Top 15 Visionary Deep Tech Startups in South Korea

25 Jan 2024

South Korea has emerged as a dynamic hub for innovation, with a burgeoning ecosystem of deep tech startups poised to reshape the technological landscape.

With a focus on fostering innovation, the nation has witnessed a surge in startups exploring fields such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, robotics, and quantum computing. The country's venture capital landscape has seen a significant uptick, with a substantial portion directed towards deep tech enterprises.

As we delve into the intricacies of South Korea's deep tech ecosystem, this article will unveil the transformative potential of these startups and their pivotal role in shaping the future. The nation's commitment to fostering innovation, coupled with a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, positions South Korea as a key player in the global deep tech revolution. 

Here are the top deep tech startups in South Korea:

1. Fantom: 

Fantom is a highly scalable blockchain platform that aims to overcome the limitations of traditional blockchains, such as slow transaction speeds and high fees. It achieves this by using a unique directed acyclic graph (DAG) consensus mechanism called Lachesis. This technology allows Fantom to process transactions much faster than other blockchains while maintaining security and decentralization.

Fantom focuses on providing infrastructure for:

  • DeFi (Decentralized Finance): Building applications for peer-to-peer lending, borrowing, and trading.
  • dApps (Decentralized Applications): Developing applications that run on the blockchain and are not controlled by any single entity.
  • Enterprise Applications: Providing blockchain solutions for businesses, such as supply chain management and identity verification.  

In April 2021, Fantom Foundation raised $40 million, while in October 2021, raised $150 million in another private token sale.

2. Luxrobo: 

Luxrobo develops educational robots, AI platforms, and modular robotics kits to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) learning. They also offer technology consulting services.

  • Luxrobo's flagship product is LuxBot, an open-source robot that can be built and programmed by children and adults alike.
  • Luxrobo has expanded internationally, offering its products and services in countries like the United States, Thailand, and India.

The company has won numerous awards, including the Robot Innovation Award at CES INNOVATION AWARDS and the Minister's Award at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy e-Learning and EduTech Business Model Exhibition.

Luxrobo gained funding of $4.86 million from potential investors such as Mirae Asset, Mirae Asset Venture, etc.

3. H-Robotics: 

H-Robotics is a South Korean robotics startup dedicated to improving lives through cutting-edge rehabilitation technology. Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Gyeongbuk, the company develops and manufactures medical robots and data-driven telemedicine solutions for individuals suffering from neurological and musculoskeletal conditions. 

Their flagship product, Rebless, is a robotic therapy device for both upper and lower extremities, helping individuals recover from stroke, spinal cord injuries, and other neurological or musculoskeletal disorders. Rebless features:

  • Patients engage in gamified therapy sessions, promoting motivation and adherence.
  • Therapists can track progress and adjust treatment plans remotely through a cloud-based platform.
  • Rebless tailors exercise each patient's specific needs and abilities.

Rebless received the CES Innovation Award in 2021 and 2022 for its outstanding design and functionality. The company also won the Grand Prize at the K-Startup Grand Challenge in 2020. H-Robotics secured $15 million in Series B funding in July 2023, led by KB Investment and IMM Investment.

4. Upstage: 

Upstage develops and commercializes small language models (SLMs) that are smaller, faster, and more efficient than traditional large language models like GPT-3 or Bard. Their flagship product, Solar, is a versatile SLM used for various applications, including:

  • Chatbots: Building intelligent and engaging chatbots for customer service, education, and other purposes.
  • Text summarization: Providing concise and informative summaries of long documents.
  • Machine translation: Offering accurate and efficient translation between languages.
  • Code generation: Assisting developers with tasks like code completion and bug fixing.

Upstage is rapidly emerging as a leading player in South Korea's AI landscape and earned funding of $25 million investment from SK Networks in January 2024 and a $7.5 million investment from KT in September 2023.

5. Lunit: 

Lunit develops and markets artificial intelligence (AI)-powered medical software solutions for cancer screening and treatment optimization. Their primary focus lies on early-stage cancer detection through chest X-rays and mammograms.

