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THE INVESTOR
September 18, 2019
Big Reunion

Startups & Investors

Korea is home to 6 unicorn startups

  • PUBLISHED :January 24, 2019 - 15:59
  • UPDATED :January 24, 2019 - 15:59
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[THE INVESTOR] Six Korean startups have made it to the list of unicorns -- with a valuation of over US$1 billion –- latest data showed on Jan. 24.

They include Coupang, Bluehole, Yello Mobile, Woowa Brothers, L&P Cosmetics and Viva Republica, according to New York-based research firm CB Insights.

Their combined value, at US$23.58 billion, took up 2.2 percent of the 309 unicorns globally.

An infographic of the world's 309 unicorn companies as of Jan. 23
CB Insights

The latest to join the list are Bluehole, known for its flagship shooting game “Playerunknown’s Battleground,” e-commerce startup Woowa Brothers that operates food delivery app Baedal Minjok and fintech startup Viva Republica that operates domestic money transfer app Toss.

Among the six, Coupang was valued the highest at US$9 billion, followed by Bluehole’s US$5 billion and Yello Mobile at US$4 billion. Viva Republica was the lowest-valued Korean unicorn with US$1.2 billion valuation.

By the volume of total disclosed funding, Coupang topped the list with a combined US$3.84 billion, followed by Woowa Brothers’ US$457.80 million and Viva Republica’s US$242.10 million. L&P Cosmetics’ figure was not made public.

While the unprecedented addition of Korean fintech startups is remarkable, there is still room for more local private companies to grow, if unfettered by domestic regulations, Startup Alliance Managing Director Lim Jung-wook told The Investor.

“Considering the size of Korea’s economy, we could have at least one on-demand startup that has pan-Asia operations,” the head of the startup advocacy group said.

Lim also noted the local health care industry’s potential, given Korea’s insurance system that allows affordable medical coverage, but regulations that restrict DNA testing and the use of medical data of individuals is deterring the growth of related startups.

By Son Ji-hyoung (consnow@heraldcorp.com)

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