Hello friends,

It’s one of my favorite times of year: World Series baseball. My team, the LA Dodgers, is out, but I’m rooting for the Washington Nationals — and who would have thought that a Korean startup was so strongly connected to their run up to the Fall Classic?

It turns out “Baby Shark,” the adorable and sickeningly catchy children’s song more viral than “Gangnam Style,” has become a rally cry at Nats Stadium, thanks to outfielder Gerardo Parra choosing it as his walk-up music during the team’s summer slump. It seems to have brought good luck as the Nats have surged to the final stage of the season. The winner of Game 7 will be determined by the time you read this.

It’s little known that “Baby Shark,” which I spotted going viral in Indonesia two years ago, was born in Seoul at the studios of Korean education startup SmartStudy. If your product causes an outright craze among children and adults worldwide, that’s a startup success as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s what else piqued my interest this month:

  • Big money for WeMakePrice, Carplat
  • M&A for Cognex/SuaLab
  • Cops used a crypto trail to take down a Korean-led child porn network
  • Woowa Bros., of Baedal Minjok fame, launched a Korean TikTok called Thiiing
  • Cybersecurity startup Aton listed on Kosdaq
  • Korea will commercialize fully automated vehicles by 2027, a world’s first

This month’s news

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

MONEY

  • WeMakePrice, an e-commerce platform owned by Wonder Holdings, secured 400 billion won ($334 million) in funds from existing investors, Nexon Korea and IMM Investment.
  • KT Corp. will invest 300 billion won in the next four years to develop advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in four areas — language, image, analysis and problem solving — to increase the number of AI-enabled devices to 100 million by 2025.
  • Carplat, which provides rent-a-car services, raised 199.6 billion won in its series C funding round from investors such as Humax, PEF Stick Investment, etc.
  • Samsung Electronics will fund 33 billion won ($27.6 million) for research on future technologies in the fields of basic science, materials and information communications technology.
  • RIDI, which provides mobile e-book services, raised 33 billion won in its series E funding round from investors such as Hana Ventures, Atinum Investment, Company K Partners, and Korea Investment & Securities.
  • Balance Hero, a fintech startup, raised 26 billion won in its series C funding round from investors such as IMM Investment, IBK Capital, SB Partners and Shinhan Capital.
  • Mathpresso, which provides edu-tech platforms, raised $14.5 million in its series B funding round from Legend Capital, New Paradigm Investment, and InterBest.
  • Honest Fund, which provides P2P financial services, raised 12 billion won in its series B funding round led by DS Asset.
  • Hdac Technology, a blockchain-focused unit of Hyundai Motors, established a US$10 million blockchain investment fund that will be used for launching its mainnet in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Market Designers, a Korean startup that provides an on-demand matching platform, raised 10.4 billion won in its series B funding round from investors including Kiwoom Investment, Solidus Investment, NH Investment & Securities, and DT & Investment.
  • The White Communication (TWC), which provides AI operation solutions, raised 10 billion won from UTC Investment.
  • Logispot, a startup that provides B2B transportation management systems, raised 10 billion won in its series B funding round. Investors include Mega Investment, Alpen Route Asset Management, UTC Investment, IGIS Asset Management, etc.
  • IconLoop, a blockchain startup, raised 10 billion won in its series A funding round from investors including TS Investment and Korea Technology Finance Corporation.
  • Leferi, a beauty MCN startup, raised 10 billion won from Shinhan Investment, Aju IB Investment, NH Investment, and GS Home Shopping.
  • Adapt, which provides social network-based e-commerce services, secured 10 billion won from Aju IB Investment, Innopolis, KB Securities, Mirae Asset Venture, Hyundai Venture Investment and KDB Capital.
  • Petfriends, a Korean startup that operates a mall for pet goods, raised 10 billion won in investment from investors such as GS Home Shopping, Korea Omega, Murex Partners, Kingsley Ventures, Time Wise Investment, etc.
  • Kasa, a Korean prop-tech startup, raised a total of 7 billion won in its series A funding round from investors including Woomi Constructions and Shinhan Investment.
  • Clobot, which provides intelligent robot services, raised 5.5 billion won in its series A funding round.
  • Zikooin, a food-tech startup, raised 4 billion won from Primer Sazze Partners, SG Dine Hill, Michigan Venture Capital, A Ventures, and Yellow Dog.
  • WeKeep, a startup that provides physical distribution services, raised 3 billion won in its series A funding round from TS Investment and Dae Gyung Investment.
  • Salted Venture, a Korean startup that provides customized healthcare solutions, raised 2.5 billion won from Shinhan Investment, Koramco Fund, Michigan Venture Capital, and Enlight Ventures.
  • Albam, a Korean startup that provides data analysis for convenient worklife, raised 2.5 billion won from investors such as Capstone Partners and Geon Investment.
  • Heybit, a startup that provides advice on bitcoin investment, raised 2.3 billion won in its series A funding found from investors including Kakao Ventures, DSC Investment and Bass Investment.
  • Wizschool, a Korean startup that provides coding education for students, raised 2 billion won from Capstone Partners.
  • WineSOFT, a Korean startup that provides software solutions, raised 1 billion won from the 2nd Superman Fund, a fund created by the Kyunggi Province to accelerate promising startups.
  • FASSKER, a Korean startup that operates a digital fashion magazine, raised 800 million won in its pre-series A funding round from White Investment and InfoBank.
  • Our, a Korean media commerce startup, raised 600 million won in its pre-series A funding round from investors were Primer Sazze Partners and Spigen.
  • Musma, a Korean startup that provides a platform for construction asset management, raised 600 million won in its pre-series A funding round from Mirae Holdings, Bluepoint Partners, and Busan United Holdings.
  • Remake Digital, a Korean startup that provides an AI-based advertisement design platform, raised 500 million won from Fast Investment and Kakao Ventures.
  • Dazayo, a startup that revamps empty houses, raised more than 200 million won by crowdfunding on Wadiz.
  • PlusTV, a Korean startup that provides digital signage kiosks, raised an undisclosed amount in its pre-series A funding round from investors such as Primer Sazze Partners, CNT Tech, and Primer.
  • Philophos, a Korean startup that develops Optical Coherence Tomography(OCT), raised an undisclosed amount in its pre-series A funding round from Bluepoint Partners, Etri Holdings, and HtY Investment.
  • Naver D2 Startup Factory (D2SF), a startup accelerator, invested an undisclosed amount in three Korean startups  Espreso Media, an AI startup, Soundable, a digital health tech startup, and Evar, a mobility startup.
  • Samsung‘s in-house venture capital Samsung Catalyst Fund invested an undisclosed amount in IonQ, a quantum computing company.