Here's what they offer:

  • Lunit INSIGHT CXR: An AI solution for detecting lung nodules in chest X-rays, aiding in early lung cancer diagnosis.
  • Lunit INSIGHT MMG: An AI tool for breast cancer detection through mammograms, improving accuracy and efficiency.
  • Lunit SCOPE: An AI platform for optimizing cancer treatment strategies by analyzing tumor characteristics and predicting treatment response.

Lunit recently contributed $150 million to the company's recent funding round, earmarking the funds for the development of "next generation" products and the expansion of its presence in Western markets.

6. Wemix: 

Wemix, a comprehensive blockchain platform, founded in 2017, focuses on GameFi (gaming using blockchain technology) and DeFi (decentralized finance). They offer:

  • Wemix Play: A blockchain game platform hosting various GameFi projects, including MIR4 and Crypto Raiders.
  • Wemix Coin (WEMIX): The platform's native cryptocurrency used for transactions and DeFi applications like staking and yield farming.
  • Wemix Wallet: A secure wallet for storing and managing WEMIX and other cryptocurrencies.
  • Wemix Foundation: A non-profit organization supporting the Wemix ecosystem and blockchain technology development.

Wemix in a strategic partnership with Chainlink Labs in October 2023, aims to build an omni-chain network called "Unagi" with $50 million initial investment.

7. Skelter Labs: 

Skelter Labs was established in 2015, focuses on developing and applying large language models (LLMs) called RAG LLMs ("Reasoning and Generating"). These LLMs go beyond just generating text; they can understand the context, reason logically, and answer questions in a comprehensive and informative way.

Skelter Labs offers various LLM-powered solutions for businesses, including:

  • Building smart chatbots for customer service, marketing, and education.
    Generating creative text formats like poems, scripts, musical pieces, and marketing copy.
  • Extracting and summarizing key information from large datasets.
  • Identifying patterns and insights from complex data.

Skelter Labs received $14 million in Series B funding in November 2018 led by Kakao Ventures and Golden Gate Ventures. 

8. Deepbrain:

Deepbrain AI founded in 2017, specializes in creating conversational AI avatars and AI video generators. Their flagship products are:

  • Re;memory: This service uses AI to recreate deceased loved ones as virtual humans, allowing users to interact with them through real-time conversations, expressions, and gestures.
  • Deepbrain Studio: This platform enables users to create their own AI avatars for various purposes, like virtual assistants, brand ambassadors, or educational characters.

Deepbrain AI raised $52 million through multiple rounds, with the latest being undisclosed in July 2023.

9. Kakao Enterprise:

Kakao Enterprise, a subsidiary of the Korean internet giant Kakao, was established in 2019. The company focuses on providing business solutions through cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Their offerings cater to various needs, including:

  • Cloud and Data Platform: Kakao Enterprise offers flexible cloud infrastructure and data management solutions to help businesses optimize their IT operations.
  • AI Solutions: They develop and implement AI-powered solutions for tasks like customer service, communication, and business intelligence.
  • Work Platform: Kakao Enterprise provides a comprehensive work platform with collaboration tools, communication features, and AI capabilities to streamline workflows and improve productivity.
  • Industry-Specific Solutions: They also offer tailored solutions for specific industries, such as healthcare, finance, and education.

The company raised $100.37 million in the Corporate Minority - II round in March 2022 including investors such as Hy and the Korea Development Bank. 

10. Rebellions:

Rebellions designs and manufactures AI chips focused on specific AI tasks, making them more efficient and power-saving than general-purpose AI chips. Their flagship product, ATOM, is an AI chip optimized for computer vision and chatbot AI applications.

Key Achievements of the company:

  • Launched the ATOM AI chip in February 2023.
  • Outperformed Nvidia A100 chip in specific AI tasks with lower power consumption.
  • Partnered with Samsung Foundry to manufacture their chips.
  • Collaborating with IBM for quality testing of their AI chips.
  • Aiming to outrival Qualcomm within a decade in the AI chip market.

In talks to raise US$100 million in Series B funding, potentially valuing the company at over US$500 million. Previous funding included investments from global investors and government funds.

11. Primer: 

Primer has been a trailblazer since its inception in 2010. As the inaugural startup accelerator in Korea, Primer has been instrumental in nurturing the success of emerging entrepreneurs. The company places a strong emphasis on foundational growth strategies and delivers invaluable mentorship and resources, solidifying its commitment to cultivating the next generation of successful startups.  

