TTwo of the biggest shareholders of Dunamu, the operator of South Korea’s main cryptocurrency exchange, are the first two people in the country from the crypto industry to become billionaires as their startup’s value has increased. multiplied by 21 in less than a year.
Last week, Hybe, the agency behind K-pop sensation BTS, bought a 2.5% stake in Dunamu for 500 billion won (roughly $ 400 million), valuing the crypto startup at $ 17 billion. . The new valuation makes Dunamu one of Korea’s most valued startups, and its founder and chairman, Song Chi-hyung, and executive vice president Kim Hyoung-nyon are new billionaires. Forbes estimates that Song, 42, owns about a quarter of Dunamu, while Kim, 45, owns about 13%. According to Dunamu’s new valuation, Song’s stake in the nearly 10-year-old startup is worth $ 3.8 billion; Kim is worth $ 2 billion. (Forbes applies a 10% discount on private company reviews.)
In 2018, Forbes Song estimated held between $ 350 million and $ 500 million in cryptocurrency. Dunamu did not respond to a request for comment on how much cryptocurrency Song and Kim currently own personally.
“We believe Dunamu is a great way to invest in the crypto-economy.”
Dunamu, which operates the Upbit cryptocurrency exchange, was previously valued at around $ 800 million in February, when Seoul-based Hanwha Investment & Securities bought the entire 6% stake in the US semi-public giant. – Qualcomm drivers in the startup for around $ 50 million (Qualcomm invested in Dunamu in 2015). And in September, Dunamu raised $ 85 million from venture capital firms, including Altos Ventures in Silicon Valley, for a valuation of around $ 8.7 billion.
âWe believe Dunamu is a premier way to invest in the crypto-economy,â says Oh Moon-suk, a Seoul-based partner at Altos, who has supported Coupang, Krafton and unicorn fintech Viva Republica. “Upbit is the main trading exchange in Korea that interacts with the crypto-ecosystem and is one of the few crypto exchanges authorized to accept fiat currency.”
Upbit was one of the few Korean cryptocurrency exchanges to survive regulatory scrutiny. Cryptocurrency exchanges in Korea were required to obtain a security certificate from the country’s internet security agency by September 24 in order to be recognized as legal trading platforms, and secure partnerships with banks to ensure that trading accounts are held by real people. Dozens of exchanges failed to obtain the security certificate and had to close.
“While the crypto-ecosystem is still in an early phase of development and the adoption of cryptocurrencies as an asset class remains to be proven, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies as digital assets are gaining ground. increasingly credible store of value demonstrated by the growing number of institutional investor holdings and increasing regulatory clarity, âadds Oh.
Hybe is working with Dunamu to sell digital photo cards of BTS members as non-fungible tokens, which have exploded in popularity this year. NFTs use blockchain technology to authenticate digital collectibles, such as artwork and music. âWe are working with Dunamu to create a way to broaden the fan experience,â Bang Si-hyuk, the billionaire founder of Hybe, said in an online briefing last week. âWe will bring together the capabilities the two companies have developed so far to introduce new and exciting innovation to the global music and fintech industries. “
At the same time, cryptocurrencies are increasingly accepted and the value of digital assets has continued to rise. On Monday, the cryptocurrency market surpassed $ 3 trillion in combined value as major tokens including bitcoin and ether hit record highs.
Based in Seoul’s upscale Gangnam district, Dunamu was established in 2012 as an information aggregator. He launched Upbit in 2017 and, according to Dunamu’s website, the cryptocurrency exchange has over 8 million users and a total transaction volume of $ 2.5 trillion. Kakao Ventures, the venture capital arm of Korean internet giant Kakao and Dunamu’s top investor, said in a recent comment posted online that 80% of cryptocurrency transactions in Korea are done through Upbit.
Prior to founding Dunamu, Song worked for local mobile payment company Danal and management consulting firm Innomove. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from the prestigious Seoul National University. Kim withdrew his MBA project in the late 1990s following a massive upgrade of Korea’s internet infrastructure to work in the then emerging field of technology. Kim is also a graduate of Seoul National University (although he studied agricultural economics) and worked with Song in Danal.