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Future Mobility

Korea autonomous driving startup 42dot valued at $434 mn

42dot raises $94 million in a Series A funding round, may expand businesses to insurance, cargo sectors

By Nov 01, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

An autonomous vehicle being developed by 42dot (Courtesy of 42dot)
An autonomous vehicle being developed by 42dot (Courtesy of 42dot)

South Korea’s autonomous driving startup 42dot drew strong interest from investors with its advanced artificial intelligence technology. Strategic and financial investors valued the startup at $434 million in a funding round.

42dot raised 110 billion won ($93.7 million) in a Series A funding round on Oct. 29, according to investment banking sources. Strategic investors including Shinhan Capital, Lotte Rental Co. and LIG Nex1 Co., as well as venture capital firms such as IMM Investment, STIC Ventures and Timewise Investment, participated in the round. 42dot secured the fund in four months after it started looking for money. It has raised a total of 150 billion won so far.

Those investors valued 42dot at some 510 billion won in the latest funding round, more than a quadruple compared to last year. In July 2020, IMM Investment, KTB Network and Shinhan Bank invested 17 billion won, valuing the startup at 120 billion won. Most shareholders that joined the investment last year participated in the latest funding round.

It was unusual for a startup to secure more than 100 billion won in a single funding round, according to IB sources.

“The startup is a promising company, but it is rare to attract such strong interest in a Series A,” said a source.

Investors are spending “a large amount of money” for AI startups that have succeeded in implementing prototypes, the source said.

FuriosaAI, a semiconductor AI startup, raised 80 billion won in a Series B funding round, the largest investment in a semiconductor startup, in June. Sendbird Inc., an AI chat solution company, secured $100 million in a Series C funding round, emerging as a unicorn, an unlisted firm with valuations topping 1 trillion won.

TO EXPAND BUSINESSES INTO INSURANCE, CARGO

42dot founded in 2019 utilizes cameras and an image sensor called ‘RADAR’ using radio wave reflection as a medium for autonomous driving. The technology is concentrated in the ‘AKit’ solution, which is about half the size of A4 paper. Its commercialization is expected to become a game-changer since it can be installed in a trunk.

The startup is also developing a mobility platform ‘TAP!’ and an autonomous driving map ‘SDx Map.’

Cooperation with strategic investors is expected to help 42dot expand its businesses. Shinhan Capital, which spent 30 billion in the latest funding round, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop mobility financial services with 42dot. They were likely to work together on payment systems and insurance products ahead of the spread of self-driving pilot services, according to industry sources, although the two companies have yet to reveal details on their cooperation. Lotte Rental, which invested 25 billion won, agreed to join forces on the launch of an electric vehicle car-sharing sub-brand and a cargo platform that uses autonomous driving technology and EVs.
42dot CEO Song Chang-hyun
42dot CEO Song Chang-hyun

In April, 42dot CEO Song Chang-hyun was named to lead Hyundai Motor Group’s new Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) division that will oversee the mobility businesses of Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Corp.

Some investors, however, warned against hasty optimism. 42dot has been extremely reluctant to unveil its technologies and business strategies, while its core solutions such as AKit are expected to commercialize in 2023 or 2024.

“It is a key to give an answer to a question of whether we can trust and apply AI to autonomous driving, an area that determines the fate of human life, like medical AI,” said an information technology industry source. “They will have to overcome skepticism that it will be impossible to gain complete trust."

Write to See-eun Lee and Jong-Woo Kim at see@hankyung.com

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.

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