Top 20 Korean AI Startups to watch for – Best of 2019

Startups in Korea are looking to incorporate AI technology into their existing products or service. The reason is that Korean investors are investing in AI-focused companies. The Korean government is also investing $2 billion in AI and has come out with a strategy to be a top 4 AI powerhouse by the end of 2021. They are also looking to build six new AI schools by 2020 to educate Korean engineers in AI. In addition, corporations are also looking to get into AI technology. Samsung, LG, and Hyundai have shown great interest to invest in AI technologies. Therefore, it is clear that both the Korean government, investors, and companies think AI is an important technology for Korea.

Here are the top 20 AI startups in Korea to keep an eye on for 2019

1. DAYLI Financial Group

DAYLIDAYLI Financial Group (DFG) is more of a Fintech company than an AI company.  However, they do use AI technology for financial industry solutions and digital asset management. They are considered the top Fintech financial group in Korea. In addition, under DFG is DAYLI Intelligence, Quarterback Asset Management, DAYLI marketplace, ICON Foundation, and cryptocurrency exchange Coinone. Quarterback Asset Management has algorithm-driven robot advisers to run their AI-based investment management service.

2. SUALAB

Korean AI Startup SUALABKorean AI startup SUALAB is an AI-based provider of deep learning machine vision solutions. They research various machine vision systems that can replace humans in industrial fields through deep learning, machine vision, and supercomputing technologies. Their aim is to increase the accuracy and speed of inspection for manufacturing industries. Their main product is called SuaKIT which is a software that tests product detects using deep learning technology.

SUALAB has raised over $27 million in funding from various Korean VC firms. In addition, some of their clients include Samsung and LG. Their focus for 2019 will be on R&D and market expansion so other global industries can access deep learning technology.

Cognex Acquires SUALAB

NASDAQ listed company Cognex Corporation acquired SUALAB in October of 2019. Cognex focuses on machine vision for factory automation and industrial barcode reading. The SUALAB engineering team and IP will be added to Cognex and help their coverage into the Asian market. Therefore, they will help lead a team of specialized engineers in the use of deep learning for industrial machine vision applications.

3. Flitto

Korean AI Startup FlittoKorean AI Startup Flitto is an AI-powered translation crowdsourcing platform. Flitto has been able to collect language data through the collective intelligence of people online. Therefore they have been able to offer high-quality language data at a very cheap price. Their translation platform can handle many types of translation requests such as text, voice, image, and video. YouTubers use Flitto’s translation service for creating subtitles on their videos. Their goal for 2019 is to continue to collect language data using human translation and use that data to train their AI platform. In addition, they will work on AI voice recognition services to keep up with the latest AI trends.

The startup has over 10 million users from over 170 countries. However, their main revenue comes from providing data to servers like Naver, Google, and others that use machine-based translation programs. Flitto’s data is very accurate because they take into account slangs, dialects, and pop culture terms. Their revenue is expected to hit $6 million by the end of 2019.  Some of Flitto’s clients include Microsoft, Baidu, and Tencent jus to name a few.

$23 Million raised through their IPO

Flitto announced they raised a total of $23 million from their IPO. The investment came mainly from institutional investors and now their startup has an estimated market cap of close to $200 million. The money will go into expanding their sales in the United States and European markets. Furthermore, they are planning to build a linguistic database by focusing on gathering linguistic data (text, voice, video, and image), as well as focus on linguistic AI.

4. Standigm

StandigmStandigm a Korean AI Startup that uses AI technology for drug discovery and development. They were able to raise a total of $15 million from Kakao Ventures, Atinum Investment, DSC Investment, LB Investment, Wonik Investment Partners, as well as Mirae Asset Venture Investment and Mirae Asset Capital.  The funds will be used to scale the AI technology platform. Furthermore, Standigm AI has a strong reputation in the pharmaceutical industry. For 2019 they will look to create partnerships with leading healthcare organizations to grow their pipelines.

