Hello friends,

Welcome back from an extended summer break. Things are finally starting to heat up on the investment front in Korea, including a $64 million boost to Toss developer Viva Republica and M&As by Kakao Mobility, Yanolja and LG Household & Health Care.

We’re also seeing some interesting alliances including one between major banks and blockchain companies and the telecom companies teaming up against Kakao.

Here’s some watercooler chatter from August and September:

  • Big money for Viva Republica, Rainist
  • M&A for Kakao Mobility/Tago, Yanolja/eZee Technosys, LG Household & Health Care/New Avon, Nexon/Embark Studios AB
  • Naver spun off Naver Pay into a full-fledged financial company
  • KT users will be able to roam 5G in Italy, Switzerland and Finland
  • Dot is launching its long-awaited Braille tablet Dot Pad

Yolk, which makes personal solar-charging devices, is hiring a full-time marketing specialist.

This month’s news

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

MONEY

  • Hyundai Card raised funds from institutional investors by issuing 240 billion won ($198.23 million) in green bonds. The funds will be used for financial services related to Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors’ electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles.
  • Melbourne-based infrastructure investment firm IFM Investors closed two infrastructure debt funds worth a combined $420 million for South Korean investors. Eight Korean insurance firms have committed to the funds, and among them, Hanwha Asset Management and Hyundai Investments will manage funds worth $190 million and $230 million, respectively.
  • LG Household & Health Care acquired US beauty and personal care product maker New Avon for $125 million in cash.
  • Korean unicorn startup Viva Republica, the creator of mobile financial service platform Toss, secured $64 million at a valuation of $2.2 billion in a fundraising led by Hong Kong-based equity investment firm Aspex Management.
  • Lotte Group created a fund worth 62.7 billion won ($52.3 million) to support its startup accelerator arm Lotte Accelerator.
  • Rainist, a Korean financial technology startup known for its mobile personal financial management app Banksalad, raised 45 billion won ($37.1 million) from 10 venture investors in its series C funding round.
  • Danggeun Market, a Korean online secondhand marketplace, raised 40 billion won ($33.49 million) in a fundraising led by Altos Ventures and Goodwater Capital.
  • Code 42, a Korean autonomous car technology startup, raised 30 billion won in its pre-A series funding round from investors including Kia Motors, SK, LG, and CJ.
  • Carplat, a Korean startup that provides car rental services, raised 25 billion won from investors including Humax and PEF Stick Investment.
  • Tera Funding, a Korean startup that operates a peer-to-peer lending platform for real estate developers, raised 22 billion won ($18.2 million) in its series B funding round from multiple investors.
  • Rznomics, a Korean startup that develops RNA-based gene treatments, raised 12 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include Synergy IB Investment, SBI Investment, LSK Investment and KDB Bank.
  • 3 Billion, a Korean startup that provides AI-based gene diagnosis services for rare diseases, raised 11.4 billion won in its series B funding round.
  • Wanted, a social recruiting startup in Korea, raised US$9 million, following its US$9.8 million raise in 2017.
  • Crowdworks, a Korean AI learning-data platform startup, raised 10 billion won in its series B funding round. Investors include SW Investment, KEB Hana Bank and HB Investment.
  • Apartmentary, a Korean startup that provides interior services, raised 10 billion won in its series B funding round. Investors were KTB Network, KB Investment, Samsung Venture Investment and Iloom.
  • Ghost Kitchen, an ICT-based smart communal kitchen startup, raised 9.2 billion won from investors including Smilegate Investment, Mega Investment, and IMM Investment.
  • Blocko, a Korean blockchain startup, raised 9 billion won in its series B funding round. Investors include LB Investment, Shinhan Bank and KDB Hana Bank.
  • Huinno, a Korean healthcare startup, raised 8.3 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include Synergy IB Investment, Smilegate Investment and Shinhan Capital.
  • Qualson, a Korean operator of English-learning apps, raised 7.5 billion won ($6.3 million) in funding from Seoul-based venture capital house Capstone Partners.
  • Maxst, a Korean augmented reality technology startup, raised 7 billion won in its series B funding round from investors including Hana Financial Investment and Partners Investment.
  • SocialBean, a lifestyle goods manufacturer, raised 5 billion won from Kakao Ventures.
  • Hodoo Labs, a Korean education technology startup, raised 5 billion won in its series A investment from Core Asset Management.