MOVES

  • Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance and KakaoPay formed a partnership to establish a digital insurance firm. By combining Kakao Pay’s IT technology and platform influence with Samsung Fire’s insurance business, they aim to meet the demands for nonlife insurance that are expanding along with changes in lifestyle.
  • Samsung Electronics expanded its contract-based chip producing business ecosystem by strengthening its customer base as part of a plan to catch up with world leader TSMC.
  • Samsung Display invested 13.1 trillion won ($10.9 billion) in establishing the world’s first production line for quantum dot-based display panels over the next five years.
  • LG U+ demonstrated its 5G “U+ Smart Drone” featuring artificial intelligence (AI)-based voice recognition functions and real-time high-definition video transmission.
  • LG Innotek developed the industry’s first 5G communication module for autonomous cars based on a Qualcomm chip. The module is vital to real-time road information sharing, precise location measurement, car-to-everything (V2X) communications and large-capacity data transfers.
  • SK Telecom and its subsidiary IDQ will build quantum cryptography-based communication networks one after another in Europe and the United States.
  • Hanwha Q Cells, Korea’s leading solar cells and modules manufacturer, will begin using an artificial intelligence-based production system around 2021 to beef up its competitiveness in the photovoltaic market.
  • Kevin Warsh, a renowned economist, academic, financier and former senior U.S. government official, joined Coupang’s board of directors.
  • E-Land Group joined hands with Viva Republica, which runs mobile financial service platform Toss, to participate in the fintech startup-led consortium to start an internet-only bank business.
  • Woowa Brothers launched Thiiing, a Korean version of Tiktok where users can create short, fun videos.
  • Yanolja, a Korean unicorn that provides accommodation services, became the largest shareholder of ZEN Rooms, a Singapore-headquartered budget hotel startup. Through its alliance with ZEN Room, Yanolja became the first and the largest full-stack hospitality company in Southeast Asia.
  • Cafe24, a Korean e-commerce platform, integrated Shopee Singapore to its “Multimarket Management” service to make it easier to connect to 650 million Southeast Asian consumers. Shopee Singapore is one of the most actively used online marketplaces in Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

EMERGING

  • Aton, a Korean startup that develops secure element technology for cybersecurity of financial institutions, began trading on Kosdaq after raising 38.6 billion won ($32.5 million) in an initial public offering underwritten by NH Investment & Securities and KB Securities. This was the first listing of equity crowdfunding-backed startup on the second-tier bourse Kosdaq for Korea.
  • SuaLab, a Korean startup that develops deep-learning software for industry analysis, was acquired by Cognex, a vision software company.
  • bbb.B(Baobab Brolly), a Korean startup that provides premium IoT umbrellas, exceeded its Kickstarter goal in two weeks. It’s giving customers a 22% commission for referrals for the ongoing campaign.
  • 42Maru, a Korean startup specializing in question-answering artificial intelligence, signed a memorandum of understanding with Singaporean consulting firm Intage to expand its artificial intelligence business in Southeast Asia.
  • Mercedes-Benz Korea signed an MOU with Seoul Startup Hub to collaborate on supporting promising Korean startups
  • Busan Center for Creative Economy & Innovation chose five startups for its IoT Living Lab Support Program, which aims to develop tech-based solutions for problems that local residents face. The startups were SignLab, ROHA, SY Inotech, UT Infra, and You First.
  • Woori Financial Group launched a fintech startup incubator called Digital Innovation Lab in Vietnam. Digital Innovation Lab kicked off on Oct. 24 with five fintech startups in Hanoi.

CRYPTO/BLOCKCHAIN

INFRA/R&D

TRENDS/FEATURES

  • Korean retailers are taking action on environment protection. Coupang, Market Kurly, and Hello Nature replaced plastic with paper for packaging, and SSG.com, Baedal Minjok, and Vroong replaced gasoline-powered motorbikes with electric motorbikes.
  • Korean blockchain companies are rushing to Vietnam to find business opportunities and new revenue sources in the Southeast Asian market, which has emerged as a global blockchain innovation hub.