5. Lunit

lunitLunit is a Korean Medical AI startup that launched its new solution for mammography called Lunit Insight for Mammography. It is a diagnostic support tool that can detect malignant lesions that could lead to breast cancer with an accuracy of 97%. In addition, they also have the Lunit Insight for Chest Radiography which has been tested 1.5 million cases from more than 70 countries. Using AI technology they are able to detect abnormalities with a high level of accuracy (97-99%).

6. Skelter Labs

Korean AI Startup Skelter LabsKorean AI startup Skelter Labs licenses out their AI technology to companies and corporations. They have expanded outside of Korea and into Japan and Southeast Asia. Furthermore, Skelter Labs focuses on conversation including speech and NLU, and Hyper-personalization. Therefore, they target industries like manufacturing, customer service, advertising, and marketing. For 2019 they will keep concentrating on their core technologies to become a top-level global company while also expanding their businesses to different verticals.

Partnership with INNOCEAN Worldwide

Skelter Labs partnered with one of the biggest marketing agencies in Korea INNOCEAN worldwide. It was the first case of a joint project between an advertising company and an AI company in Korea. Therefore, they will work together on a data Ad-tech training program, developing smart wearable devices, implementing customized vehicle test systems, and building an Ad campaign automation platform. Furthermore, they will work together to expand the functionality of Smart Sunglasses by utilizing the core AI technology of Skelter Labs.

7. ADRIEL

Koeran AI Startup ADRIELKorean AI startup ADRIEL is a digital advertising platform that uses AI technology to run ads on social media platforms. Users will need to input certain information about their business and upload the image they would like to use for their ad. Then ADRIEL will use AI technology to create an online ad to reach more relevant customers for their budget. It will monitor and optimize the ads for maximum performance. In addition, users will have an online dashboard to monitor the results of the ad. ADRIEL is great for startups because it saves money on marketing costs and saves time on creating marketing campaigns.

How do these AI-based digital ads work?

ADRIEL gets the data from a client’s website. These include product images and text information. Then it creates and runs ads across multiple platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn, and Google in around 5 minutes. In addition, ARIEL is able to collect and analyze data and guide advertisers in the best way to launch a digital ad campaign. Furthermore, they have already worked with clients from Korea, Singapore, the UK, and the United States. Currently, they provide services in English, Korean, Japanese, and French. ADRIEL has over 2,000 clients in over 20 countries, running over 4,000 advertisements on global online platforms.

Raised over $6.5 million in funding

ADRIEL has raised over 6.5 million in funding over 2 rounds. They have gotten investments from Naver’s D2 Startup Factory and also joined their accelerator program. As well as, investment from Woowa Brothers Corp., a startup that operates Korea’s most popular food delivery app, Baedal Minjok. Furthermore, Adriel has already opened up offices in the U.S. (Silicon Valley) and London. Their focus for 2019 will be to enter the Southeast Asian market.

8. FuriosaAI

FuriosaKorean AI startup FurisoaAI builds high-performance AI inference coprocessors that can be integrated into computing platforms. Therefore, this includes data centers, servers, desktops, automobiles, and robots. These semiconductor chips improve the performance of AI in big data and autonomous driving. They were able to get $7 million in investments from Naver D2 Startup Factory and DSC Investment. Their focus moving forward will be to cooperate with domestic and overseas universities, companies, and research institutes as well as the Korean government.

9. Kono.ai

KonoKono.ai makes scheduling meetings a lot easier for corporations with their AI-based scheduling bot Kono. Kono syncs with calendar apps like Google Calendar to help schedule meetings, conference calls, or events. It can also organize meetings for people in different time zones.  They have raised $1 million from 500 Startups and MashUp Angels. Kono is free to use and there is a paid subscription option that offers additional customized features.  Currently, Kono is focusing on business development. Their service is available in English and Korean but will add more languages in 2019.

10. AIZEN

Korean Startup AIZEN

Korean AI Startup AIZEN provides business-focused AI applications for finance. They are the creators of an AI engine called ABACUS which can automate big data analysis for key decision-making. AIZEN uses machine learning, deep learning, and predictive models to provide the best possible financial solution. Furthermore, through the ABACUS platform, businesses can automate retail banking and insurance as well as predict financial patterns. Therefore, AIZEN is partnering with many banks and other financial institutions so they can use their platform to decrease risk and increase efficiency.

