Top 10 Korean Mobility Startups to Watch for – Best of 2019

Mobility startups are rising all across the globe and it is no different in South Korea.  Ride-hailing, car sharing, bike sharing, and even electric scooters have allowed people living inside busy cities to rethink their transportation decisions.  Seoul is such a technology-driven city that it is no wonder that there are many Korean mobility startups that offer alternative solutions to going from place to place. The future of transportation will be about connectivity and the ability to share.  There will also be a heavy focus on the use of electricity and the incorporation of autonomous technology.

Transportation plays an important role for many people living in Seoul.  They have many options from taking the subway or bus, hailing a cab, or even riding the Seoul city bike.  Recent technological advances have enabled Seoul to become more connected, convenient, and most of all, shared.  However, regulations and protests from Korean taxi companies and unions have slowed the process for many mobility startups in Korea.  In addition, regulations also prohibit VC investments in FinTech, real-estate, accommodation, and restaurant industries in South Korea.

There is growing optimism that the Korean government will limit regulations and move towards innovation.

Here is our list of the top 10 mobility startups in Korea

 

1. SOCAR

korean mobility startup SOCARKorean mobility startup SOCAR is an eco-friendly car-sharing company.  They offer their service through their mobile app.  They are currently the largest car-sharing company in South Korea.  Already they have over 12,000 vehicles and 4,000 Socar Zones in 103 cities.  In addition, they have 5 million registered users and their revenue in 2018 was $132 million.  Seoul’s ride-hailing space is still largely untapped with user penetration at only 10%.  SOCAR is open 24/7.

In 2018 SOCAR acquired couple messenger app startup VCNC which operates ride-sharing app Tada.  So far their total funding to date at $175 million from four funding rounds.  Their focus in 2019 will be on R&D and to improve their mobility services through their platform.

2.  ThorDrive

Korean mobility startup ThordriveKorean mobility startup ThorDrive is a self-driving car platform that also has its own self-driving delivery service.  They are finished their pilot run of deploring driverless delivery vans in Silicon Valley.  It is not totally driverless as there is still a safety operator in the front seat.  E-Mart, Korea’s largest discount chain signed a partnership deal with ThorDrive for self-driving delivery services.  They will begin testing towards the end of 2019.  By 2020 E-Mart hopes to use ThorDrive to deliver packed products on the same day of the purchase.

ThorDrive was established by key researchers from Seoul National University who launched Korea’s first self-driving car SNUver.  They showcased their technology at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this year and is looking to test an autonomous shuttle to transport people across Seoul.

3.  Luxi (Kakao Mobility)

Kakao Mobility Korean mobility startup Luxi offers a solution for trying to hail a taxi during rush hour in Seoul.  Their peak rush hour times in Seoul are during the morning hours (7am-9am), evening hours (6pm-8pm), and weekend nights (Fri/Sat 12am-2am).  Gangnam, Itaewon, and Hongdae are well-known areas in Seoul where getting a taxi after midnight is very difficult.  They were acquired by Kakao Mobility for $25 million to offer riders an alternative option in the form of carpooling using personalized vehicles.

Currently, people using their vehicles for commercial use is banned but Korea makes an exception for certain times during the day.  During peak hours between 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. on weekdays, ride-sharing services like Luxi can operate.  It is unknown if Kakao will launch the app under Luxi or another name.

4.  TADA

Korean mobility Startup TadaKorean mobility startup Tada is a ride-hailing service that is operated by VCNC and recently acquired by SOCAR.  Tada quickly became popular in Korea as it reached over 200,000 downloads in just two months.  160,000 users were repeating customers.  While Tada is about 15-20% more expensive than a taxi, they are praised for their service and the fact that they do not refuse any passengers.  To use Tada, simply download the app and input your destination.  A van will arrive which is equipped with WiFi and mobile phone chargers.

Tada drivers get 10,000 won as the basic hourly rate, but thanks to some recent changes to the policy, the high rate can be applied at specific peak hours.  Therefore they can focus more on customer care.  VCNC is also operating premium taxi service ‘Tada Premium’ which is working with taxi drivers.

5.  Buxi

Korean Mobility BuxiKorean mobility startup Buxi is an airport ridesharing service that ensures that travelers to Seoul will arrive and depart easily.  When you land at Incheon International Airport you have only a couple of options.  You can either have someone pick you up, take the subway, take the bus, or take a taxi.  Now there is another option.  With Buxi passengers can input their desired pick-up location and time through the Buxi app which will then group them with other passengers.  Since the ride is shared it is a lot cheaper than taking a taxi.  An average ride from Incheon to Seoul is around $20.

Their service transports people who are going in the same direction.  Therefore by using Buxi, passengers will not lose much time.  Buxi is great for family members visiting Seoul or coworkers coming to Seoul on a business trip.  Up to five people can ride in one van, and the van must be reserved 2 days in advance on the app.

6.  Kornatus (Banbantaxi)

banbantaxi Korean mobilityKorean mobility startup Kornatus is a taxi-sharing service that offers riders an opportunity to split their fares.  Kornatus already got a regulatory exemption from the Korean government as part of their regulatory sandbox program.  The sandbox program allows for the development of new technologies or innovative services.  Now taxi commuters in Seoul can share their taxi rides and split the costs.  The startup will be allowed to operate its taxi-sharing service in some parts of Seoul during peak night hours between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Users can download the Kornatus app called Banbantaxi and hail a cab by paying 4,000 won (6,000 won after midnight).  If two customers are within 1 kilometer of each other, the taxi will make a slight change to its original route to pick up the additional passenger.  The app will accept payments only through preregistered cards.  The riders can then split the fare.  So far Kornatus has gotten $1 million in early-stage funding from Korean investors.

7.  Modoo Shuttle

Modoo Shuttle Korean Mobility StartupKorean mobility startup Modoo Shuttle that operates commuter buses for people in areas where public transportation systems are underdeveloped.  Modoo Shuttle connects rental bus operators and drivers through their platform.  Their platform also recommends the best shuttle routes when commuting to work.  All the user has to do is input their home and work address into their platform.  If their service does not go to a particular area just input your requests.  The more requests Modoo Shuttle gets the faster their service will come to your area. They also offer services for private events.

8.  KICKGOING

Korean mobility Startup KickgoingKorean mobility startup Kickgoing is an electric scooter share coming that is currently available in Hongdae, Gangnam, and Jamsil.  Users can download the Kickgoing app and create an account by inputting their phone number and credit card information.  Users will need to have a Korean driver’s license.  Once the app is downloaded, users just need to scan the QR Code located on the handle of the scooter.  A 5-minute ride costs 1,000 won.  An additional minute costs 100 won.

The electric scooters can be used from 7 am until 8 pm.  At night the company picks up the scooters for recharging, replacement, and relocation.

9.  Nine2One

Korean mobility Startup Nine2OneKorean mobility startup Nine2One is the operator of e-bike sharing service Elecle.  They got an investment from SOCAR and will look to launch Elecle in Seoul this year.  They will start with 350 e-bikes then expand that number to 2,000 by the end of 2019.  Therefore look for an alternative to the Seoul Bike as well as E-Scooters in Seoul.  Their main competitor could be Kakao’s own e-bike sharing service called Kakoa T.

10.  bitsensing

Korean mobility startup bitsensingKorean mobility startup bitsensing develops products & solutions using radar technology for autonomous driving and surveillance.  Their radar has a 4D imaging system that allows for a greater area of weather detection for vehicles.  Sensors can be placed along roads to offer drivers early detection in regards to traffic.  Their focus in 2019 will be on R&D of their radar technology in other areas.