By Jina Lee, Hyunjin Choi

 

ASEAN major telecommunication companies made a visit to Korea to meet innovative tech-based companies.

 

Born2Global Centre(Chief Executive Director Jongkap Kim) announced that it held “ASEAN-Korea ICT Partnership Platform 2019” on September 18th and 19th in Pangyo Startup Campus co-hosted with Seongnam industry promotion agency(CEO Sangcheol Cha).

 

The platform was set for both ASEAN major telecoms and Korean tech startups to develop the new business model cooperatively and to produce tangible business results by expanding global networks. The event proceeded in the form of one on one business meeting to amplify active B2B performances.

 

 

Over 50 leading Korean tech startups and 9 ASEAN telecommunication participated in the partnership platform and conducted over 120 business meetings.

The ASEAN telecommunications are as follows:

ACASIA Communications, Telekom Malaysia, Digi Telecom, Edotco Group, YTL Communications in Malaysia, Telkom Indonesia and MNC Vision Networks in Indonesia, CMC telecom in Vietnam and Advanced Info Service(AIS) in Thailand.

The Korean startup list includes MINDsLab, ASD Korea, 12cm, Buzzvil, Visual Camp, THE.WAVE.TALK, I-ON Communications, LOCKIN company, Xabyss and 40 other companies.

 

 

“It was a great chance for us to know a variety of solutions with groundbreaking technologies in Korea. Since it is assumed that there are many potential telecommunication service areas that Korean and ASEAN companies can develop together, we will vigorously propel the practical business achievement such as closing contracts,” said Henri Setiawan Wyatno, the vice president of Telkom Indonesia, which dominates 90% of Indonesian telecommunication market.

 

 

“Diverse collaboration opportunities were created by matching renowned global telecommunication companies with innovative Korean startups. Participants were able to discuss actual business challenges. Through this event, it is envisioned that telecommunication companies will be able to provide a differentiated service with more advanced tech in local markets. In turn, Korean companies will be able to expand their business scope abroad. We believe this event will continue on as a premiere conference attracting top international participants,” said Jongkap Kim, the chief executive director of Born2Global centre.

 

 

The Next Billion-Dollar South Korean Startups

 

There has been a relative lack of emerging “unicorns” among Korean startups, but according to CB Insights, more than nine Korean startups have recently reached the rank of unicorn. (A unicorn is a privately owned startup company valued at over USD 1 billion.) Coupang, Krafton, Yellow Mobile, Woowa Brothers, L&P Cosmetics, WeMakePrice, Viva Republica, yanolja, and GP Club have all been named unicorns, and seven of these companies achieved their unicorn rank very recently. As evidenced by this increase in unicorns, the Korean startup ecosystem is continuing to grow and mature. Korea is in 5th place together with Germany in the global unicorn ranking. The United States tops the chart with 178 unicorns, followed by China (91), the United Kingdom (19), and India (16).

 

Korea’s successful rise in the unicorn rankings can be seen as the result of the mobile revolution and venture boom in Korea that started in the late 2000s. Currently, the startup ecosystem in Korea is flourishing as investors are raising a lot of new money to find the next unicorn, and there are more opportunities than ever before. As the number of new venture investments and newly established corporations continues to rise, a second venture boom is becoming more visible.

 

According to the Korea Startup Index 2018, published by Born2Global Centre, the investment of venture capital in Korea is showing steady growth. The amount of new venture capital investment in Korea has been increasing since 2012. New venture investments increased 15.2% from January to May this year, reaching a record high of USD 1.259 billion (KRW 1.4894 trillion).

 

Jongkap Kim, Chief Executive Director of the Born2Global Centre, said, "The active launch of Korean startup businesses has heightened our hopes for the birth of the next unicorn. There are a number of promising companies now on the scene. One such company is SendBird, which started its business in Silicon Valley and gained fame and secured investments directly from local and overseas markets. In this and similar ways, Korean startups are producing astonishing results in foreign countries. We have seen hundreds of these success cases in the past five years. We look forward to the day when Korean companies will go beyond the level of unicorn and pursue different challenges to achieve the rank of decacorn.”

 

The Born2Global Centre has searched far and wide to find the nation’s next unicorns, and it lists the following companies as the most promising unicorns in Korea.

Here are 10 South Korean startups that are quickly galloping toward the coveted unicorn rank.

