Naver makes first investment in Euro start-up

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Naver makes first investment in Euro start-up

Naver has selected its first European start-up to invest in, French audio technology company Devialet, the Korean search engine operator announced Tuesday.

The move is part of Naver’s bid to expand into the European market, said to be one of the company’s biggest ambitions. It was one of the major reasons CEO Kim Sang-hun and Chairman Lee Hae-jin stepped down from their roles in October, to focus on expanding into the new market.

The investment was made with Korelya Capital, a French venture capital fund run by Fleur Pellerin, a former French culture minister who made efforts to create a favorable business environment for start-ups in France.

In September, Naver and its messaging app affiliate Line invested 100 million euros ($106 million) in Korelya’s K-Fund 1 as a way to find strategic partners that will help the Korean tech giant set foot in the European market.

Established in 2007, Devialet is a Paris-based start-up acclaimed for its high-end sound technology. Even during its early years, it received investments from big names in France including Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

Devialet has received 58 awards so far, making it the most lauded audio company in the world. Instead of large-size home audio sets, its focus is on smaller audio devices capable of producing home audio sound. Its flagship product Phantom comes out to the size of a bowling ball. Devialet has been expanding from home speakers to producing industrial speakers installed in televisions and cars.

“In the upcoming era of artificial intelligence, speakers will not only play the role of simply delivering sound but will also be a core device that connects AI and human beings,” Naver CTO Song Chang-hyun said. “As an IT company, Naver is preparing for AI, and that is why we saw Devialet as a good strategic partner.”


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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