According to a recent report, the global Webtoons market is estimated to grow from $3.3 billion in 2021 to $22.22 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 31%. South Korean players are big players in the industry with one of them recently joining the Unicorn club.
Founded in 2008 by Kisik Bae, Seoul based RIDI is one of South Korea’s largest digital content publication and distribution companies, mostly known for revitalizing the Korean e-book industry through web novels, webcomics, animation, articles, and news media.
RIDI is best known for Manta, a subscription-based webcomics service that is focused on binge reading experience. Manta offers a collection of webcomics in genres ranging from romance, fantasy, a slice of life, horror, mystery to thriller. Its $3.99 a month subscription allows readers to get access to all of curated content along with personalized recommendations. Today, RIDI boasts of over 111,000 creators on its platform.
Besides Manta, RIDI also owns animation streaming service Laftel and e-book retailer Ridibooks, which is very similar to Amazon’s Kindle. Last year, RIDI also expanded into the US with the launch of Manta in the country.
RIDI has been focused on discovering content IP while expanding it to webtoons, OSTs, and video content. It released several webtoons, and converted popular web novels like ‘Patience, Grand Duke’ and ‘I have raised a dragon in darkness,’ into webtoons.
Recently, RIDI also announced the launch of its new premium e-book reader, Ready Paper 4. The reader claims to be an ergonomic device that is equipped with features such as an ergonomic 9.5 mm round page turn button, a waterproof function, a wider 7-inch high-resolution e-ink display, and an Android 10 operating system.
The company doesn’t disclose its financial details, but its revenue grew 31% to 203.7 billion Won (~$157 million) in 2021. Its profitability status is not known.
RIDI has raised $178 million in seven rounds of funding led by GIC, Atinum Investment, Nvestor (Korea), Korea Development Bank, Company K Partners, Daesung Private Equity, Korea Investment Holdings, and Hana Financial Investment. Its most recent round was held in February 2022 where it raised 120 billion Won (~$92.7 million) at a valuation of $1.3 billion. RIDI plans to use these funds towards global expansion, and developing its original content. RIDI is looking to go public later this year.
RIDI is not the only South Korean webcomic provider with big ambitions. Last year, another Korean company, Kakao Entertainment acquired US-based mobile comics platform Tapas for $510 million to enter the online comics market. South Korean internet services provider, Naver’s Webtoon Entertainment, also offers an app-based comics platform, that is targeting the US market through collaborations with DC Comics and Archie.
But both of these players do much more than webcomics. The recent slowdown, and overall market confidence, has impacted this industry as well. Kakao, which was expected to list its entertainment unit earlier this year, decided to put its plans on hold. RIDI does not share its subscriber base metrics to help figure out how many active users does the service have. Without access to more metrics, it is difficult to judge the valuation of the company.
This segment is a part in the series : E-Commerce Unicorns 2022