Moloco: Korean ‘unicorn’ startup in Silicon Valley shines in the world of digital ads

Korean startups are shining globally with their out-of-the-box innovations and technological prowess. With a conducive environment for growth and support from the local government, Korean startups are doing great business and raising revenues.

While the domestic ecosystem has already churned out 12 unicorns, Korean entrepreneurs establishing business abroad are also getting into the billion-dollar club. Advertising solution startup Moloco, founded in the Silicon Valley, is the latest Korean backed company to has earned the tag of ‘unicorn.’

AI-based technology helping brands reach potential customers

Moloco, an advertising solution startup based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) data analysis, Moloco is the first Korean to grow into a unicorn company among AI startups founded in Silicon Valley, USA. In April 2021, Moloco received a cumulative investment of $ 50 million led by domestic venture capital firms (VC) like Shinhan Smilegate Global, the private equity fund (PEF), created by Shinhan GIB and Smilegate Investment along with Samsung Ventures, Krafton, SK Telecom.

Founded in 2013, Moloco is an ‘AdTech (advertising technology)’ company. With its AI technology that elaborately analyzes big data, it provides services so that customers can make money through online advertising. It is a method of displaying customized advertisements by analyzing consumers’ usage data connected to a PC or smartphone.

A typical example is to expose audio products to consumers who have a history of searching or purchasing headphones and earphones at an appropriate time to lead to purchases. Moloco’s service MOLOCO RTB, a mobile advertising solution, allows users to avoid ads that they are not interested in and advertisers to maximize ad effectiveness. Moloco has also launched Moloco Cloud, an ad automation platform that optimizes ad bids.  

Growing digital dependency helping increase the scope of expansion

The world of digital ads has become more a major transformation in the world of advertisements, especially with COVID-19 accelerating digital dependency. Advertisements on TV or in newspapers are no more popular, and ad sales revenues break records for social media sites and search engines. In such scenario Moloco has processed more than 100 trillion cases of related data since 2018. 

Recently, more than 13 billion advertisements are being executed every month through Moloco’s service. Moloco’s main customers are global companies like Disney, Nexon, and Netmarble. The ad-tech startup has recorded a high sales growth rate of 180% per year over the past four years. Considering the sales in the first quarter of 2020, the company expects annual sales of $400 million this year. Moloco’s 50% of sales come from Europe and 25% from the United States.

Startup founded by ex-Google developer

The startup was founded in 2013 by Ahn Ik-jin, who has worked as a developer with Google and YouTube. Ahn Ik-jin graduated from Seoul National University Department of Computer Engineering and received a master’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. As an early member of YouTube, he created a profit model using AI. He has worked on developing YouTube’s ‘recommended video’ feature. After leaving Google, Ahn founded Moloco in Silicon Valley with two other colleagues from Google. Ahn believes that every Korean startup can become a unicorn and that not all startups need to be Silicon Valley-based, as they can achieve global status by becoming top performers in the domestic market.

With the latest funding, Moloco plans to recruit more engineers for global business expansion and strengthen the software and infrastructure. Moloco’s headquarter is in Silicon Valley and has 170 people working in branch offices in Korea, Singapore, Japan, and the UK.

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