  • GO Pizza, a Korean startup that sells pizza baked in fire pots, raised 4 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include DSC Investment, Capstone Partners, Big Basin Capital, etc.
  • Taling, a Korean talent-sharing platform startup, raised 4 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include Hana Ventures, Nvestor, Shinhan Alternative Investment Management, etc.
  • Share Treats, a Korean startup that provides mobile gift services for Southeast Asia, raised a total of 4 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors were Partners Investment, ES Investor, HB Investment, and SB Partners.
  • Onul-Hoi, a Korean same-day seafood delivery service app secured 4 billion won ($3.3 million) in series A funding from multiple investors to expand its delivery service and carry out marketing.
  • Quantec, a Korean hybrid asset management startup, raised 3 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include IBK Bank, Shinhan Capital, and Age Investment.
  • Common Computer, a Korean blockchain cloud startup, raised 3 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include KB Investment, HB Investment and Hana Ventures.
  • Samsung Next invested $2.7 million in a quantum computing startup called Aliro Technologies with a group of investors including Flybridge Capital Partners.
  • Allstay, a Korean startup that provides a platform for accommodation fee comparison, raised an additional 2.7 billion won from Tide Square.
  • STORE Camera, a Korean startup that provides apps for e-commerce vendors, raised 2.5 billion won in its series A funding round from investors such as Lotte Accelerator and SEMA Translink Investment.
  • Nanuda Kitchen, a Korean communal kitchen platform startup, raised 2.3 billion won in its series A funding round. Investors include IBK bank, The Wealth Investment and Intervalue Partners.
  • Ziptoss, a Korean platform that provides apartments, flats and rooms without brokerage commission, raised an additional 2 billion won from Shinhan Alternative Investment Management, totaling 4.3 billion won for its series A funding round.
  • Hello Factory, a Korean IoT-based communication platform startup, raised 2 billion won from DEV Sisters Ventures and Korea Credit Guarantee Fund.
  • Ringle, a Korean startup that provides an online platform for one-to-one English conversations, raised 1.9 billion won from investors including Must Investment.
  • Nota, a Korean startup that had developed an AI model compressing technology, raised 1.5 billion won in its pre-series A funding round from Stone Bridge Ventures.
  • ArtistsCard (Classic Manager), a Korean startup that provides B2C and B2B music services based on analyses of music data, raised 1 billion won in its series A funding round from Korea Credit Guarantee Fund.
  • Hyundai Motor will invest 1.16 million euros in French startup Aryballe Technologies to jointly develop digital olfactory sensor technology.
  • Bbodek, a Korean tableware rental/washing service startup, raised 1 billion won from Hana Ventures.
  • H201, a Korean startup that sells lifestyle appliances, raised 1 billion won from Coolidge Corner Investment.
  • Dansaek, a Korean startup that provides functional clothing for women, raised 900 million won in its pre-series A funding round. Investors were IBK bank and SBA.
  • Medihere, a Korean medical data O2O startup, raised 840 million won through its pre-series A funding round and financial support from the TIPs program.
  • Dr. Diary, a Korean diabetes management platform startup, raised 800 million won from New Flight and Alpen Route Asset Management.
  • ItsFactory raised 600 million won from Big Basin Capital. ItsFactory operates Zigdomae, a Korean startup that connects clothing factories and retail stores.
  • Simply O, a Korean online commerce startup, raised 600 million won from Bon Angels Venture Partners.
  • Minds Lab, an AI technology company, invested 500 million won in RedTie, a Korean hotel concierge chatbot startup.
  • Kakao Ventures and MYSC invested 300 million won ($24,800) in Namezip, a networking platform for people who want to share their hobbies and their living rooms.
  • Zakdang, a Korean billiard hall startup, raised 230 million won from Zentium Partners.
  • Learning Spoons, a Korean startup that provides adults with on-the-job education, raised 200 million won in private investment from startup investors and CFOs.
  • Korean micromobility startup MaaS Asia raised an undisclosed amount of funding from three venture investors, including Naver-backed TBT, the existing investor. It also merged with Alpaca, a micromobility market competitor, to expand its market presence among college students.
  • Xensor, a blockchain-based IoT platform startup, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Block Inside, a major Chinese blockchain fund.
  • Kakao Ventures invested an undisclosed amount in Heo Dak, a Korean startup that sells chicken breasts.
  • MoSQ, a Korean medical AI startup that provides solutions for ineffective clinical practices, raised an undisclosed amount from SpringCamp, a venture capital firm.

