Hello friends,

Happy summer! Which, in Chicago, means it’s 50 degrees. The tech scene has picked back up with public and private investments as well as Ground X setting a launch date.

Here’s a shortlist of news from this month:

  • Big money for Noom, SendBird, Market Kurly
  • M&A for SK Group/Vingroup JSC
  • Yello Mobile has ended legal disputes with its partners/subsidiaries
  • Kakao’s blockchain platform Ground X will launch June 27
  • Korea will spend $264M to build three satellites

This month’s news

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

MONEY

  • POSCO inked a partnership with the Ministry of SMEs and Startups and the Korea Venture Capital Association to inject 1 trillion won ($837 million) into start-ups by 2024.
  • South Korean financial firms plan to spend a total of 585 billion won (US$492 million) this year to adopt new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics.
  • South Korea will spend 240 billion won (US$204 million) in the next 10 years to develop key semiconductor technologies that can alter the paradigm of the chip industry as a whole.
  • Grofers, a Gurugram-based grocery startup, raised $200 million (Rs 1,406 crore) in funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund. The fundraise, the largest ever for the startup, saw the participation of South Korea-based KTB Ventures, its newest investor, as well as existing investors Tiger Global Management and Sequoia Capital.
  • Indonesia-based venture capital firm Kejora Ventures, together with South Korea-based InterVest, has raised more than US$100 million for its third fund. Korea Development Bank, Korea Venture Investment Corporation, NH Investment and Securities, Industrial Bank of Korea, Barito Pacific Group of Indonesia are among the limited partners.
  • Noom, a mobile healthcare company with 48 million members worldwide, has attracted investment worth $58 million (about 67.7 billion won) from Sequoia Capital, Eagle Ventures, and Samsung Venture Investment, as well as renowned VCs such as Jan Koum, Tony Xu, Josh Kushner, Scooter Braun and Fred Ehrsam.
  • SendBird, a US-based startup devoted to customizable chat and messaging API service, raised an additional $50 million, bringing its total Series B funding round to $102 million.
  • South Korean online grocery delivery startup Market Kurly has raised an additional W35 billion ($30 million) from private equity firm Hillhouse Capital in its ongoing Series D funding round.
  • AmazeVR, a virtual reality content creation platform provider, has secured an additional US$7 million in a fundraise led by Japan’s Mirae Asset Group.
  • Extriber, a Seoul-based startup dedicated to operating mobile tour package recommendation platform Tripstore, has raised 7.1 billion won ($6.1 million) series B round funding. The round investment was joined by DS Asset Management, KT Investment and Kakao Ventures.
  • Medical IP, a South Korean company that specializes in 3D bio simulators, raised 5.6 billion won worth of Series B investments from Starset, SJ Investment Partners and Neoplux. The company received positive reviews for its medical image 3D modeling platform that uses artificial intelligence, VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Advanced Reality) and its potential to be used as an indicator for international standardization.
  • South Korea’s financial conglomerate Mirae Asset Financial Group has invested $5 million in Indian food delivery service startup Shadowfax, betting on the growth potential of the world’s second most populated market.

