Hello friends,

Happy April. It has been a slow news month, save for Samsung’s Galaxy Fold blowout. 

Here’s a shortlist of news from this month:

  • Big money for Kurly
  • M&A for SKT/Incross
  • Samsung will delay the release of its Galaxy Fold smartphone over display issues
  • Google will operate cloud service data centers in South Korea by 2020
  • Big banks Shinhan, Woori and NongHyup pledge fintech startup support projects

This month’s news

News and features on the Korean startup/tech scene from around the web.

MONEY

  • March 2019 investments in startups totaled 29 cases and was worth 61.8 billion won (16 cases of disclosure). This year’s investment in startups is worth 285.4 billion won, including 152.9 billion won in January and 70.7 billion won in February.
  • LG Group has invested $19 million in U.S. start-ups since October. To secure new growth engines, the company has been making heavy investments in U.S. start-ups through the group’s venture fund, LG Technology Ventures.
  • Kurly, which runs the fast-rising online door-to-door grocery service Market Kurly, has raised 100 billion won (USD$88 million) in Series D funding from Sequoia Capital China, Global Venture Partners, and Mirae Asset Venture Investment.
  • Class101, a South Korean hobby-based social networking platform operator startup, received a 12 billion won (US$10.53 million) series A round investment joined by Seoul-based early-stage venture capital firm SoftBank Ventures Asia, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, KT Investment, Naver affiliate Spring Camp and California-based Strong Ventures.
  • Cashfree, an India-based startup that specializes in making corporate banking services more accessible and easier to use, has raised $5.5 million Series A round by Smilegate Investment, the fund affiliated with Korean games firm Smilegate.
  • DeepSearch attracted 3 billion won investment from Stone Bridge Capital, Korea Investment Partners, Hyundai Technology Investment and Laguna Investment. DeepSearch is a fintech start-up that uses machine learning to automate investment analysis processes that had been done manually with complex data to produce results in a simple question-and-answer manner.
  • DeepNatural AI, a language resource collection and processing startup for artificial intelligence, has raised 500 million won from Bon Angels Investment Partners.

