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Startups

S.Korean e-book operator eyes unicorn status via successful foray into US

Mar 17, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

S.Korean e-book operator eyes unicorn status via successful foray into US


E-book platform operator RIDI Corp. has successfully tapped into the US market, fueling anticipation over the possibility of it becoming South Korea's next unicorn startup.

Last November RIDI rolled out Manta, a subscription-based webtoon service, in North America. The service offers Korean webtoons translated into English, priced at $3.99 a month.

According to mobile data provider AppAnnie on Mar. 16, Manta is currently in eighth place in the book category on the iPhone App Store in the US. 

“Manta has seen over 300,000 downloads in just three months from its release,” said a RIDI official.

As Manta gains traction in the US, there’s increased anticipation of a hike in the company's price tag as well. In 2019, RIDI secured 33 billion won in Series E funding with a valuation near 550 billion won ($487 million). Its valuation remained the same when it raised 20 billion won from the Korea Development Bank in March of last year.

The company is estimated to have logged positive returns annually since posting a surplus in the first half of 2020. RIDI is expected to join the ranks of the unicorns thanks to Manta's successful foray into the global webtoon market.

Industry watchers say that it is rare for RIDI, a smaller industry peer, to be putting up such a fight alongside content giants such as Naver Corp. and Kakao Corp., which have injected billions of won to boost their presence in the global webtoon and web novel markets.

“RIDI is currently experiencing strong growth and is likely to prepare for an initial public offering once it sees its valuation climb,” said a RIDI investor, adding that the company may kick off the process once it achieves over 1 trillion won ($886 million) in valuation after securing additional funding in the US.

“We don’t have a detailed IPO timeline. We’re running various projects simultaneously and our current focus is on solidifying our services and fostering growth,” said a RIDI official.

Meanwhile, RIDI had mandated Shinhan Investment Corp. as the IPO manager in 2018 but switched to Korea Investment & Securities Co. at the end of 2019 on grounds that the latter brokerage firm has more expertise in listing IT firms.

Write to Geun-ho Im at eigen@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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