[THE INVESTOR] Kakao announced on March 27 the launch of a new blockchain business unit Ground X in Japan, seeking a bigger presence in the home turf of Line, the Japanese subsidiary of its crosstown rival Naver.
The new unit which was established on March 16 will develop its own blockchain-based platform seeking synergies with Kakao’s current services later this year. Jason Han, a KAIST graduate and CTO of Korean startup accelerator Futureplay, has been named the CEO.
Kakao co-CEO Joh Su-yong
“It will be an open platform that can be shared by developers and tech firms not just in Korea and but also across Asia,” Joh Su-yong, the newly-elected co-CEO, said at a news conference in Seoul.
The CEO, however, flatly denied speculations that the firm could seek to launch an initial coin offering any time soon.
“We are not considering an ICO for fundraising,” he said.
He added the firm has no plans to enter the crypto trading market, saying its ties with Dunamu, the operator of Upbit, one of the nation’s top three cryptocurrency exchanges, is no more than a financial investment.
Kakao and its venture capital unit Kakao Ventures, formerly K Cube Ventures, own a combined 28.84 percent stake in Dunamu, while Kakao’s former CEO Lee Sir-goo joined the exchange as CEO.
Along with the new blockchain business, the CEO also pinned high hopes on intellectual property like music-streaming, webtoons, gaming and videos for its global push, again setting Japan as the global business base with plans to expand into China and Southeast Asia in phases.
“It was extremely difficult for Kakao as a platform to compete head-on with bigger rivals in overseas markets. We believe IP could be the starting point for us to tap deeper into global markets,” Joh said.
In order to speed up its global push, Kakao is expected to continue seeking mergers and acquisitions by using US$1 billion funds it raised through global depositary receipts on the Singapore Exchange in February.
Since joining Kakao in 2016, Joh, a branding specialist, had been leading the firm’s brand strategy. He took office on March 16 together with another co-CEO Yeo Min-soo, former advertising chief.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)