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The $1.65 trillion (USD) economy of the East Asian country is the 10th largest globally and the 4th largest in Asia.  The country is known for its distinct family-controlled corporate conglomerates known as Chaebol, which includes some of the world’s largest companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai.  The land of Kimchi and the birthplace of BTS has an exciting startup ecosystem worth exploring. 

The analysis is based on data from Crunchbase, and overall, 21 startups have been analysed. Startups considered for this analysis are unlisted non-government entities that have raised more than $100 million (USD) of capital to date. The analysis also includes startups that have been acquired but whose identity has largely been intact and subsidiaries of private/public companies. The startups have been classified according to various industries based on data from Pitchbook, and the sector classification is based on Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS). The sector classification is subjective and has been made considering the sector/industry that the startups closely resemble.

Analysis

A majority of the startups are private (81%), and the rest have either been acquired/merged (14%) or filed for an IPO. Coupang, the South Korean e-commerce giant, is all set to list on the NYSE and expects to raise anywhere between $3.8 billion (USD) to $4.08 billion (USD), seeking a valuation of more than $58 billion (USD).  Founded in 2010 by Harvard grad Bom Suk Kim the startup is known for its “Rocket Delivery” service, which promises deliveries within 24 hours. The Seoul-based startup, that has raised $3.4 billion (USD) to date, is backed by prominent investors such as Softbank, Blackrock and Sequoia Capital.

The consumer discretionary sector is by far the largest in terms of the total funding raised and the total number of startups. A majority of the staggering $6.68 billion (USD) raised by startups in this sector has gone towards three industries, namely- internet retail (73%), automotive (14%) and other restaurants (11%). Ticket Monster or TMON is an e-commerce platform that has a wide variety of products across categories ranging from food and clothing to accessories and lifestyle. The startup, which has raised close to $802 million (USD), is backed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Anchor Equity Partners, to name a few. The startup was acquired by the American e-commerce company- Groupon for $260 million (USD) in Jan 2014. Kakao Mobility is a Mobility-as-a-Service platform providing a wide range of services, including taxi-hailing, designated driver and electric bike hire. Founded in 2017, the startup has raised $681 million (USD) to date in 3 funding rounds and is backed by The Carlyle Group, Hong Kong Monetary Authority and TPG. The startup acquired LUXI Co. Ltd, a ride-sharing platform, for $23.3 million (USD) in Feb 2018, and has invested in JapanTaxi and Mobility Technologies

Communication services and health care together constitute 14% of the total funds, having raised $709.7 million (USD) and $795.8 million (USD), respectively. 100% of the funds raised by the communication services sector has flowed towards startups in the entertainment software industry. Krafton, formerly known as Bluehole Studio, develops online games for PC, mobile and console. Founded in 2007, the startup is known for creating the extremely popular PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) game and has raised $500 million (USD) to date. It has made three acquisitions and two investments. It acquired Ginno Game in 2015, Red Sahara Studio and Delusion Studio in 2018. It has invested in mobile gaming app Bunch in Sep 2020 and gaming solutions company NODWIN Gaming in Mar 2021.  

The information technology sector has raised $593.4 million (USD), with the startups in the financial software industry, attracting 67% of the funds and the rest going to the business/productivity software industry. Bithumb is a cryptocurrency trading platform that allows real-time trading of various cryptocurrencies and displays live price updates ensuring safety and transparency. Founded in 2014, the startup has raised $200 million (USD) from ST Blockchain Fund.  

Summary

Overall, the startups have raised $10.74 billion (USD) predominantly within 1 to 5 funding rounds (71%). The consumer discretionary sector tops the list in terms of both the number of startups and the total funds raised. The energy sector was ranked second in terms of total funding, and the communication services, and information technology sector were tied for second place in terms of the total number of startups.

For more extensive analysis and Market Intelligence reports feel free to approach us or visit our website: Venture Capital Market Intelligence Reports | VCBay.

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Rajan writes about the startup ecosystem on VCBay. He is a Master of Business Finance graduate from XIM University and has cleared CFA's Level II exam. Rajan is passionate about data viz and business journalism.

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