 

Founders

: Sean Sunbeom Gwon (CEO), Seungjae Lee

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 10 million (KRW 11.8 billion)

Last Funding Type

: Series A

Lead Investors

: Coolidge Corner Investment, Industrial Bank of Korea, Korea Software Financial Cooperative, Hanwha Investment & Securities, Pathfinder H, MORU Asset Management, E&F

Ecube Labs (www.ecubelabs.com) is a startup that specializes in environmentally-friendly garbage collection and management. The company independently developed the Clean CUBE, a garbage container that uses solar power to compress waste, and CCN (Clean City Networks), a service that monitors garbage collection and processing as well as the amount of garbage collected. By using solar energy to compress garbage, Clean CUBE can hold more than eight times the amount garbage that can be stored by conventional containers of the same size. CCN measures the amount of garbage inside a Clean CUBE to help establish an effective collection route. Ecube Labs has already successfully expanded overseas. Thanks to the positive responses it received in the U.S., Belgium, and Australia, it is rapidly gaining dominance in the global waste market. In 2018, the company signed a Smart City Contract worth USD 15 million (KRW 17 billion) with the city of Baltimore. The company plans to install at least 5,000 more Clean CUBEs within the next three years.

 

Founders

: Dongmin Kim (CEO), Wontae Kim (CEO)

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 31 million (KRW 37 billion)

Last Funding Type

: Pre-IPO

Lead Investors

 

: KB Investment, KTB Network, Find Value Asset Management, SL investment, Medici Investment, BNH INVESTMENT, INTERVEST

 

JLK Inspection (www.jlk-inspection.com) provides medical solutions through AI-based technology. JLK Inspection’s technology assists medical practitioners with detecting and monitoring more than 30 medical conditions. This includes: Alzheimer's, strokes, prostate cancer, lung cancer thyroids cancer, breast cancer and joint disease. JLK's AI-enabled image analysis technology can cover MRI, CT, X-ray and even mammography. JLK received certification approval from the Korean FDA as a class III device, obtained European CE certification from European Medical Device Directive (MDD). JLK Inspection had received an accumulated total of USD 31 million (KRW 37 billion) in investments from VCs such as KB Investment, KTB Network, and Find Value Asset Management. The company is now preparing for its expected listing as a “Technology-Based Special Listed Company,” a newly-added KOSDAQ category.

 

Founders

: Jaehyeok Kim (CEO)

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 5.8 million (KRW 6.8 billion)

Last Funding Type

: Series A

Lead Investors

 

: KB Investment, Kakao Ventures, NAVER Corporation, Korea Asset Investment Securities, Platinum Technology Investment, DSC Investment

 

LetinAR (www.letinar.com) develops and provides optic solutions for lenses that are used in AR glasses. With its independently-developed Pin MR technology, LetinAR overcomes the technological limitations of existing AR glasses (related to focal point, breath of vision, etc.) and aspires toward the commercialization of AR glasses. LetinAR’s Pin MR lens is based on technology that applies the principles of pinpoint vision to micro-mirrors. The technology enables the sharp focus of vision and the color expression of AR objects, regardless of environment, and can be directly applied to the small and lightweight platform that is embodied by AR glasses. To date, LetinAR has received a total of USD 5.8 million (KRW 6.8 billion) in investments from companies such as KB Investment, Kakao Ventures, NAVER Corporation, Korea Asset Investment Securities, DSC Investment, and Platinum Technology Investment.

 

Founders

: Beonseok Brandon Suh (CEO), Anthony Paek, Donggeun Yoo, Jungin Lee, Kyunghyun Paeng, Minhong Jang, Sunggyun Park

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 17 million (KRW 21 billion) 

Last Funding Type

: Series B

Lead Investors

: SoftBank Venture, Intervest, Kakao Ventures, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, KT investment, Formation 8, Legend Capital

 

The AI healthcare startup, Lunit (www.lunit.io), is known for its development of “Lunit Insight,” a medical device that utilizes video data and deep learning technology to identify cancerous lung tumors. Lunit Insight uses AI-based, real-time medical video analysis software and chest X-ray technology to make real-time diagnoses of pulmonary disorders. The device is currently being used by Seoul National University Hospital to diagnose/interpret videos of patients’ symptoms. In 2018, Lunit completed its Series B round of investments, attracting a total of USD 17 million (KRW 21 billion) in investments from SoftBank Ventures, Intervest, Kakao Ventures, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, KT investment, Formation 8, and Legend Capital. Lunit is currently preparing to be listed on the KOSDAQ next year in 2020.