MOVES

  • Naver Corp. aims to focus on its cloud computing business for public and financial service firms to take on Amazon Inc. and other leading service providers in the burgeoning sector.
  • Kakao Corp. has joined hands with what3words Ltd. to insert the London-based startup’s innovative geo-coding system into its mapping service, Kakao Map.
  • Kakao IX will strengthen its character business in Japan in collaboration with Japanese fashion brand Wego. Kakao IX, the character licensing arm of Kakao formerly known as Kakao Friends, is working with Wego shops in a number of cities, including Tokyo, Fukuoka and Osaka.
  • Samsung Electronics has decided to postpone the global release of the Galaxy Fold foldable smartphone after display issues were uncovered by various tech reviewers.
  • Samsung Electronics introduced the first rotating camera with the launch of its midrange Galaxy A80 smartphone model, designed for the so-called “era of live.”
  • Samsung Electronics will invest 61.7 billion won (USD$54 million) in the first half of the year in 44 research projects including pioneering studies to find new engineering solutions to environmental pollution as well as breakthrough projects in artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Samsung Electronics Co. will invest 133 trillion won (US$115.7 billion) by 2030 to expand its non-memory and foundry business to take the top spot in the high-tech and lucrative sector.
  • Samsung SDS is joining forces with Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra in a bid to enter the overseas blockchain market with its Nexledger blockchain platform.
  • LG Electronics Inc. plans to develop robots that can serve food to customers in restaurants. The robots will be deployed to CJ Foodville Corp.’s selected restaurants later this year to serve customers and create futuristic experiences.
  • LG Chem will invest a total of $2 million in five startups based in the United States and United Kingdom as part of efforts to co-develop innovative battery technologies.
  • LG Uplus has launched a project to improve inconveniences the disabled face in their daily lives through artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) technology.
  • KT has applied its tech-centric hotel service offering artificial intelligence (AI)-based features around the clock to the hotel heyy seogwipo operated by Yanolja on Jeju Island.
  • KT will work with Kakao Mobility to develop smart-mobility services by developing smarter mobility experiences from navigation to chauffeur services and a service that helps drivers find a parking spot through GiGA Drive, KT’s connected-car platform service, and Kakao Mobility’s Kakao T.
  • KT launched its fifth-generation (5G) network-based blockchain technology brand “GiGA Chain” and related blockchain-based services that can enhance security and help prevent cyberattacks on connected devices.
  • SK Telecom has acquired a controlling stake in Seoul-based digital advertisement company Incross, with the aim of expanding into the media and commerce market.
  • SK Telecom will offer a wide range of mixed reality game and media content for its 5G customers to take advantage of its new mobile network.
  • SK Telecom will build a “smart” Korea Military Academy (KMA), featuring high-end fifth-generation (5G) networks, enabling cadets to conduct military exercises using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.
  • SK Telecom released an artificial intelligence (AI) speaker featuring a 7-inch display for the first time among domestic companies. The nation’s top mobile carrier said its new NUGU Nemo AI speaker will improve user convenience significantly as it offers visual information in addition to auditory information.
  • SK Telecom and Hyundai Motor Group have banded together to nurture mobility and connected-car startups. SK Telecom and Hyundai Motor Group will launch the “Zero One True Innovation Accelerator Program” to discover and invest in tech service startups in the fields of mobility and connected cars.
  • SK hynix has completed the expansion of its current C2F DRAM production line in Wuxi, China, for technological migration.
  • A South Korean fintech startup accelerator set up as part of Woori Bank’s 130 billion won ($114.56 million) startup investment pledge will grant firms access to an open-banking sandbox powered by cloud infrastructure.
  • NongHyup Financial Group has opened the industry’s biggest innovation campus that encompasses research and development, and fintech startup centers. The fintech center will house more than 30 startups that will develop and commercialize their own business ideas, using technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analysis and blockchain.
  • Shinhan Futures Lab, a South Korean innovation hub owned by Shinhan Financial Group, is poised to ramp up support for startups by teaming up with Korean fund of funds management firm Korea Growth Investment Corp. Shinhan Financial Group subsidiary Shinhan Card and Visa Korea forged an alliance to promote the fintech industry and startups in Korea.
  • KB Kookmin Bank has introduced a new service that allows customers to make withdrawals through hand recognition, instead of having to use a bankbook, stamp or password.
  • South Korean conglomerate CJ Group has opened a new round of its startup incubation program, dubbed Product Challenge 101, in partnership with the Ministry of SMEs and Startups and the Korea Institute of Startups & Entrepreneurship Development.
  • Microsoft Korea opened its first Technology Center Seoul where the company will help corporate clients design office solutions to best suit their business.
  • Uber Technologies Inc. will be launching a cab-hailing service in Seoul. Uber Taxi, available for all Seoulites, automatically assigns cabs at the nearest location when customers hail a taxi. Information on the driver will be displayed in the app once the taxi is assigned.
  • Google plans to operate new data centers for cloud services in South Korea by early 2020, as the global tech giant seeks to diversify its business amid growing competition in the market.
  • Google Play introduced reward points in South Korea, people who purchase items and other virtual goods in apps from Google Play will now be able to get points as rewards.
  • Amazon Web Services pledged to enhance cooperation with its South Korean partners with a focus on the finance industry, as competition intensifies over the country’s cloud computing market.
  • Portuguese venture firm Edisoft has been selected as a provider of a unified software solution for the leading defense company LIG Nex1 in South Korea to be used in the KOMPSAT-6 Satellite.

EMERGING

  • German personal care giant Beiersdorf has chosen five South Korean early-stage startups to join its accelerator program at its new innovation hub in Seoul. The innovation hub will house its first batch of K-beauty startups Reziena, Mesquare, Limese, LYCL and PANDA.
  • Korean health care startup Sky Labs aims to launch its Cardio Tracker, or CART, a ring-type wearable device that detects a patient’s heart rhythm 24/7 using Internet of Things technologies.
  • Bike-sharing app Elecle has officially launched, allowing users to search and borrow electric bicycles in Mapo District and the area around Sinchon Station, both in western Seoul. Elecle received investment from Socar, Korea’s largest car sharing app, last month and is Socar’s third “mobility” service alongside Tada.

CRYPTO/BLOCKCHAIN

  • South Korea’s state arms procurement agency will push to build a blockchain-based platform to enhance transparency and efficiency in conducting defense acquisition projects. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) seeks to use the blockchain platform to share data about military acquisition projects with all relevant government organizations and to prevent any data falsifications.
  • South Korean blockchain startup Human Plus has unveiled its plans to develop a “human-centric” cryptocurrency payment platform. Human Plus claim the new HupayX system will only charge a 0.5% processing fee per transaction, significantly lower than VISA or Mastercard fees.
  • Samsung SDS is joining forces with Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra in a bid to enter the overseas blockchain market with its Nexledger blockchain platform.
  • South Korean blockchain startup MediBloc has finished developing a platform solution for Kyung Hee Dental Healthcare Center, the first in Korea to be implemented in a dental healthcare center.

INFRA/R&D