Demoday, a web platform for Korean Startups, recently came up with a list of 100 hot Korean startups in 2013, and we thought this might be a great chance to write an introduction to the Korean startup world. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we will introduce you to 10 startup companies that got into the list in alphabetical order. Here’s our list for this week:
Key People: Jerry Yang (Founder, CEO)
Cosmic Color is the company behind an app called Oopa Roopa, a gamified e-commerce platform. It was created for Korean internet shopping websites to maximize the efficiency in inventory turnover and advertising endeavors in the mobile space. Oopa Roopa promises to bring mass users to vendors through incentives created through its gaming based model. This ‘colorful’ company was built by 9 amazing guys (all co-founders), and they have proven successful in capturing the whimsical minds of Korean shoppers who tend to be female. Oopa Roopa was ranked as the most popular application in Naver Appstore, just 3 months after its launch. Cosmic Color also recently launched Toss, another curated e-commerce space created by partnering with Cafe24.
Key People: Jae-sung Choi (Founder, CEO)
If you have ever visited the ShakeShack Burger joint in New York you would’ve definitely had this experience: Just blankly staring at the buzzer for eternity, because I surely did. Cublic changed this by developing a buzzer with a screen on it, what is also known as Cuby (Check out their product being featured on a local TV show). This simple, yet brilliant idea enabled the company to rapidly grow its business beyond their home turf, to spread to overseas markets in the U.S., Japan and China. If you look at the ‘History’ page in their website, the list of deals that they have sealed is quite stunning. One of the most noticeable deals is its partnership with Dentsu, one of the biggest advertising and PR companies in Japan, in 2012.
Key People: Chul Kim (Founder, CEO)
No, this company is nothing like GoDaddy, nor does it have any relation to the innuendo that its name might suggest (though they have a bizarre theme song). Daddy Company is creator of multiple productivity/lifestyle related apps. Its first ever launched product was BabyWaa, a mobile app album for parents who are raising children. Its second app, Take Weather, is a simple app where people can share photos of local weather. This app enjoyed modest global success with 1,800 photos shared from over 105 countries within one month of its launch. This track record has won the team support from Smart Venture Institute, which provide a ‘meaningful amount of investment capital’. Daddy Company aims to become the foremost startup in the utilization of public data.
Delight Hearing Aid
Key People: Jung-hyeon Kim (Founder, CEO)
Delight is one of the few social enterprises that made into our top 100 list from Korea, and is a company with the most genuine intention I have ever seen. Finding out that most hearing aids are imported from overseas, three college students started a venture to create affordable hearing aid products that can truly enrich the community, with the help of 3D printing technology. Delight provides free hearing tests to local communities, which they say to be their primary marketing strategy. The founders have also started to make angel investments in other social enterprises, which puts the traditional VCs and other angel investors to shame, for their usual risk averse investment style. With its fast growing success and genuine intention to enrich our community, Delight is a prime example of social entrepreneurship in Korea.
Key People: Kil-yeon Kim (Former founder and CEO)
Now a subsidiary of KT, Enswers was seen as one of the most successful Korean exit cases in 2011, at a valuation of $40M. What makes Enswers so unique is its proprietary technology in the video contents universe. With a single screenshot, users can find the online video that they were looking for. Enswers also provides tools for third parties to develop a product using its panteted technology.
Category: Web Service
Key People: Hailey Kim (Founder), Kyubin Lee (Founder)
This startup strikes me as a service that can be categorized as Skillshare combined with Meetup. Unfortunately, the website says that the company has closed. Now, the former founders of Everyclass have launched a new product called Orights.com, which is a platform that aims to help publishers connect and enable them to publish books in a more global scale.
Key People: Jin-hyuk Kim (Founder, CEO)
This company is a game developer, most famous for their mobile based app, Paladog. The game has stunning success with over 500 million downloads, and was featured as the number one downloaded paid app in Korea between 2011 and 2012 by the Apple App Store. This young startup instantly became a star and received a spotlight in the gaming industry. Not surprisingly, the company seems to attract a lot of attention from the investors, with Capstone Partners being one of the major shareholders.
Category: Web Service
Key People: Simon Lee (Founder, CEO)
Flitto is the poster child of Korean tech startups. The crowd-sourced translation service won global recognition and has received numerous prizes, most recently winning the Seedstars World Startup Competition in Switzerland last February. It also has a strong pedigree, having graduated from Springboard London (now TechStars London) in 2012. Flitto officially launched in TechCruch 2013, which shows that this Korean tech startup has far more global presence than many of their peers. Flitto boasts exponential user acquisition, all with minimal marketing spend. I’ve personally tested the effectiveness of Flitto, and surprisingly received feedback within 3 minutes. Flitto could become an alternative to Google Translate anytime soon. We have heard that the team is in discussions with a US-based VC for a ‘major investment.’
Key People: Eun-sun Lee (Founder, CEO)
Korea is famous for its food delivery culture, as you can get food anytime, 24/7/365, at a quality and price unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Not surprisingly, there’s a web platform to place delivery orders online. But what’s really special about Food Fly is that the company itself also delivers food for restaurants that do not provide such services, as long as there is a demand. In 2012, Food Fly’s monthly revenue increased from $30,000 to $170,000 in just 6 months. Now, yearly revenue has topped $5 million. The team also have a growing network of restaurants. The company raised initial capital from Stone Bridge Capital ($700k) in 2012.
Category: IT Service
Key People: Taehoon Park (CEO)
Frograms is famous for being one of the earliest investments made by K-Cube Ventures ($800k), one of Korea’s top early stage investors. Its product, Watcha, deploys a sophisticated algorithm to provide customized movie recommendations. WIthin 90 days of Watcha’s launch, users had left a whopping 1.2 million movie reviews. Now, consider that Naver and Daum, Korean web portal giants, have only accumulated 6.7 million and 1.1 million reviews, respectively, since the beginning of their services. In 2013, they achieved a major milestone by reaching 42 million reviews, roughly 8 times Naver (Korea’s top internet search portal). Major VCs swiftly joined the craze by investing $2.5 million in the company. With the website teasing about its upcoming second project, all eyes are on Frograms right now.
Demoday is a web platform for Korean Startups that provides a range of support based on data collected through a survey of more than 3,000 Startups. Companies registered at Demoday can recruit talent, advertise their products online, and seek partnerships or investment through the platform. Demoday also publishes Startup DB and Rankings on a regular basis.
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