 

Founder

: TaeJoon Yoo (CEO)

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 22.3 million (KRW 26.3 billion)

Last Funding Type

: Pre-IPO

Lead Investors

: LB Investment, BSK Investment, IBK-NH Small-Giant PEF, Q CAPITAL PARTNERS, Hana Financial Investment, Industrial Bank of Korea, BNK Capital, ETRI Holdings

 

MindsLab (www.mindslab.ai) is a startup that specializes in AI technology, which is characterized by an array of integrated functions associated with language, vision, and the ability to think. MindsLab’s major business areas include its AI hybrid customer center, AI-based smart factory/city, AI English education, AI robotics, and AI consulting services. The company recently secured a Series C investment of USD 15 million (KRW 17.3 billion), resulting in a cumulative total of USD 22.3 million (KRW 26.3 billion) in investments. Some of its main investors include LB Investment, BSK Investment, IBK-NH Small Giant Private Equity Fund, Q CAPITAL PARTNERS, Hana Financial Investment, Industrial Bank of Korea, BNK Capital, and ETRI Holdings. MindsLab plans to use these investments to strengthen its R&D, maximize the potential of existing projects (AI Hybrid Contact Center, etc.), and expand into foreign markets. The company is also the only international member of Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute), one of the top three AI research institutions in Canada, a country that is renowned for the strength of its IT industry. MindsLab was included on a list of 10 breakout Korean startups that was published by Forbes Asia in 2017.

 

Founders

: Ethan JaeSeok Lee (CEO), Jinwook Nujabes Baek, JinWook Baek, Sure Bak, Woosup Shin

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 22.3 million (KRW 24.9 billion)

Last Funding Type

: Series C 

Lead Investors

: KTB Network, Stonebridge, Yellowdog, SoftBank Ventures, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, Formation 8, Golden Gate Ventures, Bokwang Investment

Founded in 2011, MyMusicTaste (www.mymusictaste.com) is a startup for the planning and conducting of K-pop performances overseas. Its most noticeable strength is that it uses big data to predict concertgoer demand (i.e. whether enough people in a certain region/country wish to see a certain concert/performance). K-pop stars who have given global concerts through MyMusicTaste include BTS, Exo, Apink and GFriend. Last year, the company recorded USD 11 million (KRW 13.1 billion) in sales (37.9 percent higher than in 2017). Thus far, MyMusicTaste has received a combined total investment of USD 22.3 million (KRW 24.9 billion) from companies such as KTB Network, Stonebridge, Yellowdog, SoftBank Ventures, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, Formation 8, Golden Gate Ventures, and Bokwang Investment. Its overall value is believed to have more than doubled since the completion of its Series C funding in 2017. The company is now preparing to be listed on the KOSDAQ next year.

Founder

: Jeong Gyoun Han (CEO)

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 34 million (KRW 40 billion) 

Last Funding Type

: Series B

Lead Investors

: SK Telecom, LB Investment, Capstone Partners, Korea Development Bank, AJU IB INVESTMENT

 

Since its founding in 2013, 12CM (One-two-cee-em, www.12cm.co.kr) has created subsidiaries and joint ventures in seven countries, including Japan, the US and China. It has attracted over USD 34 million (KRW 40 billion) in investments and is rapidly growing as a leading O2O/fintech company with a business model that combines cloud-based software, smart stamp hardware and authentication services. echoss stamp is a format that involves stamping directly on the mobile phone screen. Each stamp has a unique identifying geometric pattern and is activated by static electricity from the human body. echoss stamp is currently protected by approximately 220 patent rights. With 12CM echoss stamp service available over 20 countries around the world. Currently, approximately 520,000 people are using 12CM’s source technology to operate mobile businesses. The company achieved over USD 8.4 million (KRW 10 billion) in sales in 2018 and is now preparing for its expected listing as a “Technology-Based Special Listed Company,” a newly-added KOSDAQ category.

 

Founders

: Youngjun Jang (CEO), Jaewe Heo

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 23 million (KRW 27 billion) 

Last Funding Type

: Series C

Lead Investors

: Premier Partners, AlpenRoute Asset Management, DSC Investment, IMM Investment, Korea Growth Investment Corporation, D Ventures Private Investment Fund

 

Riiid (www.riiid.co) has secured USD 18 million (KRW 20 billion) through its Series C funding round, which was led by Premier Partners, AlpenRoute Asset Management, DSC Investment, IMM Investment, Korea Growth Investment Corporation, and D Ventures Private Investment Fund. Riiid, an AI tutoring solution startup, has published the results of its research on its one-on-one AI tutoring deep-learning technology in an academic journal and is currently providing independently developed AI technology as a B2B solution known as "santA.Inside." Having already secured a cumulative total of USD 18 million (KRW 20 billion) in R&D investment, Riiid will be using most of its recently raised Series C investment to conduct R&D and further enhance santA.Inside. The company continues to receive acknowledgment for its AI technologies not only in Korea but in the United States, China, and Japan as well, with a total of 41 registered patents and patent applications.

