|Image captured from SmartStudy's 'Baby Shark Dance' YouTube video / Courtesy of SmartStudy|
By Anna J. Park
Seoul-headquartered education and entertainment content company SmartStudy, famous for its globally viral "Baby Shark" song, has been recognized as the country's 13th unicorn company ― meaning a private startup with a market value estimated at over $1 billion ― following in the footsteps of earlier K-unicorn companies such as Coupang and Woowa Brothers.
While leisure reservation business Yanolja, online fashion portal Musinsa, car-sharing business Socar and grocery e-commerce Market Kurly are some of the other famous K-unicorns, SmartStudy is the first home-grown unicorn company excelling in the global content industry.
According to the investment banking industry, as the company attracted a new round of pre-IPO investments worth about 30 billion won from Korea Development Bank (KDB) and Pureun Partners at the corporate value of 1 trillion won, which is five times higher than its previous round of investments a couple of years ago.
Founded in 2010, SmartStudy has hit global success with its creative videos and songs developed by the firm's children's brand unit Pinkfong.
First K-unicorn in global content business
The most famous video is a catchy two-minute song titled "Baby Shark Dance," which is currently the most watched YouTube video in history, with the number of views reaching a whopping 7.91 billion, as of the end of February. With its mega-success, Pinkfong's YouTube channel has over 46 million subscribers, and its videos are distributed in some 20 languages.
The core of SmartStudy lies in its capacity to expand and create new realms of business based on global licensing of its intellectual property rights. SmartStudy has signed over 2,000 license contracts with about 500 major companies from both in and outside of the country.
The company's annual revenue has been on the rise; in 2019, the firm recorded an annual revenue of 105.5 billion won with an operating profit of 34.7 billion won. The firm's 2020 revenue is expected to reach its all-time high due to increased demand for children's content amid the pandemic situation.
As more than 80 percent of the company's annual revenues now come from the overseas market, investors expect the firm's possible listing on U.S. stock markets, such as the Nasdaq.
Upon expectations for the firm's solid growth in the future, the stock price of Samsung Publishing ― the second-largest shareholder of SmartStudy with an 18.59 percent stake ― has been on a steep rise, especially during the past three months.