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South Korean incubator provides support for IoT start-ups

Steve Rogerson
November 1, 2016
An incubator programme for IoT start-ups has been launched in the South Korean city of Songdo. Called SparkLabs, it will run from this month until April next year and each company will receive up to $50,000 in investment along with free office space and numerous perks.
The IoT programme is supported by South Korea’s President Park’s innovation centre, Songdo International Business District, Cisco Innovation Center in Songdo, Syntrend in Taipei, and other partners.
“It took a lot of coordination and some patience to work with the various entities involved, but I’m excited that we are ready to launch,” said Alex Namkung, director of SparkLabs. “The SparkLabs IoT programme represents an unprecedented opportunity where IoT start-ups can test and deploy in the world’s first smart city, in the world’s most connected country.”
The early entrants into the programme reflect the wide range of technologies related to the IoT and smart cities. There are some consumer hardware start-ups, but the majority are related to building more intelligent cities, improving industrial operations and applying cutting edge technologies, such as computer vision and artificial intelligence, to enterprises.
One of these companies is Augmented Knowledge from Seoul, an augmented reality (AR) company focused on the airline and machinery maintenance industries. The  flagship product is said to revolutionise aircraft maintenance through the use of its patented image recognition technology and real-time AR visualisation of mechanical parts and the work environment. Sparklabs IoT is helping them enter the US market and other targeted markets.
Falkonry from California provides artificial intelligence in a box without the need for a data scientist. It seeks to extract value from data of industrial operations, IT and IoT that was previously 99 per cent untapped. And it already integrates directly with Splunk, OSISoft Pi and Azure IoT Suite. The company has a seasoned team including founders from Extricity (acquired by Peregrine Systems) and Ribbit (acquired by British Telecom).
Blue Marine Technologies from Seoul builds smart city lighting infrastructure. The company is installing its IoT street lamps in Korea and other parts of Asia. Using a high-insulation, low-cost ceramic coating on their lamp poles, its smart lighting product can reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions while improving public safety and providing a wide range of sensor-generated data.
"I'm excited to be supporting the new innovations and companies that go through our IoT programme," said venture partner Charles Huang. “I know first-hand that start-up life is not easy, so hopefully our guidance can make their path less difficult.”
Huang is former COO of Leeo and co-founder of Red Octane and Guitar Hero.
Mentors for the programme are located across the globe and come from such companies as Cisco, SAP, IBM, Sphero, Samsung, Evrything, Verizon Ventures and Autodesk.
“I’m excited to have an incredible team and network to support our start-ups, including our venture partners Kai Huang, Charles Huang, Carl Wescott and Jeffrey Guo,” said Alex Namkung, director of the SparkLabs IoT accelerator. “Carl is a serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley and Jeff Guo brings his experience and network with some of the leading hardware manufacturers in the world. Kai and Charles have built a billion dollar franchise in Guitar Hero while learning about the pains of supply chain management. Also our honorary advisors are incredibly supportive, such as William Wang, who built a multi-billion dollar consumer electronics company. Teddy Zee and Martin Hartono who have been long-time supporters of SparkLabs. We are really appreciative of all of our mentors and advisors.”
Open to local and overseas start-ups, programme participants can take advantage of Songdo as a development centre and test bed, while also having access to local and global corporations, investors, and suppliers and manufacturers. The mentorship-driven programme will be five months in length and provides funding, office space, a structure programme and access to a top-tier network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and executives.