 

Founders

: John S. Kim (CEO), Brandon Y Jeon, Forest Lee, Harry Kim

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 120.7 million (KRW 139 billion) 

Last Funding Type

: Series B

Lead Investors

: ICONIQ Capital, Shasta Ventures, August Capital, Y Combinator, FundersClub, Tiger Global Management

 

SendBird (www.sendbird.com) is a chatting/messaging platform that enables messages and/or conversations to be exchanged via PC or smartphone. Created using superior technology, SendBird now has over 1 million people all over the world who simultaneously use its services and can process over 500 million message transmissions per day. SendBird can also connect its chat functions to any of 14,000 applications and/or services worldwide. Its clients are primarily multinational corporations, including Reddit, NBA, Yahoo Sports, KB Financial Group, Shinsegae, LG UPlus, and SBS. Recent investors in SendBird include ICONIQ Capital, Shasta Ventures, August Capital, Y Combinator, FundersClub, and Tiger Global Management. The company’s headquarters are located in San Mateo County/Silicon Valley.

Founders

: Minseok Kim (CEO), Ryan Lee

Estimated Total Funding

: USD 12 million (KRW 13.7 billion) 

Last Funding Type

: Series A

Lead Investors

: DT Capital, IBK Capital, KDB Capital

 

Founded in 2010, SmartStudy (www.smartstudy.co.kr) is a global content startup that utilizes mobile content as a foundation for smart education projects and life services. The company is already being widely recognized as a global business and has captivated users around the world (recently included in a Billboard ranking) with its independently-developed content (such Pinkfong and the Shark Family) and outstanding mobile technology. In addition to creating video content, SmartStudy operates a mobile application that features its animated characters and, to date, the app has been downloaded approximately 150 million times by users in 112 countries. SmartStudy recorded USD 34 million (KRW 40 billion) in total sales in 2018 and approximately USD 6.8 million (KRW 8 billion) in sales profits. Its goal for 2020 is to be listed on the KOSDAQ. 

 

 

 

For more detailed information, contact Born2Global Centre.

 

About Born2Global Centre

Born2Global Centre (www.born2global.com) is a full-cycle service platform for global expansion. Since inception in 2013, Born2Global has been setting the standard for successful startup ecosystem as the main Korean government agency under the Ministry of Science and ICT. Born2Global has expanded and transformed startups to be engaged, equipped and be connected with the global market.

 


The excellence of MINDs Lab, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform company, was recognized at ITU Telecom World 2017, hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

 


 

The K-ICT Born2Global Centre announced that its member company MINDs Lab was selected as the best and most innovative small and medium enterprise at the awards ceremony of ITU Telecom World 2017, which was held last month in Busan, Korea. MINDs Lab was the only Korean company to receive such a distinction.

 

ITU Telecom World is the world's largest telecommunication fair, drawing government and industry leaders, firms, and specialists in the ICT industries of countries around the world. Held under the theme "Smart Digital Transformation and Global Opportunity", the event attracted the participation of over 430 tech firms from across the globe.

 

MINDs Lab presented its VOC-QC-RS products, which are AI-based solutions for customer contact center analysis and quality control consultant support that have been designed for major domestic and international companies.

 

In particular, "maum.ai", an AI platform developed by MINDs Lab, featuring basic AI technologies, such as speech recognition, natural language processing (NLP), machine reading comprehension (MRC), and Exobrain, designed to enable AI-based question answering (QA), can be applied to large-scale services.

 

"maum.ai" is being introduced into the AI services of large domestic corporations and public institutions, including KEB Hana Bank, insurance companies, telecom companies, and manufacturers.

 

Since its incorporation in 2014, MINDs Lab has invested USD 7.96 million (KRW 9 billion) in AI technology. Forbes Asia selected the company as one of Korea's top 10 fast-growing, high-quality startups of 2017, and last year, it received a technology commercialization award from the Ministry of Science and ICT, drawing considerable attention both domestically and internationally. Presently, the tech startup has three offices in North America—its R&D centers in New York and Silicon Valley and R&D and sales marketing office in Vancouver—based on which it is aiming to enter the global market. In particular, MINDs Lab supplied the MINDs VOC, which was launched at ITU Telecom World 2017, to an official vendor of a large global business in North America, demonstrating its technological excellence overseas. In September 2017, with its signing of a strategic business cooperation agreement with Ibiz Academy, a telephone English conversation practice company, MINDs Lab launched AI-based English conversation and call center projects, allowing it to expand the scope of its business.

 

CEO Yoo Taejoon of MINDs Lab said, "The technological capability of our AI platform is being recognized for its security and extensibility, and with our solid AI technologies, we will continue providing AI platform services in more diverse industries worldwide."

 

For more detailed information on MINDs Lab, please check out http://mindslab.ai/

 

 

 

 

While the worst was expected for South Korea’s startup scene in 2016, 

we found that it wasn’t so bad at all, especially for the already strong brands 

like cosmetics startup Memebox and food delivery startup Woowa Brothers, which found fresh funding.

 

Rising startups like Memebox and Woowa Brothers (creators of Baedal Minjok) 

continued to power through 2016 with fresh investments. Data: TheVC. Graphs: Ryu Ji-min.

