South Korea’s Kakao buys fiction App Radish for $440 million

The move will strengthen Kakao’s fast-growing global webtoons and web novel business and expand its reach.

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South Korea’s Kakao buys fiction App Radish for $440 million www.financialstand.com

Serialized fiction app Radish has sold itself to Kakao Entertainment of Korea in a deal worth $440 million. The board of directors and majority of Radish shareholders approved the acquisition, which is expected to close in June.

The move will strengthen Kakao’s fast-growing global webtoons and web novel business and expand its reach in North America and other English-speaking territories. Radish brings a strong fan base of millions in North America for its Radish Original series, a source of original IP that Kakao can now adapt into webtoons and video, the companies said Monday.

Kakao Entertainment owns original story IPs for webtoon and web novels developed in-house into music, TV series, movies and performances. It’s adapted popular web novels such as What’s Wrong with Secretary KimA Business Proposal, and Solo Leveling into webtoons and other creative media.

Radish, founded in 2016, is a mobile fiction platform for rapidly serialized binge-worthy stories including romance, paranormal/sci-fi, LGBTQ, young adult, horror, mystery and thriller. It is growing rapidly, and today’s announcement said revenue was up tenfold in 2020 from 2019 with more than 90% from its Radish Original series.

It said it will continue to add new content to its platform and explore acquisition opportunities.

The app uses a micropayment system that lets users test out a story by reading several free episodes then paying 20 to 30  cents to access each additional episode prior to release. Readers can wait an hour to unlock the next episodes for free.

“Radish has firmly established itself as a leading web novel platform and yet we see even greater growth potential. It has found enormous success with fast-paced, original mobile content and undergone dramatic growth with a ten times increase in annual revenue last year,” said Jinsoo Lee, CEO of Kakao Entertainment.

“With the combination of Kakao’s expertise in the IP business and Radish’s strong North American foothold, we are excited about what we can achieve together.”

Radish will maintain day-to-day management autonomy and continue to operate under the Radish brand. Radish founder and CEO Seungyoon Lee will continue to lead the company and serve as global strategy officer of Kakao Entertainment to help lead the company’s global expansion strategy.

Kakao Entertainment (Previously Kakao Page Corp.) was part of Radish’s Series A investment round which it co-led with Softbank Ventures Asia. Original investors included Lowercase Capital, K50 Ventures, billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen, former Microsoft executive Charlie Songhurst, BDA chairman Duncan Clark as well as bestselling author Amy Tan.

The deal comes as Kakao Entertainment, a division of the South Korean tech giant Kakao, is planning an initial public offering. South Korea is the choice for a listing but Bloomberg reported recently that the company is also exploring New York as an option after a blockbuster NYSE debut for shares of South Korean e-commerce company Coupang in March.

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