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[StartupRecipe] Survey Says: 2024 Korean Startups Brighter than 2023

#Weekly Funding Overview

[Jan. 8 ~ Jan. 12]

The total funds raised by Korean startups of this week is KRW 47.8 Billion.

Nanum VitaminSocial Venture400 millionSeedSeoul Techno Holdings, Impact square
DatonAI Solution-K-Ground Ventures
UpstageLLM25 billionSeries BSK Networks
EmotivDigital therapeutics2.3 billionPre-Series AMYSC, The Wells Investment, KODIT
The newgreySenior content-SeedBlue Point Partners
HonestfundP2P Finance5 billionJinwon group
GranterPayment solution-SeedStrong Ventures, Octagon Venture Partners, Primerboost
Better than surfLifestyle brand-Y&Archer
StudymaxEdutech-Series CCompanyK Partners
IneejiAI8.1 billionSeries AKT Investment, Korea Development Bank, Capstone Partners, Woori Bank
QsimplusQuantum communication3 billionSeries AMirae Asset Venture Investment, Intervest, Stick Ventures
DoogoodaData analysis-Pre-Series AKingsley Ventures
SeissonKids product-Series APartners Investment, Kodit
CatiusKids Chatbot-Pre-Series ASmilegate Investment, Stick Ventures, KOSMES
BuzyrunKids finance-SeedCnttech
Sugar pickCohort learning-SeedHexagon Vetures
42MaruAI4 billionSeries BHancom

#Major Funding

  • AI startup UpStage has successfully attracted a 250 billion won investment from SK Networks. SK Networks made this investment decision by taking into account UpStage’s technology in developing private LLM, the growth potential of the AI industry, and the potential synergies with the headquarters and investors.
  • AI company INEEJI has secured an 8.1 billion won investment. Providing an industrial AI prediction solution that achieves optimization in manufacturing industry processes based on an eXplainable AI engine, INEEJI plans to utilize the investment funds for the enhancement of AI technology, market expansion, and other related activities.
  • P2P Finance Honest Fund has attracted a 5 billion won investment from Jinwon Group, reaching a cumulative investment record of 44.2 billion won. Jinwon Group aims to invest with the goal of creating synergies with its subsidiary SCI Evaluation Information and utilizing the AI technological capabilities of Ernest Fund.

#Trend Analysis

StartupRecipes released a survey of 15 key accelerators and VCs in Korea, revealing cautious optimism for the 2024 startup investment market. While 2023 painted a grim picture with steep declines in investment, investors anticipate a brighter future for startups this year.

In 2023, the startup landscape faced heightened challenges, transitioning from a poor investment climate in 2022 to a notably more challenging “very poor” environment. The severity of the investment deterioration remained a cause for concern, echoing sentiments similar to those in 2022. Despite this, a substantial influx of investment into sector leaders left many investors feeling resilient.

Over half of the surveyed investors reported scaling back their investments in 2023, contributing to a perceptible decline in company valuations by more than 30% compared to 2022. Early-stage investors tended to maintain their investment levels, while their later-stage counterparts were more inclined to reduce investments. The reduction in new investments ranged from 20% to 50%, varying by the stage of investment. Growth-stage investors exhibited a higher propensity to decrease their investments, partly attributed to the unpredictable business environment and VC’s struggle to identify promising startups, resulting in a temporary pause to mitigate risks. Some startups, affected by decreasing valuations, were less active in seeking investments, leading to an overall reduction in investment deals. Conversely, a few curtailed new investments while increasing follow-on investments, redirecting efforts towards existing portfolios.

Irrespective of the investment climate, over 90% of investors expressed a unanimous preference for AI companies, foreseeing continuous investment in this sector. Generative AI, particularly propelled by OpenAI’s success in 2023, captured significant attention and is anticipated to remain a focal point in the future. Investors also directed their focus towards environmental concerns (climate, energy, ESG), digital health, agriculture/space, and manufacturing, anticipating sustained investment in these areas. Conversely, fintech and mobility, previous recipients of substantial funding, observed diminished interest. Strikingly, edutech, despite its potential for AI integration in transforming the education market, did not register on any investor’s radar in the survey.

Looking forward, optimism abounds for startups in 2024. More than half of investors anticipate an improved investment climate compared to 2023, with 60% indicating plans to increase their investments. The majority foresees a market recovery in the second half of 2024, while some predict an extension into 2025 or later. Expectations of a return to the startup boom experienced a few years ago are tempered, with most experts predicting a three-to-five-year wait, and a faction even suggesting it may not recur. This uncertainty underscores the caution in expecting a resurgence of the brief startup boom in the foreseeable future.

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