Investors say the shakeup is over and a new round of high-quality startups are ready to rock. 

Here are fast-rising new startups of 10 sectors that are poised to make headlines this year.

 

Fintech: Viva Republica

 

Fintech has been rumbling beneath the surface since 2015, and the breakout startups like Lendit, 

42 Company and Chungho Easy Cash are out of the gate this year. 

But Viva Republica is the one that’s making the local startup scene simply giddy.

Its flagship product is Toss, a mobile payments app launched in February 2015 

that turns the dozen steps of Korea’s archaic online banking system into three. 

Last November, it was the first of its peers to reach $2 billion in gross transaction volume, 

and currently handles $330-$423 million in transactions a month, the company says.

After a 26.5 billion won ($22.5 million) investment last year, 

Viva Republica plans to launch new financial services such as loans, 

overseas remittances and donations via Toss.

Does Viva Republica have what it takes to become Korea’s next unicorn startup? 

If it does, you read it here first.

 

Content: Lezhin Entertainment

 

Lezhin Entertainment introduced paid online comic services to Korea 

with its webtoon platform Lezhin Comics in 2013. 

The conditions were ripe, with smartphone-addicted straphangers ready to pay 

for hundreds of scroll-worthy animations.

The rest is history: Sales exploded from 980 million won ($832,000) 

in 2013 to 31.8 billion won ($27 million) in 2015. 

Last year, subscribers topped 8 million as the startup grabbed a hefty 50 billion won ($42.4 million) 

investment from local private equity firm IMM.

The company is now focusing on localizing for Japan and the U.S.

 

Marketing: Spoqa

 

Spoqa has been helping food 

and drink shops get rid of those tedious customer loyalty stamp cards, one americano at a time. 

It installs tablets at store counters, and customers input their phone number to accumulate Dodo Points 

for free stuff, with no apps or registration required. 

It’s used by 10,000 merchants and over 12 million users in Korea - which is almost 1 in 4 people.

It has partnered with Kakao, makers of Korea’s ubiquitous mobile messenger, 

to help merchants connect with their loyal customers.

Backed by over $10 million in funding, it launched Spoqa Japan in 2015 

and acquired its local rival Tmon Plus last December.

 

Beauty: Huiseoul

 

What started as a cosmetics boutique in a Seoul shopping district has expanded to a cosmetics exporter 

and then a personal beauty consultancy platform catering to a high-demand Chinese market. 

Sales representatives in Shanghai and Seoul work on a Mary Kay-type commission scheme 

and may process $5,000 each in sales per month. 

It now sees some 200,000 users and $90 million annual gross monthly volume, the company says.

Huiseoul has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Silicon Valley and China investors including Altos Ventures, 

Tekton Ventures and Kylin Investment, and expects another $10 million this year.

 

Retail: AprilSkin

 

Another beauty startup harnessing the K-cosmetics craze,

AprilSkin has grown in two years from a content-based multichannel network to a powerful brand. 

Its debut product was the wildly popular Magic Stone soap

which sold more than 2 million units in two years.

With five shops around Korea and distribution in some of the country’s largest cosmetics franchises, 

AprilSkin estimated sales of $35 million in 2016 and projects $90 million for this year.

 

Travel: Withinnovation

 

One of Korea’s biggest investments last year went to Withinnovation, 

a travel startup that booked 140 billion won ($118.9 million) 

in reservations for 30,000 accommodations last year. 

It claims 1.85 million monthly active users on its booking app Yeogieottae (meaning “how about here?”), 

the top startup-made free travel app on Google Play and a hit with twentysomethings.

This year it's integrating VR, AI and IoT to enter the "staytech" industry 

and develop a more comprehensive travel experience.

 

Cybersecurity: SEWorks

 

SEWorks was founded by a bunch of white-hat hackers and security pros 

who wanted to give app developers a full security system so they can focus on building their products. 

AppSolid, its cloud-based app security solution launched in March, 

can be added on after the app is built so developers don’t have to work around it.

Now straddling offices in Seoul and San Francisco, it has raised over $10 million 

from the likes of Softbank Ventures Korea, Qualcomm Ventures, Samsung Ventures and others.

 

AI: Minds Lab

 

From big data to machine learning to artificial intelligence, 

this three-year-old enterprise service startup is raking in $2.1 million a year. 

It’s a young but fast-rising competitor among Korea’s advanced technology startups,

backed by $5 million in investments.

This year, it kicks off an AI platform that caters to health care and education services 

while offering tools for developers and startups to utilize the technology. 

It has also developed a portable AI speaker called Ascar akin to Amazon’s Echo but can be used in cars.

 

Health: Zikto

 

Starting out with a posture-tracking smartwatch called Arki, 

Zikto won over crowdfunders to raise over $160,000 on Kickstarter in 2014. 

