South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP. The country is a global leader in many innovation and technology-driven fields and has been named by Bloomberg Innovation Index as the most innovative country for six consecutive years. The structural transformation, policy reforms along with improvement in the business environment and policies incentivizing investment in innovation have significantly contributed to South Korea’s economic success.
A member of the OECD, South Korea is a highly-developed country that offers its citizen’s world’s fastest internet connection speeds and a top-notch health care system. The country is also famous for its influential pop-culture, the Korean wave that swept the whole world.
South Korea is home to some of the world’s biggest MNCs – Samsung, Hyundai, SK, and LG. South Korea also boasts of some unicorn companies such as Toss, Coupang, and Woowa Brothers. Seoul, the high-tech city of South Korea has nearly 60% of the startups and efforts are being put in to build a robust startup ecosystem backed by Government initiatives and innovation. Moreover, Seoul has over 50 universities that offer a lot of fresh talent for startups.
2019 was a good year for South Korea based startups with 7 companies securing more than US$50M in a funding round.
|Organization Name||Last Funding Amount Currency (in USD)||Last Funding Date|
|KB Financial Group||$500,000,000||2019-06-26|
KB Financial Group was established in 2008 and is an essential player in the South Korean financial services sector. One of the leading financial institutions of South Korea, KB Financial Group possesses the most extensive customer base. With the largest branch network in South Korea, the group produces strong capital skills and has the benefit of strong brand loyalty. The group has total assets of more than 342 billion US dollars.
By 2012, the group had ten domestic subsidiaries- securities, banking, credit cards, asset management, life insurance, venture capital, real estate trust, data system, credit information, and savings bank. Besides that, four overseas subsidiaries in England, Hong Kong, China, and Cambodia. In 2019, KB Financial Group raised a total of US$500M in a Post-IPO Debt funding round.
This South Korean cryptocurrency exchange platform was established in 2014. It emerged as the number one cryptocurrency exchange in the world in terms of total transaction volume in 2017. It is one of the leading exchange platforms for Ethereum’s currency, Ether. On April 15, 2019, Bithumb raised US$ 200 million in a Series A funding round. ST Blockchain Fund was the sole investor. Presently, the company is operated by BTC Korea.com Co. Ltd.
In 2005, the company began providing travel content and accommodation information with approximately US$42K. In the last ten years, the company has recorded an annual growth rate of 150% without any foreign investment. The services include- Yanolja Pension, Yanolja Accommodation, and Yanolja Dangil. Besides accommodation information, the company also provides a reservation platform, budget hotel franchise, and travel materials. The company initially specialized in motels, which means working with operators to help improve the image and conditions of what was generally considered ‘seedy’ locations. In a Series D funding round in June 2019, Yanolja raised US$180M from Booking Holdings and GIC.
Developed by J2 Interactive, MX Player provides the ability to watch offline videos and allows users to stream exclusive content as an OTT platform. MX Player is the largest local video platform in the world with a base of 500+ million worldwide including 350+ million in India and has been consistently ranked among the top 10 Android apps since 2012. In a Series A funding round in October 2019, MX Player raised US$110.8M Tencent Holdings and Times Internet
A blockchain subsidiary of Kakao (Korea’s largest mobile platform), Ground X boasts of over 50 million users. The company believes in the potential of a decentralized future and its goal is to study and develop blockchain technology to industrialize and implement it in the real world. Currently, blockchain technology lacks services that can be experienced in the real world compared to its enormous potential. This serves as a significant obstacle for blockchain technology to develop in the industry. To solve this problem, a scalable blockchain platform is necessary for addition to a meaningful decentralization application (Dapp) with a scale for Kakao. Ground X seeks to address these two challenges and aims to be a global leader in the blockchain industry. In March 2019, the company raised US$90M from Ledger Capital and Crescendo Equity Partners as a part of Initial Coin Offering.
Established in 2016, One Store is a Korean technology company that develops and operates a smartphone app store with the same name. It is a mobile app market that allows its users to download apps that are limited in Korea only. Headquartered in Pungyo Techno Valley, which is one of the largest complexes in the technical industry, the company is run by mobile carriers SK Telecom, KT, LG Uplus, and tech company Naver.
One Store has combined four different platforms for Android-based smartphones and other mobile devices. To use One Store, users need to upgrade one of the apps. The company also provides games, apps, mobile commerce, e-books, and video content to 35 million members. In a Venture Round in November 2019, the company raised a total of ₩100B (US$85M approx) from SK Securities and Kiwoom Investment
A South Korea-based mobile service platform, Toss is operated by Viva Republica Co. Ltd. It is operational since 2015 as a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment service. Since its launch, Toss garnered over 13 million app downloads and processed over USD$10 billion in P2P payments. Toss partners with incumbent financial institutions and other FinTech players to provide users with services that cover all facets of their financial lives, including payments, loans, investments, credit score management, spending analysis, and insurance products. In a Series F round in August 2019, Toss raised US$64M. Sequoia Capital China and GIC are the most recent investors.
Stay tuned to our Investor darling series on AsiaTechDaily. We would be covering all major countries in Asia.