if required
- Min 2 people per team
- Can code & build UX
- A few (happy) users
FT Accelerator helps entrepreneurs at the intersection of Fashion and Technology accelerate the growth of their business through access to industry experts, advisers, brands, and other resources on the international stage.
What are the Perks?
- a three-month program. However, it can be extended up to five months for designers, as that is a typical selling season.
- FT Accelerator will receive a portion of equity from participating companies based on the stage of the company.
- The Accelerator does not provide funding.
- Companies selected to join the Accelerator will have already raised some initial capital.
- Companies invited to join FT Accelerator may receive, or may have received, seed funding from the sponsors, advisors, or managing partners through Naxuri Capital.
- Paid desks are available
Skakr Media, Storets, Avatria, Cream, Rooy, Reebonz Korea, GooGims, StyleWiki
Like Fast Track Asia, Venture Square does not have an English website, which is unfortunate. The company started life as a tech startup blog that aggregates news from a number of different sources and has over 100 writers on its roster. now they also run an acceleration program for Korean startups. We will have more information on this once we are able to conduct an interview with the team there.
More on Venture Square here.