Now it’s going deeper into health care, working with insurance companies, 

hospitals and health officials to research ways to use wearable tech and develop a health care platform. 

It recently kicked off a “D2B” (device-to-benefit) service model 

that connects its IoT device with online and offline wellness services.

The startup estimated 1 billion won ($850,000) revenue last year and is valued at $15 million.

 

Social: Dot

 

A little startup named Dot is aiming to make a big impact on a marginalized community. 

Its affordable braille smartwatch for the vision impaired 

and deaf-blind is finally slated to hit the global market early this year. 

After catching a wave of popularity from appearing on a Korean “Shark Tank”-like startup reality show circa 2015, 

the team has been fine-tuning design on the Dot Watch and is ready to retail it for $290 starting in London.

Also in the works are a Dot Pad tablet and a Dot Mini education device targeted to developing countries. 

Ahead of its first product launch, the company is valued at $21 million.

 

Class of 2018

While fintech and cybersecurity startups are expected to take the spotlight this year, 

small investments are already pointing to a flurry of activity 

around augmented and virtual reality, the fastest growing sector by funding in 2016.

 

I’ll be checking out these seedling startups throughout the year. Stay tuned.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/elaineramirez/2017/01/17/10-south-korean-startups-breaking-out-in-2017/#6029f2c13551

 

 

While the worst was expected for South Korea’s startup scene in 2016, 

we found that it wasn’t so bad at all, especially for the already strong brands 

like cosmetics startup Memebox and food delivery startup Woowa Brothers, which found fresh funding.

 

Rising startups like Memebox and Woowa Brothers (creators of Baedal Minjok) 

continued to power through 2016 with fresh investments. Data: TheVC. Graphs: Ryu Ji-min.

Investors say the shakeup is over and a new round of high-quality startups are ready to rock. 

Here are fast-rising new startups of 10 sectors that are poised to make headlines this year.

 

Fintech: Viva Republica

 

Fintech has been rumbling beneath the surface since 2015, and the breakout startups like Lendit, 

42 Company and Chungho Easy Cash are out of the gate this year. 

But Viva Republica is the one that’s making the local startup scene simply giddy.

Its flagship product is Toss, a mobile payments app launched in February 2015 

that turns the dozen steps of Korea’s archaic online banking system into three. 

Last November, it was the first of its peers to reach $2 billion in gross transaction volume, 

and currently handles $330-$423 million in transactions a month, the company says.

After a 26.5 billion won ($22.5 million) investment last year, 

Viva Republica plans to launch new financial services such as loans, 

overseas remittances and donations via Toss.

Does Viva Republica have what it takes to become Korea’s next unicorn startup? 

If it does, you read it here first.

 

Content: Lezhin Entertainment

 

Lezhin Entertainment introduced paid online comic services to Korea 

with its webtoon platform Lezhin Comics in 2013. 

The conditions were ripe, with smartphone-addicted straphangers ready to pay 

for hundreds of scroll-worthy animations.

The rest is history: Sales exploded from 980 million won ($832,000) 

in 2013 to 31.8 billion won ($27 million) in 2015. 

Last year, subscribers topped 8 million as the startup grabbed a hefty 50 billion won ($42.4 million) 

investment from local private equity firm IMM.

The company is now focusing on localizing for Japan and the U.S.

 

Marketing: Spoqa

 

Spoqa has been helping food 

and drink shops get rid of those tedious customer loyalty stamp cards, one americano at a time. 

It installs tablets at store counters, and customers input their phone number to accumulate Dodo Points 

for free stuff, with no apps or registration required. 

It’s used by 10,000 merchants and over 12 million users in Korea - which is almost 1 in 4 people.

It has partnered with Kakao, makers of Korea’s ubiquitous mobile messenger, 

to help merchants connect with their loyal customers.

Backed by over $10 million in funding, it launched Spoqa Japan in 2015 

and acquired its local rival Tmon Plus last December.

 

Beauty: Huiseoul

 

What started as a cosmetics boutique in a Seoul shopping district has expanded to a cosmetics exporter 

and then a personal beauty consultancy platform catering to a high-demand Chinese market. 

Sales representatives in Shanghai and Seoul work on a Mary Kay-type commission scheme 

and may process $5,000 each in sales per month. 

It now sees some 200,000 users and $90 million annual gross monthly volume, the company says.

Huiseoul has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Silicon Valley and China investors including Altos Ventures, 

Tekton Ventures and Kylin Investment, and expects another $10 million this year.

 

Retail: AprilSkin

 

Another beauty startup harnessing the K-cosmetics craze,

AprilSkin has grown in two years from a content-based multichannel network to a powerful brand. 

Its debut product was the wildly popular Magic Stone soap

which sold more than 2 million units in two years.

