300 million won deal a sign drone market has lifted off

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300 million won deal a sign drone market has lifted off

K Cube Ventures, a Korean venture capital firm, has invested 300 million won ($254,087) in Uvify, a Korean start-up which is developing drones based on artificial intelligence.

Uvify’s founders are doctoral degree holders of mechanical and aerospace engineering from Seoul National University with research expertise in aircraft without pilots and robotics.

The team is now developing easily-controlled drones for personal use. The company plans to unveil its first commercial drone in the first half of next year at the earliest.

“Uvify has technological competitiveness in both hardware and software as it has been devoted to developing autonomous aircraft and robots in the past years,” said Chung Shina, a partner with the K Cube Ventures who led the investment. “We hope the company would fire up the personal drone market with products differentiated from existing ones and move one step forward in the field.”

K Cube Ventures’ investment is the first of its kind in the Korean drone market, signaling interest in drones is heating up here.

An affiliate of Kakao, operator of Korea’s most popular mobile messenger KakaoTalk, the company was established in 2012 by Kim Bum-soo. He is also a founder, chairman and top shareholder of Kakao with a 29.24 percent stake.

Daum Kakao, which was renamed Kakao on Tuesday, acquired 100 percent of K Cube Ventures in March and injected $15 million into the subsidiary to launch a fresh early-stage fund.

Its CEO, Jimmy Rim, also known as Rim Ji-hoon, was named CEO of Kakao on Aug. 10 and is set to be inaugurated after a shareholders’ meeting and board meeting on Aug. 23. He is widely known as one of “Kim Bum-soo apostles.”

A billionaire, Kim is noted for having an eye for fledging start-ups’ growth potential. A week earlier, his venture capital firm injected $700,000 in Bitfinder, a Silicon Valley-based start-up which measures indoor air quality based on Internet of Things technology. K Cube Ventures has made 52 rounds of investments worth an accumulated 25.4 billion won since its birth.

In addition to the 300 million from the venture capital, Uvify raised a combined 600 million won funding from the Small & Medium Business Administration and the Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development, both state-run agencies.

The drones Uvify is developing are based on computer vision, video-based 3D location recognition and Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology.

Unlike drones currently available that are controlled by humans, Uvify’s drones can fly indoors without the assistance of GPS, according to its CEO and founder Alex Lim.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]
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