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[StartupRecipe]Korean government’s efforts to nurture Korean next unicorns

#Weekly Funding Overview

[Dec. 14~ Dec. 18]

The total funds raised by Korean startups of this week is KRW 36.35 billion.

BsideConsumer350 millionSeedBluepoint Partners, Schumidt
AutotelicbioBio/Healthcare3 billionST Pharm, Jeilpharm
AstrogenBio/Healthcare13 billionSeries B
BiorchestraBio/Healthcare12 billionSeries BIMM Investment, SBI Investment Korea
GeekbleMedia/content2 billionSeries AQUAD Investment Management, Postech Holdings
StorelinkMarketing2 billionSeries ASJ Investment Partners, LEO Partners Investment
CrepassFinancial Service-SeedThe Ventures
MotionLabsBio/Healthcare-SeedSopoong Ventures
Lounge LabRetailtech3 billionHumax, TBT
DBDRReal estate/Proptech1 billionWooriBank

Major Funding

  • Rounge Lab, a retail tech startup raised KRW 3billion led by Humax and TBT. The company innovates user experiences by using cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, A.I, and block-chain. Rounge lab operates Robotics cafe (LoungeX) and unmaned store (MooinSangHoei). The company will expand its service into other business sectors, while opening customized cafes for hotels and companies next year.  
  • Storelink, a performance marketing platform, has raised 2billion in a Series A funding from SJ Investment Partners and LEO Partners Investment. The company provides AI based marketing tools that can give maximum exposure for online sellers. Launched in July, Storelink has more than 3000 clients. 
  • Geekble has secured KRW 200 million in a series A round led by Quad and POSTECH Holdings. Founded in 2017, Geekble produces contents about science. It operates a Youtube channel ‘Geekble’ which has 630,000 subscribers and the company plans to launch a Science edutainment platform ‘makable’ in 2021.  

More Funding

  • DGDR, a Co-living brand for single family raised KRW 1 billion from WooriBank. The new funding round allows the company to develop a rental platform for midsize landlords, while developing new residential products for single family.  
  • B-side, a side project learning platform closed funding at KRW 350 million in a seed round led by Bluepoint Partners and Schumidt. Bside connects Product managers, designers, developers and other IT workers who want collaborate on side projects. 

Undisclosed Funding

  • Crepass solutions, a peer-to-peer financial integration platform raised seed funding from TheVentures, the company provides capital to young people seeking loans at low interest rates. 
  • Motionlabs, a digital healthcare platform for women has closed a seed round of investment from Sopoong Ventures. The startup provides Q&A platform called Dr. Bella which connects patients with doctors. 

#Trend Analysis

Korean government’s efforts to nurture Korean next unicorns 

Under the aim of creating the second venture boom through innovative startups, Korean startup ecosystem has been driven by the government for several years. As a part of this national mission, the Korean government’s efforts to raise unicorns has been implemented under the name of K-Unicorn project since last year. According to the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, there are 13 unicorn startups in Korea including Coupang , Viva Republica(Toss)Yanolja, MusinsaSocar, TMon as of December 2020. Socar is the latest of unicorns.  

The Korean government is fostering the birth of a Korean unicorn through diverse support programs. There are some specific support programs that are designed for high-growth startups to reach the unicorn level. One is ‘The pre-unicorn special guarantee’ project which selects startups with high potential for future growth and provides guarantees of up to KRW 10 billion. 

Operated by The Ministry of SMEs and Startups, 57 startups were selected since the program was started last year. These companies have drawn an average investment amount of KRW 27.6 billion and record an average valuation of KRW 136.8 billion. Recently, 15 startups were newly selected and 11 of them were recognition of their growth potential despite their operating profits being in deficit.  

Another support project for nurturing unicorn startups is ‘Innovation Icon’. This is a scale-up program launched by Korea Credit Guarantee Fund in May 2019, and it discovers and supports startups that are likely to grow into mid-sized companies or global companies.  

A total of 219 companies applied for the second batch of this year and 5 startups ranging from AI to interior platforms were selected. Selection criteria are growth potential, financial stability and innovative potential. The selected companies will be provided with a guarantee limit of KRW 15 billion in loan credit. In addition, it takes the lowest guarantee rate, provides additional preferential loan interest rates (0.7% points) through 6 contracted banks, and supports various non-financial services such as overseas expansion, various consulting, and marketing.  

Besides the programs above, there is also a support program ‘baby unicorns’ by selecting early-stage startups to aide their growth. This was the first year for this program and 40 companies were selected to receive support of up to KRW 15.9 billion, including KRW 300 million in subsidies, KRW 5 billion in special guarantees, KRW 10 billion in policy funds, and KRW 600 million in R&D funds.  

The government plans to continue supporting Korean startups to grow into competitive unicorns in the global market through step-by-step support so that they overcome the death-valley period during their growth.  


  • Tella, a personalized English tutoring platform, won the 2020 Contents Labs Demo Day which is hosted by Korea Creative Content Agency and sparklabs. 2020 Contents labs program is a 6-month acceleration program that is designed for nurturing promising Korean content startups.
  • Korea national railway has launched ‘KR Startup Lounge’, a business support center for startups and venture companies at Gongdeok Station, Daejeon Station, and BEXCO Station. The lounge is available for anyone who signed up for a membership at K–STARTUP.
  • Seoul announced that it will help small and medium-sized companies that can’t afford to invest in IT infrastructure for remote work by providing support for building remote work infrastructure.

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