MOVES

  • Naver is going all out to target the mobile payment service market in Japan through its subsidiary Line in tandem with the country’s policy to move toward a cashless society.
  • Naver will nurture its live video streaming service V Live as a global entertainment platform, offering more realistic and immersive viewing experiences in the era of fifth-generation (5G) networks. The nation’s largest portal operator said V Live will accelerate its global market expansion this year, targeting Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
  • Naver V Live will introduce a virtual reality (VR) service in the third quarter. The service will be released as a separate app that can be played on the Oculus VR headset.
  • Kakao is planning to expand its insurance services and its move is likely to accelerate the growth of the domestic online insurance market.
  • Kakao Pay will expand its offline payment business by launching an app this year so more users can use credit cards through the one-click payment system at offline stores.
  • Kakao launched an upgraded version of its translation service and extended the number of languages offered, with an aim to improve its share in the translation market here where it falls behind its rivals Google and Naver.
  • Samsung Electronics Service will introduce a video consultation service for customers who experience problems. When customers contact, a text message with a link to the video system will be sent. It will connect customers with service engineers, allowing them to show problematic parts of their products directly to the engineers.
  • Samsung Electronics Co. will launch a QLED television in vertical display next month to target tech-savvy youngsters with innovative viewing experiences.
  • Samsung Electronics showcased its first vertical TV model as part of its lifestyle lineup to target millennials.
  • Samsung Electronics Co. introduced the world’s highest-resolution image sensor, with 64 megapixels for smartphones, to meet the growing demand for mobile devices with better image quality.
  • Samsung Electronics has launched two new USB Type-C power delivery (PD) controllers for more efficient charging. The SE8A and MM101 meet the latest USB specification, USB-PD 3.0, for fast-charging. They will be able to authenticate whether a connected device is certified with USB-PD 3.0 and can charge accordingly.
  • LG Electronics has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) chip that will be inserted into its consumer electronics goods. The AI chip contains a processor dubbed Neural Engine designed to function like a brain’s neural network, improving the data processing of its deep learning algorithm.
  • Shinhan Bank, has launched a blockchain-enabled lending platform to speed up the loan process. Shinhan Bank’s blockchain-powered loan system intends to boost cost and time efficiencies in the lending process, reportedly enabling the public to apply for loans online and get their credits without face-to-face interaction.
  • Hyundai Mobis is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The auto parts maker, it joined MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program, a program dedicated to promoting mutually beneficial relationships between MIT and corporations worldwide.
  • Hyundai Engineering & Construction (Hyundai E&C) won a letter of intent for a $2.45 billion worth order to build a seawater supply facility in Iraq.
  • GS Home Shopping, a South Korean leading home shopping channel operator, has invested $1.2 million in Luxstay, a Vietnamese home-sharing platform that targets the Southeast Asian market.
  • South Korean conglomerate SK Group purchased 6.1% of Vietnam’s largest firm, Vingroup JSC, for US$1 billion as it looks to expand its investments in the country.
  • SK Telecom won seven of 28 award categories in the Telecom Asia Awards 2019, one of Asia’s longest-running awards for the telecommunications industry.
  • SK Telecom and the Seoul City government have agreed to develop a 5G-based map for self-driving cars to make the capital the first first global city to use the 5G network in public transit.
  • SK Telecom and Yonsei University Health System are building a hospital utilizing 5G telecommunications technologies. It will be the first 5G digital innovation hospital.
  • SK Telecom Co. will create a high-definition (HD) map based on its 5G network for autonomous driving in Songdo.
  • SK Telecom Co. and Microsoft Corp. are collaborating in cutting-edge ICT areas, including 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing, to foster new business opportunities.
  • SK Telecom Co., in cooperation with Daedong Industrial Co., South Korea’s largest manufacturer of agricultural machinery, has developed an autonomous rice transplanter for commercial use. It is country’s first autonomous agricultural machinery to be commercialized using mobile communications technology.
  • KT has discussed business cooperation with Russia’s biggest telecom firm, Mobile TeleSystems, to boost their partnership in the fifth-generation cellular network.
  • TmaxSoft unveiled its new cloud computing services targeting the global market and announced its bid to list the shares of its affiliates on the NASDAQ by 2023.
  • Yello Mobile has ended legal disputes with its major partners and is poised for takeoff. In its first quarter business report, the business group said lawsuits filed by its major partners, including Alpen-Route Asset Management and Coinone, have been brought to a happy end.
  • Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator Plug and Play Tech Center plans to launch operations in South Korea by the first half of 2020.

EMERGING

  • Healthcare startup Lineus Medical of Fayetteville looks to receive clearance to sell its IV device in South Korea, where IV usage is twice per capita of the United States. The startup is working with the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to receive the clearance for SafeBreak Vascular and to establish a distribution network in Korea, said Vance Clement, CEO of Lineus Medical. SafeBreak Vascular is the company’s first product, and it’s expected to help prevent IV lines from failing.
  • AD, a startup in Busan, has developed a service that allows users to view a building after completion with ultra-high-resolution images that are close to reality.
  • 12 Korean biotechnology companies will participate in the 2019 Bio International Convention, which is a large-scale international biotechnology exhibition to be hosted by Biotechnology Innovation Organization in Philadelphia from June 3 (local time) for four days. These companies will showcase their technologies and R&D portfolios at the Korean Pavilion set up by KOTRA.

CRYPTO/BLOCKCHAIN

INFRA/R&D

  • The world’s first combination of 5G next-generation mobile technology and autonomous driving will be publicly demonstrated in Seoul next month.
  • Free Wi-Fi services will be available on 4,200 public city buses nationwide.
  • South Korea will spend 300 billion won (US$264 million) on developing three medium-sized next-generation satellites to improve the country’s knowledge of space science and permit better management of agricultural resources and the environment.
  • South Korea will rev up efforts to develop military robots mimicking animals and other creatures to better brace for evolving future battlefields.
  • South Korea plans to develop cutting-edge smart radar technology that will enable autonomous driving sensors, indoor navigation, disaster management, and security. The Ministry of Science and ICT opened radio research centers in four locations including Seoul National University (SNU), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), and Chung-Ang University to begin research this month.
  • Seoul-based Samsung Medical Center (SMC) has signed a technology transfer agreement with Medinno, a local biotech firm, over investigational stem cell therapy to treat hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) in infants and severe intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in premature babies.
  • The South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT is going to run a follow-up study on blockchain regulations. The study is called the “Blockchain Regulation Improvement Study Group” and is part of an initiative run by the government’s science and tech arm to figure out how regulations could be improved so that blockchain tech could achieve widespread institutional adoption.
  • A South Korean pan-governmental meeting was reportedly held to establish closer monitoring of the country’s cryptocurrency market amid the recent sharp uptick in crypto valuations.