There are many great successful tech companies in South Korea because of the country’s well-deserved reputation for innovation and technological prowess. Tech startups in Korea frequently receive funding from the government, which aids the growth of many emerging businesses.
South Korea is steadily ascending the ranks of the world’s greatest startup centers because of the efforts of local entrepreneurs and the involvement of multinational corporations like Samsung. It is the robust mobile infrastructure, investment boom, and government assistance in Korea that have contributed to the country’s ascent up the startup rankings.
The Korean government intends to increase the number of Korean tech startups to 20 by 2022, and a growing number of Korean venture capital firms are actively searching for the next Korean tech startups. Some of the founders of these Korean tech startups will soon be among the richest people in South Korea.
Korea is rapidly becoming one of the world’s prominent centers of technological innovation, as seen by the below list of Korean tech startups. With sixteen startup unicorns, Korea is now the fourth most prolific nation globally. The United States ranks first with a total of 206, followed by China with 174.
Here is the list of Korean tech startups.
Founded in 2005
Valuation: $9 Billion
Yanolja, a Korean tech startup, transforms shabby hotels into short-term rentals for young tourists. It began as an ad platform for “love” hotels before adding a booking app. Yanolja renovated hotels to improve its image. It has 9,000 hotel clients in Korea and has expanded to Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Reach 500,000 hotel customers by 2025. They’ve also developed software to automate check-in and other hotel activities.
SoftBank Group contributed $1.7 billion from its $30 billion Vision Fund 2 in Yanolja. They were Yanolja’s only investor in its newest round. This is the greatest travel startup investment since the epidemic. Yanolja earned $14 million on $168 million in revenue despite the pandemic.
Founded in 2017
Valuation: $8.5 Billion
Dunamu runs the leading cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea, known as Upbit. Every day, $15 billion in transactions were processed using Upbit. Dunamu also operates an OTC stock trading platform, in addition to providing market data. Their 2020 revenue was above $150 million, and they made an operating profit of $70 million. According to market speculation, Dunamu will follow Coupang’s lead and list on US exchanges.
3. Viva Republica (Toss)
Founded in 2011
Valuation: $6.9 Billion
Korean Fintech Startup Toss is made by Viva Republica. They started as a P2P Korean money transfer service. Its app now offers a wide range of financial services. Users can transfer money and view bank and credit card activities. It offers investment services, loan/insurance programmes, and credit score management. Toss has 13 million active users and has handled $45 billion. Korea Development Bank and Alkeon Capital Management lead their newest investment round.
4. Yello Mobile
Founded in 2012
Valuation: $4 Billion
Yello Mobile, now a unicorn in the Korean IT industry, was originally a marketing firm. Yello Mobile has evolved into a B2C and B2B service and solution provider on an integrated data platform. They started strong by amassing IT companies with potential futures. Yello Mobile has always been keen on expanding through acquisition. In addition, healthcare, advertising, smart cities, and media commerce are among their primary areas of operation.
By early 2016, this Korean tech startup had attracted the backing of more than 90 venture capitalists, making it a technological powerhouse. A large stake in Dayli Financial Group, which operates businesses in Fintech, AI, and cryptocurrency, was acquired by Yello Mobile not long after (Coinone).
In addition, Future Stream Networks is an integrated digital marketing agency, and Carelabs is an O2O healthcare platform.
5. Danggeun Market (Karrot Market)
Founded in 2015
Valuation: $2.7 Billion
South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot is published by Korean tech startup firm Danggeun Market, better known as Karrot Market. Fresh local vegetables, furnishings, and important services like education, cleaning, etc. are all available to Danggeun Market customers, as are used automobiles. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it restricts listings to those offered by vendors within a radius of 10 miles.
With the addition of the series D funding of $162 million, their total funding to date is $205 million. Karrot Pay will be released as a means of payment for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in South Korea, with plans to eventually bring its services online. As of late 2019, the company had already opened up shop in the United Kingdom. Karrot has been downloaded over 21 million times.
6. Market Kurley
Founded in 2014
Valuation: $2.4 Billion
Market Kurley, a Korean tech startup company is responsible for running the country’s premier fresh grocery and gourmet food delivery service online. Millennium Management, CJ Logistics, DST Global, Sequoia Capital, and Aspex Management all contributed to their most recent $200 million fundraising round.
On the other hand, their operational deficit in 2020 was $100 million, which was a significant increase from the $91 million loss recorded in 2019.
Although Market Kurley’s operational losses are larger than those of Coupang’s, that doesn’t rule out an IPO. By the year 2021, the platform had attracted more than 9 million users. Before their IPO in 2022, they went to a private equity firm in Hong Kong and raised an additional $210 million in a pre-IPO.
Founded in 2010
Valuation: $2.33 Billion
Another online marketplace that competes with Coupang is called WeMakePrice. They are working on making the web platform more of a community where customers can work together with businesses. One way they achieve this is by making customers’ time spent shopping a more interactive and personal one.
Consequently, WeMakePrice has eliminated loss-making divisions and redirected its efforts toward the wholesale distribution of its products. Their operating deficit was $48 million in 2018, 29% less than this year. Despite this, revenue dropped to $344 million (a 17% decline).
Korean tech startups have immense potential to compete with other tech startups. They have raised big funds as investments from different investors. Currently, in 2022, South Korea own over 350 nascent startups ranging from $100 million to $1 billion. Most are B2C, which is interesting to Korean investors because they can show sales. The high volume of trades and sales makes listing on a Korean exchange easier. Here are Korea’s top 2022 unicorn startups to watch.