AIZEN Thas a joint research team at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) who has done research on AI with IBM Watson. They are already working with Woori Bank to implement their AI system. In addition, they are working with the Korean government to create better finance systems using AI technology. Their focus for 2019 will be to continue to form global partnerships.

11. Roborus

Korean Robotics AI startup RoborusKorean Robotics AI startup Roborus is using AI and machine learning technology to facial recognition to enhance customer experiences at retail stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels. Roborus creates robots and kiosks that use AI and facial recognition to store data and identify customers. In addition, they use machine learning to better understand their customer and offer personalized recommendations. Their two main products are Tune and Poca. Tune is a facial recognition system and Poca is a smart ordering system robot that can recognize customers and take their orders. The interesting aspect of Poca is that they can detect customer’s emotions and react to them. Furthermore, these services are designed to increase customer loyalty.

Roborus has already formed a partnership with 7-Eleven and is looking to partner up with other retail stores. They also signed an MOU with I-ON Communications, a leading sports data software provider for amateur and youth sports in Korea. They will look to work on IT projects related to the sports tech sector in the future. Furthermore, they are looking to partner with restaurants and coffee shops because Roborus can provide quicker service with higher customer satisfaction.

12. 42Maru

42 Maru Kroean AI startupKorean AI Startup 42 Maru is the creators of a QA (Question Answering) system based on AI (Deep Learning) that understands a question and delivers a single correct answer from a large unstructured data-set in less than a second. 42Maru can find an answer in real-time using MRC (Machine Reading Comprehension) and as a public reference, they have co-ranked #1 in Standford University’s MRC competition (SquAD 2.0) with the Google AI team (as of Nov. 2018). Their patented QA system which is the only deep-learning-based commercial version in Korea is already used in over 50% of the smart speakers in Korea. Furthermore, they are working with major Korean companies like LG U+, Daewoo Shipbuilding, KIA Motors, and KT just to name a few.

42Maru is the winner of the AWS AI startup Challenge Award. In addition, they attended the IFA 2019 in Berlin, Germany in September. There they introduced the “Deep Semantic QA Platform/”  The platform accurately understands the intention of a user’s question and gives a correct answer based on their data. Furthermore, they were also selected as an Intel AI Builder by Intel have been active in supporting leading AI companies to promote AI innovation. In addition, Intel will help 42Maru with marketing, technology support, and investment.

Their focus moving forward will be to improve their deep learning system and partner with companies dealing with smart speakers, chatbots, connected cars, and data warehouses.

13. StradVision

stradvisionStradVision is a Korean AI startup that uses deep learning camera image detection technology.  For 2019 StradVision will focus on developing advanced camera detection technology for self-driving automobiles. In addition, StradVision developed a software solution that uses deep learning to recognize people and even road signs. It is excellent at recognizing distant objects but overlapping objects. They are able to distinguish between, people, cars, bicycles, and objects. Therefore, the camera can even read movement patterns and predict safety measures in advance.

SVNet Software

StradVision’s SVNet Software will be used in 5 production vehicle projects in China and Germany. SVNet is StradVision’s a deep-learning camera software. StradVision currently provides level 2 technology for ADAS (Advanced driver-assistance systems.

StradVision’s SVNet Software allows vehicles to execute ADAS and self-driving functions, including:

  • Pedestrian Collision Warning
  • Pedestrian and Cyclist Warning
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Intelligent Speed Assistance
  • Blind Spot Detection

Their software also allows for internal detection to ensure safe driving. These functions include:

  • Drowsiness Detection
  • Age & Gender Detection
  • Gaze Detection

The algorithm allows both internal and external technology to work at the same time. The aim is to have more than 6 million automobiles on the road using SVNet by 2021.

