Kakao Mobility picks up additional $55M funding at over $4.2B valuation 

Kakao Mobility, the South Korea-based mobility as a service (MaaS) startup behind Kakao T, a ride-hailing app, said it has raised an additional $55 million (65 billion won) from strategic investor GS Retail. This brings its total raised to about $941.4 million (1.11 trillion won) and values it at more than $4.2 billion, a spokesperson at Kakao Mobility confirmed. 

On Monday, South Korea’s GS Retail announced that spent $55 million for its 1.3% stake in Kakao Mobility. 

The latest financing event comes on the heels of a series of funding rounds that include $200 million from the Carlyle Group in February, $478 million from Google in March and $111 million led by TPG in June. Previous backers also include South Korea’s GS Caltex, GS Energy and LG Corp, the company said.  

Kakao Mobility was valued at $3.4 billion (4.09 trillion won) as recently as its $84.9 million funding (100 billion won) from LG Corp in July, according to the spokesperson. The company will possibly raise additional funding rounds prior to its planned initial public offering, the spokesperson said without providing further details. Its listing is expected between 2022 and the first half of 2023, according to industry sources.   

Kakao Mobility’s sister companies, Kakao Bank and Kakao Pay, went public in August and November, respectively.

The startup will use the fresh capital to advance its AI-powered mobility platform and fuel autonomous driving technology development. The strategic partnership with GS Retail enables Kakao Mobility to enter the logistics and last-mile delivery business using Kakao Mobility’s transportation management system (TMS) technology that provides optimal routes for delivery vehicles. Next year, the two companies also plan to launch a pet taxi service, which allows pet owners to use taxis without putting their pets in carriers. 

Kakao Mobility, which launched its taxi-hailing service in 2015, was spun off from South Korea’s largest messaging app operator Kakao Corp in 2017 to expand into bike rental, designated driving, parking lot search service and navigation business. Kakao Mobility is also developing autonomous driving technology. In March 2020, it obtained permission from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOTIE) to operate its autonomous driving vehicle, which is in a pilot project, for the next five years, the company spokesperson said. 

Kakao Mobility’s ride-hailing app has more than 30 million registered users, with 230,000 taxi drivers registered on its platform, the spokesperson noted. 

According to the industry sources, the company posted $237 billion in revenue as of 2020 and expects to generate profits in 2022. 

“Kakao Mobility is a leading startup in the mobility industry with big data and autonomous driving technology. We expect to provide new [mobility infrastructure] experience to our users through the strategic partnership,” said SungHwa Lee, head of corporate venture capital at GS Retail.