Korea’s AIM raises $1.6M for its mobile trading service

Seoul-based startup AIM has closed $1.6 million in seed funding to bring its artificial intelligence-powered app for financial investments to market in Korea, and potentially other parts of Asia.

The fintech company has developed a system which works alongside existing investment institutions to allow users in Korea to make trades and investments via their smartphone. So rather than a robo broker that replaces brokers, AIM is working with the industry to help democratize it.

“We’re leveraging not only our resources but a brokerage’s resources in an efficient way,” CEO and founder Jenna Lee told TechCrunch in an interview.

Lee claimed that AIM can reduce the cost of trading to 1/40th, thereby passing on savings to users. She explained that streamlining is possible by outsourcing trading to brokers, who cover licensing and compliance, and using a system that is light on data processing and storage demands, but fast enough to execute trades rapidly. Likewise, AIM “sanitizes” all user data which, Lee added, “lowers data protection and compliance costs.”

Financial institutions are tipped to be one of the first industries to be impacted by AI, according to prominent investors like Kaifu Lee (no relation), so we’re likely to see plenty more VC money going to companies like AIM. However, the startup has the distinction of being the first in its field to raise money in Korea. Not only that, Lee said it did so at a valuation that is not traditionally given to early-stage companies in the country.

The round included participation from DT&I, Soorim, Seoul Business Agency, Startup Bootcamp, and Lee said it valued AIM at $7 million. Typically, she said, Korean investors won’t invest at a valuation of more than $5 million due to “a perceived notion of limited upside within the ‘small’ Korean market.”

That goes some way to explaining what plans to do with its funding: venture overseas.

First up though, it is preparing to launch AIM more widely in its native Korea.

An open beta with 300 selected users starts today. Lee said there are more than 4,000 more, with some $166 million in assets, waiting to get in. AIM won’t be opened to more until May, she said. But already she is looking to go further, with plans to open the service in Singapore and potentially one more location in the second half of 2017. That’s also when the startup is likely to seek a Series A round, assuming that all goes to plan.

“We’re thinking about regional expansion and want to build a playbook for international financial services,” Lee said.