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South Korea’s Startups in Forbes Asia 2023 List: A Sector-by-Sector Analysis

Photo by Daniel Bernard / Unsplash

Seoul, South Korea - South Korean startups are making significant strides across multiple sectors, from biotechnology to logistics, according to the Forbes Asia 100 to Watch list for 2023.

The list highlights small companies and startups that aim to disrupt underserved markets or leverage new technologies.

The list features South Korean startups in categories such as biotechnology, logistics, consumer technology, entertainment, and enterprise technology.

The diversity suggests a maturing ecosystem that could provide balanced investment opportunities across industries.

South Korean startups on the Forbes Asia list include;

Anpoly (Biotechnology & Healthcare)

  • Investors: Enlight Ventures, Impact Square, ISU Venture Capital, Lotte Ventures, Postech Holdings
  • Anpoly aims to tackle plastic pollution through packaging, construction, and biotech applications.

Floatic (Logistics & Transportation)

  • Investors: BeHigh Investment, Industrial Bank of Korea, Kakao Ventures, Kiwoom Asset Management, Korea Development Bank, Naver D2 Startup Factory, Shinhan Capital, ZER01NE
  • The startup is developing AI-powered robots for e-commerce distribution centers. Floatic claims its robots can reduce labor costs by up to 33%.

Lifegoeson (Food & Hospitality)

  • Investors: Altos Ventures, DS Asset Management, H&Q Korea, Korea Development Bank, Korea Investment Partners, Samsung Venture Investment and SoftBank Ventures Asia.
  • The company has a pick-up and delivery app with over 100,000 downloads and plans to leverage its user data to enter the e-commerce sector and replicate its success in clothing, food, and home.

Liner (Consumer Technology)

  • Investors: CJ Investment, Industrial Bank of Korea, KB Investment, Magellan Technology Investment, SL Investment, SpringCamp, WE Ventures
  • Liner has developed an AI-based search tool used by over 10 million monthly active users. This tool can summarize and translate text.

Makestar (Entertainment & Media)

  • Investors: Altos Ventures, ES Investor, ISU Venture Capital, Korea Development Bank, NextG Investment
  • The startup connects K-pop artists with fans worldwide, reported a profit of $500,000 on $36.8 million in revenue last year, and projects $80 million in revenue this year.

MyRealTrip (Consumer Technology)

  • Investors: Altos Ventures, BlueRun Ventures, BonAngels Venture Partners, IBK Capital, IMM Investment, Korea Development Bank, Mirae Asset Capital, Primer, Smilegate Investment
  • Aiming as a "SuperApp" for Travel, MyRealTrip draws in users with its cheap airline tickets and aims to cross-sell higher-margin products and services such as accommodation, activities, and tours with more than 1 million downloads.

Nearthlab (Enterprise Technology)

  • Investors: BonAngels Venture Partners, Breeze Investment, Company K Partners, Devsisters Ventures, FuturePlay, IMM Investment, Mirae Asset Capital, NAU IB Capital, SBI Investment Korea, Shinhan Capital, Smilegate Investment, Stonebridge Ventures
  • The team has used AI and drones to inspect wind farm blades, reducing inspection time from one day to just 15 minutes. The company has inspected over 300,000 blades for industry giants such as GE and Siemens Gamesa.

Playlist (Entertainment & Media)

  • Investors: Altos Ventures, CJ Investment, Hana Securities, IMM Investment, Mirae Asset, Naver, Premier Partners
  • With nearly 2.5 million YouTube subscribers, Seoul-based content production studio Playlist partnered with billionaire Hong Seok-joh's BGF Retail in December to create a YouTube series set in a CU convenience store.

Seadronix (Logistics & Transportation)

  • Investors: Bluepoint Partners, Lighthouse Combined Investment, SoftBank Ventures Asia, T-Investment
  • Seadronix's AI port monitoring system has been deployed in major ports such as Busan, Incheon, and Ulsan to improve vessel safety and efficiency, and the company claims to be advancing autonomous vessel operations.

Geographical diversity

Singapore topped the list with 20 companies, Hong Kong with 15, and mainland China with 11.

Indonesia and the Philippines contributed significantly, with 11 and 9 companies, respectively.