South Korean startups coming to Milwaukee this fall

Ten South Korean tech startups will be coming to Milwaukee this fall for training and mentorship at the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium.

Under an agreement signed in Seoul on Thursday between M-WERC and the Daegu-Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology, representatives of these companies will travel to Milwaukee in October to participate in the new Technology Acceleration and Globalization Program. All the companies aim to establish operations in the United States.

The agreement was signed during Gov. Scott Walker’s Asian trade mission, which brought WEDC representatives and 13 executives from Wisconsin companies last week to Japan and South Korea. Walker says the new accelerator will “pave the way for future collaborations that could lead to international partnerships and new investment in Wisconsin.”

“This is a great new partnership that will help provide this group of South Korean entrepreneurs with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in expanding in the United States,” Walker said.

Those entrepreneurs will spend four weeks at the Energy Innovation Center, working together with participants in M-WERC’s WERCBench Labs, a 12-week accelerator program for startups in the energy, power and control sector, with a preference for companies focusing on advanced robotics, drones, virtual reality and other new technologies.

WERCBench Labs startups get access to high-performance computing and prototyping technology, as well as equipment for testing and small-scale production at the Energy Innovation Center.

The program was started in 2009 to perform energy-related research, and has grown to more than 80 members with an annual budget of over $1 million.

“Having the South Korean entrepreneurs engage with WERCBench Labs participants will pay dividends through stronger export opportunities for startups as well as established companies in the energy power and control supply chain of Wisconsin,” said Alan Perlstein, executive director of M-WERC.

The Korean research university, DGIST, was founded in 2004 and receives money from the South Korean government for technology development. It’s located in Daegu Metropolitan City, and has research infrastructure for supercomputing, big data, technology innovation/commercialization, entrepreneurial development and more.

Sang Hyuk Son, president of DGIST, says the partnership program will help to “cultivate new economic growth engines for both countries.”

The program will be run by M-WERC, Madison investment firm Greenpoint Asset Management, and Silicon Pastures, an angel investing group based in Milwaukee represented on the trade mission by managing director Teresa Esser.

“Through this business acceleration program, we want to create situations where people from opposite sides of the world have an opportunity to actually get to know one another,” Esser said. “We believe that if people can establish solid trust relationships, they can find ways to work together and create new business synergies.”

–By Alex Moe