October 10, 2021
5 mins

A lot of money.


Today, like every morning, I checked our search engine, to find exciting new start-ups. Today I discovered a company called Bobidi.

For most search engines, like Google, the search results are ranked by level of accuracy to the search. That’s not the case for nr2. We use the nr2 innovation index to rank companies.

Top 10 companies in South Korea according to the nr2 innovation index

One element that is important in our index is the amount of funds a company has raised. Let’s look at Bobidi, the highest ranked start-up in Korea right now. Bobidi is an AI model testing platform, and they just raised US$2Mn for a seed round.

For a seed round, that’s a lot of money.

If you’ve read my newsletters for a while, you’ll know I always look at data to see if it's saying something. One of the features on our search engine is a box plot. Box plots provide a way to contextualise start-ups within their industry.

Let me use Bobidi to explain more about box plots:


The purple lines shows the range of funds raised by ˜98% of companies in the same industry as Bobidi in China and South Korea at the same stage of funding. The coloured purple box in between the purple lines shows what half of those companies have raised. For Bobidi, the overall range in the industry sits between US$0 and US$620K. The pink dot, representing US$2Mn, is way to the right of the purple lines.

Why is this relevant? Bobidi is an outlier to the industry. With its fundraising, Bobidi has managed to achieve something that almost all its competitors have not. That’s a significant data point.

Bobidi is not alone.

If we look into start-up investments in South Korea in the last 5 years, it’s clear that we are seeing more and more outliers like Bobidi:

This chart is one of many on the search engine, shows the amount and number of investments

Why is this happening? Three reasons, I think.

South Korea is, like China, now globally competitive.

As I wrote earlier in the year, alongside the arrival on the international stage of companies like Coupang, Woowa Bros and Sendbird, the world’s eyes are shifting to South Korea. Behind these high profile unicorns are many others and their technologies warrant sizeable investments.


A new generation of investors.

Secondly, a lot of money is chasing these companies. Early stage investing used to be the domain of venture capital firms. Massive wealth creation through start-ups going public has changed that. Many start-ups are now backed by a new pool of capital: successful start-up founders.

If you’re building a new gaming company in Korea, you would want investment from the CEO of Krafton. You’d be getting not just capital but a huge amount of experience as well.

Start-up founder investors are not new- think of the influence of Paypal, Google and Facebook- but in Asia, they now have powerful rivals in Coupang, Krafton and Woowa Bros alumni.

Asia is ambitious.

It used to be that the best job you could get in South Korea was Samsung.

Now, people want to join companies like Bobidi. What seemed impossible before the success of companies like Toss is fueling a new economy.

I am using nr2's new search engine to stay on the top of it.

Are you?

Thanks as ever for reading and, if you like what you see, please consider sharing!