Childhood memories of choco pie 😆

Kakao Pay's IPO, Nexon buys Bitcoin, and Kmong takes on the freelance marketplace

Seoul Startups reports on the tech hype in Korea with a bite-sized weekly newsletter straight to your inbox. If you’ve been forwarded this email, give it a read and subscribe.


Soliciting Feedback

Are you enjoying the Seoul Startups Substack? Do you want to see more founder stories or industry analysis? How do you like the GIFs? 

Help us fine tune the content on our Substack in just 2 minutes.

Take the survey


Kakao(s) go public

Kakao Pay is set to become the first mobile-only payments platform listed on the KOSPI. With over 35 million users, it is estimated that the company will boast a $10 billion valuation when they IPO in July.

Backstory: Kakao Pay was launched in 2014 as part of the Kakao app ecosystem built on its messaging platform. The unit was spun-off into its own subsidiary in 2017, at which point China’s Ant Group invested $200 million. Since then, Ant Group pumped another $100 million into the company, bringing them almost on par with Kakao Corp on the cap table (45:55 split)

The bottom line: Last year, Kakao Pay’s 35 million users conducted over $60 billion worth of transactions. The company generated $255 million in revenue but continues to run on a net loss ($22 million in 2020 up from $58 million in 2019). 

Zoom out: A slew of Kakao affiliates are gearing up to hit the public market. Kakao Bank was announced a couple of weeks ago, which is set to IPO in tandem with Kakao Pay. Moreover, their digital content provider Kakao Entertainment and edutech platform Yanado are also preparing to list by the end of the year.

Kakao Games listed on the KOSDAQ last year, and its market cap has since doubled.

Flashback: Kakao pulled out their bid for e-commerce giant eBay Korea, but acquired mobile shopping app Zigzag and web novel platform Radish last month.


On the radar  

Companies raising over $1 million last week. 

  • Kmong is raising $28 million in a Series C deal from Company K Partners, Premier Partners, Korea Development Bank, Intervest and Mirae Asset Venture Investment for their marketplace for freelancers. 

  • Why Not Media is raising $13 million in a Series C deal from Keyeast, F&F Partners, Com2us, KTB Network, SL Investment, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Hancom Investment, MyAsset and CapitalOne for their digital content creation agency. 

  • Anipen is raising $7.5 million in a Series B deal from Union Investment Partners and Korea Venture Investment for their AR technology.

  • GameXCoin is raising $4.7 million in a Series A deal from Konai Partners, Hana Financial Investments, SangSang Ventures and Inlight Ventures for their blockchain-based gaming platform. 

  • Cherground is raising $2.6 million in a Series A deal from TBT, Union Investment Partners, and Samsung Venture Investment for their fashion retail platform. 

  • Morai is raising $1.8 million  in a Series A deal from Atinum Investment for their autonomous driving simulator. 


More Seoul Hits

  • Nexon takes the Tesla route. Online game publisher Nexon just bought 1717 bitcoins for approximately $100 million at $58,226 a pop. Owen Mahoney, President and CEO of Nexon said, “In the current economic environment, we believe bitcoin offers long-term stability and liquidity while maintaining the value of our cash for future investments”.

  • Upcoming: Korea’s largest venture capital fund. Korea’s National Pension Service, Korea Development Bank, and Naver are setting up a $500 million venture capital fund with Atinum Investment. The fund will focus on companies at the ‘scale-up’ stage while being industry agnostic. 

  • LG & Mirae line up $90 million. The electronics giant and asset management group are setting up a joint venture capital fund to invest in electric vehicles, digital healthcare and data oriented startups - in line with LG’s new business growth areas. 

  • Kurley delivers with CJ. E-commerce player Market Kurley, specialized in dawn delivery, is partnering with CJ Logistics to expand services beyond metropolitan Seoul. Kurley’s partnership comes months after Naver swapped shares with CJ Logistics to boost their own fulfillment network. 

  • Startup cultural evolution. From abiding by traditional dogma in “Hell Joseon” to being at the forefront of the digital economy, young people in Korea are starting to feel more optimistic about their future. 


Childhood memories of choco pie?

Choco pies hit Korean supermarkets in the 70s. Whether Orion or Lotte choco pies, the best way to enjoy them is to put them in your freezer an hour beforehand.

Happy Children’s Day Korea!