MOVES

  • Naver and Kakao will launch a joint insurance unit by year-end.
  • Naver spun off Naver Pay into a full-fledged financial company. Tentatively named Naver Financial, the new entity that is to be launched in November, will venture into a broader range of services, including lending, on top of the operations of Naver Pay.
  • Naver unveiled AI Call, its new AI technology which enables restaurants to receive reservations from customers without human assistance. Naver also unveiled its Table Order technology, which provides self-order services via QR codes attached to dining tables.
  • Kakao posted a teaser page for the release of its own cryptocurrency wallet “Klip” that will take off later this year.
  • Kakao Mobility acquired Tago Solutions in order to become a comprehensive mobility platform. This acquisition will allow Kakao Mobility to encompass the entire taxi market, ranging from micro-sized to big-sized taxis.
  • Kakao Mobility and Grab, Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing app, joined hands to cooperate via Splyt Technologies, a global mobility marketplace, to serve South Koreans visiting Vietnam.
  • Kakao Mobility acquired a taxi company following the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s announcement of new regulations designed to settle the conflict between conventional taxi service providers and ride-hailing platform operators.
  • KakaoPay launched its insurance service, which allows anyone who meet the right standards to get insurance conveniently on their smartphones.
  • LINE Pay entered a $10 million collaboration agreement with connected car startup OWiN to design and manufacture a mobile point of sale (PoS) terminal for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Line Corp. will merge Line Part Time Job, Line’s wholly-owned business dedicated to online recruiting for part-time jobs, by November.
  • NHN Korea Cyber Payment, South Korea’s largest payment gateway and network operator, announced a merger with its mobile payment solution subsidiary MC Pay with an aim to improve its governance structure.
  • NHN launched a cloud-based integrated work collaboration platform called TOAST Workplace, making inroads into the lucrative software-as-a-service (SaaS) market.
  • Nexon Co., a global leader in online games, announced its plan for the complete acquisition of Embark Studios AB. This acquisition emphasizes Nexon’s investment in Western game development and will strengthen its global position.
  • Netmarble, a major Korean mobile game developer, developed a new technology to automatically generate facial animations based on voice commands.
  • Samsung partnered with Xiaomi to develop the highest definition image sensor for mobile devices. This allows picture resolutions previously available only in a few top-tier DSLR cameras to be designed into smartphones.
  • Samsung Electronics unveiled its first fifth-generation (5G)-integrated mobile processor, dubbed Exynos 980, in its efforts to catch up with U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm.
  • Samsung Display Co. will invest 13 trillion won (US$10.86 billion) to turn around its slumping large organic light emitting diode (OLED) business. It is the single largest investment in the domestic display industry.
  • Samsung Securities acquired an Amazon logistics center in Germany for 260 billion won ($214 million). The deal is the third time for Samsung Securities to acquire an Amazon logistics center.
  • Samsung SDI signed an agreement with German firm Akasol to supply battery cells and modules for commercial vehicles’ power systems.
  • Samsung SDI, LG Chem, and SK Innovation expanded investments in the electric vehicle(EV) battery business in China in preparation for the Chinese government removing a trade barrier on them.
  • Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics increased their efforts to feature health functions on their digital platforms to expand into the lucrative digital healthcare market.
  • LG Electronics launched an LED 4K projector called LG 4K CineBeam, which offers a large-size projected display of up to 140 inches.
  • In a rare case of collaboration among rivals, SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus joined hands to create a joint mobile messaging service called Chatting Plus to compete with KakaoTalk, the country’s top messenger app.
  • LG Uplus and KT joined forces with Kakao to establish an autonomous driving environment and develop fifth-generation (5G) network-based services in the traffic-related field as a means to catch up with their bigger rival SK Telecom in the mobility services market.
  • LG Uplus partnered with mobile operator China Unicom to provide 5G telecom roaming service in China.
  • LG Chem partnered with US-based company Universal Display Corp. (UDC) to strengthen the competitiveness of its OLED panels by improving the performance of light emitting layers, a key OLED material.
  • LG Chem secured cathode materials for electric vehicles from Europe’s top supplier Umicore to ramp up its battery production in the region next year.
  • LG CNS introduced an artificial intelligence(AI)-based medical analysis system to the Public Health Center in northwestern Seoul in a project led by the Ministry of Science and ICT to expand the application of cloud computing services in the public sector.
  • LG CNS will develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-based language learning service, joining hands with local foreign language education firm YBM NET.
  • KT launched 5G roaming services in Italy, Switzerland and Finland, and its 5G subscribers surpassed one million.
