SparkLabs, an accelerator program in South Korea that is bringing a Silicon Valley-like approach to the Asian country’s startup ecosystem, has taken the wraps off its third class with nine startups from Seoul, Tokyo, San Francisco and Chicago.
The startups span a wide range — from wearable and medical devices to telecommunication operations and online gaming.
SparkLabs belongs to the Global Accelerator Network, which includes Techstars, Australia’s PushStart and Microsoft’s Azure accelerator in Israel. The Korean accelerator favors startups which aim to go beyond South Korea’s traditionally inward focus, and seek to move into lucrative markets overseas including the US, China and Japan.
SparkLabs holds a three-month-long program for seed-to-early-stage startups that will see an impressive line-up of advisers and mentors overseeing them — including US big-hitters Mark Cuban and Vint Cerf , as well as former Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie.
These selected startups will get a $25,000 investment each from SparkLabs, free office space, and access to a network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and executives.
Here are the nine companies that made the cut:
FeelU (Wearable device)
Arguably the most interesting in SparkLabs’ third class. The Tokyo-based startup’s first product, RingU, is an interactive ring that lets you give your loved ones a remote ‘hug’ and is connected to a private social network where you can send messages, photos and videos.
Flow State Media (Online gaming)
The team behind this startup is made up of Zynga and MIT alumni, and they have already released a Facebook word game “Letter UP” — which has apparently already logged more than 1.5 million minutes of gameplay in a few months. They are moving into social casino games starting late this year.
Freenters (Online service)
Freenters provides free printing for college students — very helpful indeed as a lot of colleges don’t have free printing services. They are launching in major campuses in the US, focusing on Chicago first.
Penta Press (Online photo marketplace)
Penta Press collects images via its network of professional photographers in over 25 countries and distributes them to media organizations. It is basically seeking to become the “Getty Images of Asia” and currently has distribution partnerships with South Korea’s Yonhap News, Japan’s JiJi Press and other agencies.
Domo Bio (Medical device)
This Seoul-based company created a device to combat sleep apnia and snoring problems.
1Day 1Song (Online music)
This startup has an iPhone app that provides a music recommendation service on mobile devices, so users can discover music matching their tastes via curation by music experts. It introduces one new artist every day.
PeopleWare (Online talent marketplace)
This startup is linking up engineers from Asia and elsewhere, based on trusted networks, to projects.
Right Zip (Online rental marketplace)
Right Zip is a Palo Alto-based startup founded by a senior data scientist from Twitter — which uses an algorithm to ensure the best pricing for peer-to-peer renting, so visitors pay less when rooms are empty but homeowners make more when rooms are scarce.
RingCL (Backend as a Service)
The Seoul-based startup provides communication services for businesses to implement a mobile service only with API calls without setting up servers.
In October, SparkLabs expanded its scope with its first seed-stage fund worth $30 million to “help great startups go global,” creating obvious synergies for graduates from its accelerator program that seek this kind of seed-stage investment.
The fund will invest across Asia, Europe, Israel and the US, going beyond the accelerator program’s primary focus on South Korea, which could help greatly in pushing its startups into new regions.
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