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[StartupRecipe] Brand aggregator startups are rising in Korea

#Weekly Funding Overview

[April. 11 ~ April. 15]

The total funds raised by Korean startups of this week is KRW 217.5 billion.

Wired CompanyEcommerce6.2 billionSeries AHana Financial Investment
theconstHaircare700 millionSeedSpring Camp
JejememeKids platform-GRANTTIPS
Orwell HealthHealthcare-GRANTTIPS
H2K1 billionPre-Series AUTC Investment, Kakao, SKT
Public KitchenK-Food-Series AMYSC
ImgneersMetaverse-Pre-Series ANew Paradigm Investment, Nextdream Angel Club
PikurateKnowledge Curation500 millionSmartstudy Ventures
DwellingSmart shelter16.5 billionNH Investment & Securities, DB Investment Fund
Awake CorporationCreator tech1.1 billionSeedSeoul Techno Holdings, Tips, Angles
VenditB2B Hotel solution4 billionPre-Series AHana Ventures, Cona Investment, UTC Investment, Schumidt
Picxel playNFT Game800 millionSeedthehyper
TestbankDigital book-GRANTTIPS
ApartmentaryInterior10 billionShinhan Capital
WADRestaurant reservation30 billionSeries CAltos Ventures, CompanyKpartners, Daol Investment, Korea Investment Partners, Orion Capital Management
Baree CoporationMobility-GRANTTIPS
VillageBabyKids platform-GRANTTIPS
synergywithEcommerce1.5 billionKIBO, KOSMES, Woori Bank
GGQ CompanyGame11 billionDaol Investment, T Investment, IBK, Shinhan Investment
KTOW4UFandom platform50 billionLB Investment, KB Securities, SJ Investment
Lagood Companyweb31.5 billionSeedKB Investment, Crit Ventures, Spring Camp, Content Technologies
FasstoLogistics80 billionSeries CVIG Partners, Hana Ventures, SKD&D, Korea Development Bank, Shinhan Venture Investment
NOTAAI-Kakao Investment
EargadaAudio Content-SeedSparklab
rye&catchersAI-Kyobo securities
GG56KOREAMetadata2.4 billionYBM
Food AssembleMealkit6.5 billionLotte Food
FestaEvent Solution-M&ADanggeun Market
LevoistKpop-Beeland Enterprise

Major Funding

  • FASSTO, an AI-based logistics platform, has raised KRW 80 billion in Series C investment. It has a self-built AI, a fulfillment system based on big data, and a logistics center control system. After opening the 43,000㎡ Yongin 1 Center in the second half of last year, sales more than doubled compared to the first half. The Yongin 2 Center will open in May of this year. 
  • K-pop commerce K-town4U has received an investment of KRW 50 billion. It is a global fandom business company that connects 5,200 K-pop fan clubs around the world with shopping malls. It has 4.2 million members and a community that can reach out to 200 million fan club members. The company is improving other product lines, such as K-drama merchandise.
  • AI-based game coaching platform GGQ Company has secured KRW 11 billion in funds. It operates the GGQ service that provides personalized learning content to gamers from data collection, user analysis, feedback, lecture production, and customized training.

#Trend Analysis

Brand aggregator startups are rising in Korea

The brand aggregator sector, which is gaining popularity globally, also catches investors’ interest in Korea. New investment has been made in related companies every month this year. It is highly regarded for its growth potential, having secured large-scale funds from the seed stage and attracted investments from global investors.

A brand aggregator is a business that acquires small businesses that sell products on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Shopify, and maximizes brand profits by providing strategic support tailored to the brand and platform. This model began to gain huge popularity around the world with the successful growth of Thrasio. Founded in 2018, Thrasio has since acquired more than 100 Amazon sellers. It reached unicorn status and became a leader in this field in just two years.

In Korea, brand aggregator startups have started to appear since last year. Four companies have announced new funding this year alone, and related startups have raised more than KRW 200 billion. It is notable that all of them are newly established, less than two years old. 

Because brand aggregators grow through acquisitions, they must have relevant knowledge as an essential competency as well as an understanding of e-commerce. For this reason, those with expertise in e-commerce and finance are jumping into the market.

NextChapter was the first company to announce its funding in Korea. Founded by a CEO from the ad-tech company Buzzvil, it has received investments from global venture capitals in the seed funding round. Boosters is a company established by experts in D2C sales. It supports brand growth through PB product planning and promotions using social media influencers. New Vessel was founded by an M&A expert and an e-commerce expert from Rakuten and Coupang. It plans to build local networks worldwide while cooperating with Naver by receiving investment from Naver D2SF.

KlickBrands has raised the most funds, whose founders are former entrepreneurs and experts in finance. It has attracted strategic investment from UNA Brands, the largest aggregator in the Asia-Pacific region. The company plans to acquire excellent domestic brands with high potential for global expansion. Wholesum also secured a large amount of global funding in April. Currently owning five brands, it aims to acquire 15 to 20 additional brands.

Some startups are expanding into the brand aggregator business while not bringing it to the forefront. Most of them offer e-commerce solutions, and they plan to support the growth of e-commerce brands based on their existing capabilities. Storelink, a big data marketing solution, has recently raised KRW 9 billion and announced its plan to expand its service into a brand aggregator. E-commerce analysis company MoonRiver is also planning to launch a brand aggregator business. Blank, the company most known for its ‘drug pillow,’ is attempting to transform its business model into a brand aggregator.

More aggregators are expected to compete in the market as e-commerce has grown rapidly due to COVID-19. Many aggregators worldwide are rapidly reaching unicorn status following the Thrasio model. Investors’ interest in brand aggregators will increase accordingly.

Boosters2022.01KRW 12 billionSeries A
New Vessel2022.02Non-disclosureSeed
KlickBrands2022.03KRW 120 billionNon-disclosure
Wholesum Brands2022.04USD 50 millionSeries A
*According to the Startup Recipe data

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