  • KT signed a business agreement with Migu, China Mobile’s entertainment content subsidiary, to cooperate in new media content based on 5G telecommunications.
  • KT finished developing ‘Gigastealth’, its blockchain-based IoT security solution. With the commercialization of Gigastealth, KT hopes to continue leading the security market in various fields, including the IoT market.
  • KT launched a mobile application to help prevent epidemics in Ghana, Africa. Called the Global Epidemic Prevention Platform, the app allows users to access information on epidemic diseases.
  • Seven companies, including SK Networks and Qingdao-based Haier Co., have joined the preliminary bidding to acquire Woongjin Coway Co. which is roughly valued at 2 trillion won ($1.68 billion).
  • SK Telecom partnered with Microsoft to launch a test-run of a new cloud-based gaming platform utilizing the fifth-generation (5G) network in Korea.
  • SK Telecom decided to offer an artificial intelligence (AI) technology-based Alzheimer’s disease “prevention program” to seniors living alone as part of its corporate social responsibility to help the underprivileged.
  • SK Siltron Co., a semiconductor material producer under SK Group, will acquire DuPont’s silicon carbide (SiC) wafer business for US$450 million to boost its advanced material business.
  • SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics teamed up to develop an 8K television utilizing high-end fifth-generation (5G) networks. Once it is commercialized, users will be able to watch the highest-resolution images sent by wireless on 8K TVs.
  • SK Telecom and Ericsson succeeded in the first 5G standalone (SA) data communications in Korea. This type of communications can be defined as communications using nothing but pure 5G systems such as 5G SA terminals, base stations and core equipment.
  • SK Hynix developed an ultra-high speed DRAM called HBM2E DRAM. It is a high-bandwidth memory semiconductor, which has the fastest speed in the industry, and can be used for artificial intelligence (AI) devices and supercomputers.
  • SK hynix strengthened partnerships with U.S.-based microprocessor maker AMD to provide memory chip products such as DRAM and SSD fully compatible with AMD’s second-generation EPYC 7002 Series processors.
  • SK Hynix Inc. launched its “Gold S31” solid-state drive (SSD). It is the first of the company’s new SuperCore series of consumer SSDs, an internal drive lineup based on SK Hynix’s core technology.
  • SK Innovation raised 800 billion won “green loan” from banks in the United States, Europe and China in an effort to invest more in plants manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles(EVs) and lithium-ion battery separators (LiBS).
  • Shinhan Financial Group opened the nation’s first artificial intelligence (AI) based investment consulting company, Shinhan AI, which offers investment advice on its platform NEO.
  • Hana Financial Group launched a mobile payment service app in Thailand.
  • Hyundai Motor Group and automotive technology firm Aptiv set up a joint venture for self-driving cars.
  • Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors made a strategic investment for a 20 percent stake in Ionity, the largest EV fast charging technology infrastructure developer in Europe.
  • Hyundai Motor and KT jointly developed a fleet management system for electric transit buses in Korea and will apply the system to buses in Seoul within this year.
  • Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. signed a partnership with telecom operator KT Corp. on developing smart construction technologies. This will allow Hyundai E&C to improve productivity and bolster automation efforts in construction projects by using high-speed, well-secured 5G network technologies.
  • Hyundai Motor Group developed a wearable robot called Vest Exoskeleton (VEX) to help workers who perform overhead tasks for long hours.The VEX will enhance productivity and reduce worker fatigue by imitating the movement of human joints.
  • LG Uplus applied its IoT technology to Hyundai Motor’s electric bicycle and kickboard ride-sharing service, dubbed ZET, in a bid to offer optimized interconnection through advanced communications technology.
  • LG Electronics signed an agreement with Lumi, one of China’s largest home IoT device suppliers, to develop new artificial intelligence technologies and expand business in the smart home sector.
  • LG Electronics Inc. joined hands with Siemens to develop smart factories with an advanced manufacturing process.
  • Renault Samsung Motors stepped up its efforts to achieve mutual growth with partner firms by carrying out activities such as signing fair trade agreements, operating education programs to foster mutual growth, providing financial support and strengthening communication.
  • Korean food delivery unicorn Baedal Minjok launched an automated indoor delivery robot, Dilly. Baemin started a trial service with two robots at its own headquarters.
  • Shinsegae I&C opened its first automated store in a bid to compete against Amazon Go. Shinsegae I&C’s store allows shoppers to take the items they need and walk out of the store without interacting with a check-out system.
  • Microsoft and Chungbuk Technopark signed an agreement to work in partnership to create a smart safety control platform based on IoT and  AI technology.
  • Dongwha Enterprise acquired Panax Etec, a Korean battery electrolyte maker, paving the way for its move into the rechargeable battery business.
  • Shinhan Card will introduce a facial recognition service through which cardholders can pay without a credit card or smartphone app.