With five shops around Korea and distribution in some of the country’s largest cosmetics franchises, 

AprilSkin estimated sales of $35 million in 2016 and projects $90 million for this year.

 

Travel: Withinnovation

 

One of Korea’s biggest investments last year went to Withinnovation, 

a travel startup that booked 140 billion won ($118.9 million) 

in reservations for 30,000 accommodations last year. 

It claims 1.85 million monthly active users on its booking app Yeogieottae (meaning “how about here?”), 

the top startup-made free travel app on Google Play and a hit with twentysomethings.

This year it's integrating VR, AI and IoT to enter the "staytech" industry 

and develop a more comprehensive travel experience.

 

Cybersecurity: SEWorks

 

SEWorks was founded by a bunch of white-hat hackers and security pros 

who wanted to give app developers a full security system so they can focus on building their products. 

AppSolid, its cloud-based app security solution launched in March, 

can be added on after the app is built so developers don’t have to work around it.

Now straddling offices in Seoul and San Francisco, it has raised over $10 million 

from the likes of Softbank Ventures Korea, Qualcomm Ventures, Samsung Ventures and others.

 

AI: Minds Lab

 

From big data to machine learning to artificial intelligence, 

this three-year-old enterprise service startup is raking in $2.1 million a year. 

It’s a young but fast-rising competitor among Korea’s advanced technology startups,

backed by $5 million in investments.

This year, it kicks off an AI platform that caters to health care and education services 

while offering tools for developers and startups to utilize the technology. 

It has also developed a portable AI speaker called Ascar akin to Amazon’s Echo but can be used in cars.

 

Health: Zikto

 

Starting out with a posture-tracking smartwatch called Arki, 

Zikto won over crowdfunders to raise over $160,000 on Kickstarter in 2014. 

Now it’s going deeper into health care, working with insurance companies, 

hospitals and health officials to research ways to use wearable tech and develop a health care platform. 

It recently kicked off a “D2B” (device-to-benefit) service model 

that connects its IoT device with online and offline wellness services.

The startup estimated 1 billion won ($850,000) revenue last year and is valued at $15 million.

 

Social: Dot

 

A little startup named Dot is aiming to make a big impact on a marginalized community. 

Its affordable braille smartwatch for the vision impaired 

and deaf-blind is finally slated to hit the global market early this year. 

After catching a wave of popularity from appearing on a Korean “Shark Tank”-like startup reality show circa 2015, 

the team has been fine-tuning design on the Dot Watch and is ready to retail it for $290 starting in London.

Also in the works are a Dot Pad tablet and a Dot Mini education device targeted to developing countries. 

Ahead of its first product launch, the company is valued at $21 million.

 

Class of 2018

While fintech and cybersecurity startups are expected to take the spotlight this year, 

small investments are already pointing to a flurry of activity 

around augmented and virtual reality, the fastest growing sector by funding in 2016.

 

I’ll be checking out these seedling startups throughout the year. Stay tuned.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/elaineramirez/2017/01/17/10-south-korean-startups-breaking-out-in-2017/#6029f2c13551

 

 

While the worst was expected for South Korea’s startup scene in 2016, 

we found that it wasn’t so bad at all, especially for the already strong brands 

like cosmetics startup Memebox and food delivery startup Woowa Brothers, which found fresh funding.

 

Rising startups like Memebox and Woowa Brothers (creators of Baedal Minjok) 

continued to power through 2016 with fresh investments. Data: TheVC. Graphs: Ryu Ji-min.

Investors say the shakeup is over and a new round of high-quality startups are ready to rock. 

Here are fast-rising new startups of 10 sectors that are poised to make headlines this year.

 

Fintech: Viva Republica

 

Fintech has been rumbling beneath the surface since 2015, and the breakout startups like Lendit, 

42 Company and Chungho Easy Cash are out of the gate this year. 

But Viva Republica is the one that’s making the local startup scene simply giddy.

Its flagship product is Toss, a mobile payments app launched in February 2015 

that turns the dozen steps of Korea’s archaic online banking system into three. 

Last November, it was the first of its peers to reach $2 billion in gross transaction volume, 

and currently handles $330-$423 million in transactions a month, the company says.

After a 26.5 billion won ($22.5 million) investment last year, 

Viva Republica plans to launch new financial services such as loans, 

overseas remittances and donations via Toss.

Does Viva Republica have what it takes to become Korea’s next unicorn startup? 

If it does, you read it here first.

 

Content: Lezhin Entertainment

 

Lezhin Entertainment introduced paid online comic services to Korea 

with its webtoon platform Lezhin Comics in 2013. 

The conditions were ripe, with smartphone-addicted straphangers ready to pay 

for hundreds of scroll-worthy animations.

The rest is history: Sales exploded from 980 million won ($832,000) 

in 2013 to 31.8 billion won ($27 million) in 2015. 