They offer two core programs:

  • Accelerator program: This intensive four-month program provides seed funding, mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and investors, networking opportunities, and access to resources for high-potential startups.
  • Seed investment: Primer invests directly in promising early-stage startups across various sectors like software, mobile/internet services, healthcare, and hardware-software convergence.

The company raised $40 million from KB Investment in 2020.

12. FuturePlay: 

Founded in 2014, FuturePlay has evolved into a prominent player within South Korea's deep tech startup ecosystem.  FuturePlay's remarkable track record highlights a 90% initial startup investment rate and an impressive 91% survival rate, underscoring its commitment to guiding startups through crucial early stages.

Their work spans three key areas:

  • Investment: Identifying and investing in promising deep tech startups, providing them with financial backing and mentorship.
  • Innovation Consulting: Collaborating with established corporations to help them discover, nurture, and implement new business opportunities enabled by cutting-edge technologies.
  • Talent Management: Developing and implementing talent management solutions to attract, retain, and develop the workforce needed for the future of tech.

Future Play itself doesn't receive funding, but the startups it invests in attract significant sums, such as $47 million by Fantom, $30 million by Ground X, $25 million by Upstage. 

13. Ground X:

Ground X is a leading blockchain subsidiary of the internet giant Kakao, focusing on developing scalable and user-friendly blockchain platforms and applications. They aim to unlock the potential of blockchain technology for mainstream adoption in various industries.

Here are some of their key initiatives:

  • Klaytn Platform: Developed their own public blockchain platform, Klaytn, featuring low gas fees, fast transaction speeds, and enterprise-grade scalability. It supports a growing ecosystem of decentralized applications (dApps) across various sectors, including finance, gaming, and social media.
  • Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC): Won the bid to develop the pilot project for Korea's CBDC, demonstrating their expertise and technical capability in building secure and efficient digital payment systems.
  • Open Innovation: Actively invests in and collaborates with startups and developers through Ground X Academy and incubator programs to foster innovation and adoption of blockchain technology.

The company secured around $47.5 million granted by the Korean government for CBDC development in 2021.

14. Seoul Robotics:

Seoul Robotics develops cutting-edge 3D vision software for LiDAR and other sensor technologies, empowering robots with advanced perception and navigation capabilities. Their software is used in various fields, including:

  • Autonomous vehicles: Enabling self-driving cars and delivery robots to navigate safely and efficiently.
  • Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS): Enhancing awareness and safety for human-driven vehicles.
  • Smart manufacturing: Streamlining industrial processes and automating tasks with vision-guided robots.
  • Construction: Optimizing site management and improving worker safety through robotic assistance.
  • Logistics: Facilitating autonomous warehouse robots and automated package delivery drones.

The company secured $47 million in Series C funding in September 2023, led by SK Telecom Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures.

 15. CNT Tech:

CNT Tech isn't just a single startup; it's a diversified group with two main arms:

FoodTech platform provider: CNT Tech delivers comprehensive digital solutions for the food & beverage industry. Their services include:

  • Call center order management platforms
  • Online ordering and delivery systems
  • Restaurant point-of-sale (POS) systems
  • Data analytics and marketing tools
  • AI-powered customer service chatbots

They support over 100 B2B food franchise clients in Korea and hold a 97% market share in call center order management.

Startup accelerator and investor: CNT Tech established CNT TECH Startup Investment Association, an early-stage VC fund focusing on technology startups. They also run "K-Startup Grand Challenge," a global accelerator program supporting Asian tech startups, especially those looking to enter the Korean market.

Established as a leading Food Tech platform provider in Korea, CNT Tech is powering major restaurant chains. It launched the "K-Startup Grand Challenge," fostering the growth of promising startups across Asia. The company is actively involved in nurturing the Korean tech ecosystem through mentorship, networking, and investments.


South Korea's commitment to technology is further evident in the success stories of startups that have seamlessly integrated into global markets. With a keen eye on sustainability, many deep tech ventures in the country are addressing critical global challenges, from healthcare advancements to environmental solutions.