Korean Webcomic Platform RIDI Hits Unicorn Status With GIC-Led Roundby Catherine Wang · Forbes
South Korean e-book and webcomic provider RIDI has raised $99.4 million in a funding round led by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC at a valuation of $1.3 billion, becoming the first content platform startup in the country to achieve unicorn status.
Other major investors include Nvestor and existing investors Korea Development Bank and Seoul-based Atinum Investment, which has backed the likes of Korean cryptocurrency exchange operator Dunamu and proptech startup Zigbang. With the latest funding, RIDI has raised a total of $159.4 million to date.
“With this round of financing, RIDI not only has been recognized for its competitiveness in the content industry but also secured important partners to help expand RIDI’s business globally beyond Korea,” RIDI founder and CEO Bae Ki-sik said in a statement. “We will focus our full attention to enhance RIDI’s positioning as a global content provider in the future.” The Seoul-based startup added that the involvement of GIC, RIDI’s first foreign investor, made the latest round “particularly meaningful.”
RIDI said its new funds will go towards strengthening its global expansion plans, investing in its own original content and developing its “content value chain” through its intellectual property, which include the works of an estimated 111,000 creators. Following the U.S. launch of its webcomics subscription service, Manta, last August, the company was considering a U.S. listing this year, according to local media reports.
Founded in 2008, RIDI grew into one of South Korea’s largest digital content companies offering e-book products, such as digital novels and webcomics, along with video and news content. In addition to Manta, RIDI also owns animation streaming service Laftel and e-book retailer Ridibooks, the source of RIDI’s comparisons to Kindle.
Webcomics, also known as webtoons, is a booming industry in South Korea that became more popular during the pandemic. In 2020, the South Korean webtoon industry saw its combined sales exceed $840 million, according to government data published in December.
More broadly, webcomic providers in South Korea are turning a page towards international expansion. Last May, Korean billionaire Kim Beom-su’s Kakao Entertainment acquired U.S.-based mobile comics platform Tapas for $510 million in a move towards online comics. South Korean internet giant Naver’s Webtoon Entertainment, an app-based comics platform, is targeting the U.S. market through collaborations with American comic brands, such as DC Comics and Archie.