14. Who’s Good

Who's GoodKorean startup Who’s Good is Asia’s first AI-driven ESG (environmental, social, and governance) insight, provider. Using AI technology and public data, Who’s Good provides objectives and up-to-date corporate ESG insights on Asian companies. Currently, ESG analysis products are costly and the results are too subjective. Therefore Who’s Good uses AI and big data to deliver fact-oriented, real-time corporate ESG analysis. Their AI offers real-time/in-depth corporate ESG analysis without compromising its quality. Furthermore, they leverage 350 public big data sources and 93 news data sources in Korea to uncover insights.

15. Moneybrain

Moneybrain is a Korean AI startup that researches and develops conversational AI technology. They created the first AI chatbot for the financial industry in 2017. This year they also developed a voice synthesis technology that sounds just like a human voice. They are able to have conversations similar to humans. Voice synthesis technology converts text into speech. Furthermore, what makes Moneybrain unique is that they are able to use human intonation and accents to sound as natural as possible. Therefore, this technology can be added to advertisements, education, and audiobooks.

16. ENERZAi

ENERZAi, a Korean startup that provides AI-based solutions for the energy sector. They focus on the inefficiency problem during drilling. The cost of drilling costs hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, there are also fatalities that need to be taken into account. Therefore ENERZAi is developing an autonomous drilling system for better efficiency and safety. Their aim for 2019 is to become a global leading energy company based on AI technology. ENERZAi is currently discussing collaboration with government-funded research institutes and drilling players and is planning to promote field tests.

17. 3SECONDZ

Korean AI startup 3SECONDZKorean startup 3SECONDZ is the world’s first AI-based motorsports coach.  3SECONDZ is a fully automated racing data analysis service.  Drivers will be able to review their driving to find out their strengths and weaknesses.  Users will need to upload their driving logs to get feedback from the AI-based driving coach.  In addition, users will be able to review their driving by real-time animation.  3SECONDZ supports most logging systems, web browsers, and smartphones.

18. Humelo

Korean AI startup HumeloKorean AI software startup Humelo researches and develops technologies that include emotions in speech and text-to-speech (TTS) technology. Their aim is to create a natural-sounding voice similar to a human. They are looking to replace the current unnatural voice ignition technology that is currently in IoT devices. They have partnered with SM Entertainment, one of the biggest K-pop entertainment companies in Korea to incorporate Humelo’s AI composition/writing technology to innovate the entertainment industry through speech synthesis and creative AI. Furthermore, their TTP API’s real-time multilingual TTS technology can be used for AI speakers, navigation, IoT devices, smart cars and more.

19. Lablup

Korean AI startup LablupKorean AI startup Lablup is the creators of an open-source platform called Backend.AI that offers cloud and server management to machine learning environments that require a large number of system resources. Remarkably, Backend.AI platform provides distinctive GPU resources scaling and sharing by virtualizing GPUs for containers; therefore increases utilization of GPU clusters with multi-tenant fractional GPU scaling. The platform also allows for easy distribution of program code for the design and training of deep learning models in server and cloud environments.

20. NOTA

Korean AI startup NOTAKorean AI startup NOTA specializes in AI and machine learning to create a soft keyboard technology to reduce typos. In addition, they have developed a model compression technology that can be applied for mobile, IoT, drone, and robotics. The issue with AI is its high server cost and latency issues. NOTA’s AI solution solves these issues with its core model compression technology. Therefore they work well for real-time object detection as well as detecting human emotions in real-time.

NOTA is supported by KAIST which is the top technical institute in Korea. Their focus for 2019 will be to research new solutions such as image segmentation and object recognition.

HONORABLE MENTION

NEARTHLAB

NearthlabKorean startup Nearthlab is the creators of an autonomous drone solution that collects data required at industrial sites in a faster and more accurate way. They focus on drone data and use drones to provide meaning data for wind turbine inspection. Using Nearthlab’s solution, one wind turbine can be fully inspected in about 15 minutes. Therefore their autonomous drones can reduce inspection time, increase safety, and get detailed measurements/data. In addition, they offer a cloud-based data analysis portal as part of their autonomous drone solution. All the pictures taken by the drone is uploaded to a server which can be managed online.