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Startup IPOs

Referral-based job portal Wantedlab applies for H2 IPO

Apr 19, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Wantedlab CEO Lee Bok-gi
Wantedlab CEO Lee Bok-gi
Wantedlab Inc., South Korea's first referral-based recruiting platform, is aiming to list on the country's junior Kosdaq market in the second half of this year to fund its global expansion.

It has applied for a preliminary review of its initial public offering to the Korea Exchange, the company said on Apr. 19. It has not yet turned to a profit, but qualified for a loss-making startup's listing on the Kosdaq.

The prospective IPO will likely generate handsome returns for early investors, including Korea Development Bank, Stonebridge Ventures, KTB network, Company K Partners, Kolon Investment and SL Investment. Wantedlab, launched in 2015, has raised $20 million from venture capital firms in two funding rounds. 

With its revenue more than doubling over the past three years amid the contactless hiring trend, those financial investors expect the IPO would value the headhunting platform at over 100 billion won ($90 million). That would be double of the 50 billion won valuation when the company received 10 billion won in Series B funding in 2019.

Earlier this month, the early investors had converted preferred shares into common stock of Wantedlab, equivalent to 54% of its outstanding shares. In February this year, they received 15 bonus shares for every share held.

Wantedlab is a headhunting platform that refers friends, or acquaintances to potential jobs on social networks. If the recommended candidate clinched the job, the recommender will be granted a reward. 

Currently, it is offering the recruitment service to 10,000 companies in five countries, including Facebook Inc., eBay Inc., Kakao Corp. and Naver Corp. and 2 million members. It also provides various training content for job applicants.

To increase the probability of matching between job seekers and recruiters, Wantedlab adopted artificial intelligence. To expand the database, it acquired Korea-based Kredit Job in 2018 that unveils annual salaries and employee turnovers of 420,000 companies. Based on the accumulated matching results, Wantedlab has built an AI algorithm that predicts the success, or the failure of the job matching with the accuracy rate of over 80%.

Its 2020 revenue jumped to 14.7 billion won from 8.4 billion won a year earlier. But its net loss widened to 9.3 billion won versus 8.3 billion won during the same period.

"We focus on securing technology for business-to-business service expansion," Wantedlab Chief Executive Lee Bok-gi told The Korea Economic Daily. "After going public, we will not only solidify our position in the recruitment market but also expand into new businesses and kickstart our global expansion with the funding."

Korea Investment & Securities is its IPO underwriter.

Meanwhile, the country’s top recruitment portal JobKorea was sold to Affinity Equity Partners in March this year for a price estimated at about 800 billion won. The transaction yielded more than a fourfold gain to Korea-based private equity fund H&Q.

JobKorea holds a 40% share in Korea’s full-time job listing market, double the market share of the industry’s No. 2 player Saramin. In the part-time job listing market, JobKorea's Albamon dominates with a 60% share.

Write to Ye-Jin Jun at

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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