Deals, deals, deals

Autonomous vehicles, dating app booms, and IPOs galore

Big Tech Booms 

  • Kakao Mobility receives a $200 million investment from Google’s Waymo through the Carlyle Group to ramp up autonomous driving operations. Kakao T Autonomous Driving Vehicles leverage Autonomous A2Z’s LIDAR technology to deliver their  services. The project will pilot under government supervision over the coming months. 

  • Doosan Mobility teams up with Chinese robotics manufacturer CITIC HIC Kaicheng Intelligence Equipment Co. to develop hydrogen-fuelled firefighting robots. The deal is part of a slew of products and partnerships by Doosan to hype up its hydrogen fuel cell technology, most notably used by its DS30 drone (video). 

Unicorn Hits 

  • Tinder’s parent company Match Group acquires Hyperconnect, the sort-of video version of Clubhouse, for $1.7 billion. Hyperconnect’s core products - Azar and Hakuna Live - allow users to spontaneously start video conversations. What’s so special? Their WebRTC technology enables real-time translation between users communicating in different languages. This has helped them rack up up a massive user base across diverse Asian markets. What’s more? They’ve consistently churned a profit for the past 3 years. 

  • Viva Republica, the parent company of integrated financial services provider Toss, joins the retail stock trading revolution. Last week, it released its beta mobile trading platform to 1000 users amongst 420,000 applicants. Toss users aren’t looking to New York. Korea’s benchmark stock index KOSPI doubled trading volumes and gained 34% in 2020 - marking one of the best performances in the world. 

Going Public 

  • Coupang files for a $1 billion IPO on the NYSE under the ticker symbol CPNG. SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which holds 37% of Coupang’s shares, was already known for its mega-deals, but the IPO marks the fund’s biggest payday to date. 

  • Biomedical AI solutions provider VUNO files for an IPO on the KOSDAQ at the end of February. VUNO was the first company to obtain approval for AI-based medical equipment in Korea last year with its Med-BoneAge diagnostic supporting solution. At a press conference held earlier this month, VUNO highlighted its plans to strengthen overseas marketing and build strategic global partnerships. 

  • Krafton, the parent company of PUBG, plans to IPO in the second half of 2021. PUBG launched in March 2017 and has sold more than 70 million copies to date. The franchise was the first mobile battle royale to surpass $1 billion in revenue. Against the backdrop of record earnings in the gaming industry, the IPO is expected to value the company at a whopping $27.2 billion. However, some wonder if Krafton can expand the franchise to be more than a one-hit-wonder.

On the Radar 

Companies that raised over $1 million last week. 

  • Gridwiz raised $45 million in a Series C deal from Intervest, Medici Investment, Meritz Securities, and NH Investments for their intelligent software platform integrating Gigawatt-scaled DERs (DR, energy storage, renewable energy, EV) to provide flexibility to the grid.

  • Gikuin Company (Zikooin) raised $9.1 million in a Series B deal from IMM Investment, Nonghyub Capital, Pathfinder H, Primer Sazze Partners, Yellow Dog and A Ventures for their plant-based meat alternative. 

  • Makestar raised $5.4 million in a Series B deal from the Korean Development Bank, Altos Ventures, ES Investor and SangSang Ventures for their crowdfunding platform catering to K-pop, drama, movies, and publishing projects. 

  • Code States raised $2.3 million in a Series A deal from Strong Ventures, #Hashed, Primer, and the Seoul Business Agency (SBA) for their web development and data science education platform. 

  • Stari raised $1 million in a private deal for their platform connecting ‘stars’ with their fans.

Culture & Creatives 

  • A year after Parasite, another Korean-language film is the talk of Tinsel Town. Minari has been nominated for the Golden Globes. We’re still waiting on the Oscars. This time, the story is less about Korea and more about the cultural mosaic of America. 

  • Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo...Korean startup SmartStudy reveals how it managed to hook 8 billion viewers on its Baby Shark Dance. From colors to font sizes for optimal viewing on smartphone screens, small tweaks made big waves. 

  • The 615-year old Changdeok Palace comes to life with 5G. SK Telecom teamed up with the Cultural Heritage Administration to create an AR-enhanced tour experience. Zoom out: SK Telecom launched Korea’s first 5G service in April 2019 and claims 45% of the 5G market.