Bibimbap: the ultimate comfort food 🥘

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When low carbs pay off 

Telecom giant KT is acquiring Rainist, the company behind fintech platform Bank Salad, for $135 million.

Backstory: Founded in 2012, Bank Salad offers users a one-stop-shop to manage their finances. The application provides personalized recommendations by pooling information from various financial service providers, enabling users to monitor their budget, credit and assets.

KT plans to merge Bank Salad with their virtual bank subsidiary, K-Bank, to revamp their financial business. K-Bank, one of the Korea’s three virtual banks (alongside Kakao Bank and Toss Bank) has struggled to keep up with the competition.

The scoop: When cash strapped K-Bank tried to raise capital from KT in 2019, regulators barred the deal citing anti-trust violations should KT become the bank’s largest shareholder. The bank subsequently suspended loan services for a year until the funds could be rerouted through BC Card, another KT financial subsidiary.

Upon finally securing its capital requirements last summer, K-Bank introduced a slew of new products to take on its main competitor - Kakao Bank. The Bank Salad acquisition will complement the K-Bank’s new and innovative offerings such as allowing customers to buy Bitcoin on UPbit, Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

Tidbit: Bitcoin dipped 15% from its all-time-high over the weekend due to a blackout in China’s Xinjiang region, which reportedly powers a good chunk of the coin’s mining.

K, this time for Kakao

With over 14 million subscribers, $750 million in revenue and over $100 million in net profits as of year end 2020, mobile-only Kakao Bank is meeting with investment bankers to underwrite their summer IPO.

Zoom out: The company commands a $27 billion market cap on the over-the-counter (OTC) stock market, higher than the country’s two largest banking groups KB Financial Group ($20 billion) and Shinhan Financial Group ($17 billion).

The content crew

Naver and Kakao are both looking to acquire Munpia, Korea's third most popular web novel platform after Naver and Kakao themselves.

Backstory: From content to e-commerce to fintech, both companies are hungry for acquisitions to beef up operations in these highly competitive industries. To acquire Munpia, Naver has formed a consortium with a domestic private equity firm, while Kakao is in discussions with a foreign strategic investor to join hands for the possible acquisition.

Munpia, founded in 2002, boasts 400,000 monthly visitors. Last year, the company generated over $37 million in revenue.

Zoom out: Naver’s Webtoon made its a bet on the storyteller’s market with Wattpad earlier this year ($600 million deal) while KakaoPage announced the acquisition of “Netflix for serialized fiction” platform Radish ($355 million deal) earlier this month. We’re curious how the bids for Munpia might look.

On the radar  

Companies raising over $1 million last week. 

  • Rudacure is raising $13 million in a Series A deal from Hanlim Pharma for drug development to address various sensory disorders. 

  • Brandi is raising $9 million in a Series C deal from Korean Development Bank for their fashion platform targeting young women.  

  • Standard Energy is raising $9 million in a Series A deal from Softbank Ventures for their ion battery technology. 

  • Uprise (HeyBit) is raising $8 million in a Series B deal from Hashed, Shinhan Venture Investment, WeVentures, Neoplex and Kakao Ventures for their robot crypto advisor. 

  • Crema is raising $3.5 million in a Series A deal from SV Investment and Bass Investment for their online shopping mall platform solution. 

  • Marqvision is raising $3.2 million in a seed round from Y Combinator, Bass Investment and Danal Investment Partners for their AI-driven fake brand detection system.  

  • Huvis is raising $2.6 million in a Series A deal from Kiwoo Investment and Innopolis Partners for their their suite of advanced industrial materials including filament yarn, PET resin and super fiber. 

  • ButFitSeoul is raising $1.8 million in a Series A deal from Kakao Ventures, Capstone Partners, BA Partners and Worksit for their fitness platform.

More Seoul Hits

  • Coupang hires in Singapore. The darling of e-commerce is hiring for Heads of Operations, Logistics and Retail in Singapore, marking the company’s first foray into overseas markets.

  • The VC high. According to Korean Development Bank, Venture capital investments made in South Korean startups reached an all-time high last year - near $4 billion.

Bibimbap: the ultimate comfort food 🥘

Fit for both a king and a farmer, bibimbap is one of the most well known Korean dishes. We especially love it the morning after a big night out.