Last year, subscribers topped 8 million as the startup grabbed a hefty 50 billion won ($42.4 million) 

investment from local private equity firm IMM.

The company is now focusing on localizing for Japan and the U.S.

 

Marketing: Spoqa

 

Spoqa has been helping food 

and drink shops get rid of those tedious customer loyalty stamp cards, one americano at a time. 

It installs tablets at store counters, and customers input their phone number to accumulate Dodo Points 

for free stuff, with no apps or registration required. 

It’s used by 10,000 merchants and over 12 million users in Korea - which is almost 1 in 4 people.

It has partnered with Kakao, makers of Korea’s ubiquitous mobile messenger, 

to help merchants connect with their loyal customers.

Backed by over $10 million in funding, it launched Spoqa Japan in 2015 

and acquired its local rival Tmon Plus last December.

 

Beauty: Huiseoul

 

What started as a cosmetics boutique in a Seoul shopping district has expanded to a cosmetics exporter 

and then a personal beauty consultancy platform catering to a high-demand Chinese market. 

Sales representatives in Shanghai and Seoul work on a Mary Kay-type commission scheme 

and may process $5,000 each in sales per month. 

It now sees some 200,000 users and $90 million annual gross monthly volume, the company says.

Huiseoul has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Silicon Valley and China investors including Altos Ventures, 

Tekton Ventures and Kylin Investment, and expects another $10 million this year.

 

Retail: AprilSkin

 

Another beauty startup harnessing the K-cosmetics craze,

AprilSkin has grown in two years from a content-based multichannel network to a powerful brand. 

Its debut product was the wildly popular Magic Stone soap

which sold more than 2 million units in two years.

With five shops around Korea and distribution in some of the country’s largest cosmetics franchises, 

AprilSkin estimated sales of $35 million in 2016 and projects $90 million for this year.

 

Travel: Withinnovation

 

One of Korea’s biggest investments last year went to Withinnovation, 

a travel startup that booked 140 billion won ($118.9 million) 

in reservations for 30,000 accommodations last year. 

It claims 1.85 million monthly active users on its booking app Yeogieottae (meaning “how about here?”), 

the top startup-made free travel app on Google Play and a hit with twentysomethings.

This year it's integrating VR, AI and IoT to enter the "staytech" industry 

and develop a more comprehensive travel experience.

 

Cybersecurity: SEWorks

 

SEWorks was founded by a bunch of white-hat hackers and security pros 

who wanted to give app developers a full security system so they can focus on building their products. 

AppSolid, its cloud-based app security solution launched in March, 

can be added on after the app is built so developers don’t have to work around it.

Now straddling offices in Seoul and San Francisco, it has raised over $10 million 

from the likes of Softbank Ventures Korea, Qualcomm Ventures, Samsung Ventures and others.

 

AI: Minds Lab

 

From big data to machine learning to artificial intelligence, 

this three-year-old enterprise service startup is raking in $2.1 million a year. 

It’s a young but fast-rising competitor among Korea’s advanced technology startups,

backed by $5 million in investments.

This year, it kicks off an AI platform that caters to health care and education services 

while offering tools for developers and startups to utilize the technology. 

It has also developed a portable AI speaker called Ascar akin to Amazon’s Echo but can be used in cars.

 

Health: Zikto

 

Starting out with a posture-tracking smartwatch called Arki, 

Zikto won over crowdfunders to raise over $160,000 on Kickstarter in 2014. 

Now it’s going deeper into health care, working with insurance companies, 

hospitals and health officials to research ways to use wearable tech and develop a health care platform. 

It recently kicked off a “D2B” (device-to-benefit) service model 

that connects its IoT device with online and offline wellness services.

The startup estimated 1 billion won ($850,000) revenue last year and is valued at $15 million.

 

Social: Dot

 

A little startup named Dot is aiming to make a big impact on a marginalized community. 

Its affordable braille smartwatch for the vision impaired 

and deaf-blind is finally slated to hit the global market early this year. 

After catching a wave of popularity from appearing on a Korean “Shark Tank”-like startup reality show circa 2015, 

the team has been fine-tuning design on the Dot Watch and is ready to retail it for $290 starting in London.

Also in the works are a Dot Pad tablet and a Dot Mini education device targeted to developing countries. 

Ahead of its first product launch, the company is valued at $21 million.

 

Class of 2018

While fintech and cybersecurity startups are expected to take the spotlight this year, 

small investments are already pointing to a flurry of activity 

around augmented and virtual reality, the fastest growing sector by funding in 2016.

 

I’ll be checking out these seedling startups throughout the year. Stay tuned.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/elaineramirez/2017/01/17/10-south-korean-startups-breaking-out-in-2017/#6029f2c13551

 

 

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