by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
South Korea’s most popular restaurant discovery company Mangoplate is eyeing expansion both domestically and throughout Asia after securing a $6.1 million Series A round of funding, according to TechCrunch.
Since emerging from a Seoul-based accelerator program two years ago, Mangoplate has raised $7.2 million in total from investors, including Qualcomm Ventures, Softbank Ventures Korea and YJ Capital.
Available in both Korean and English, Mangoplate is currently estimated to include around 40 percent of Korea’s restaurants and is aiming to double that to 80 percent within a year.
The company prides itself on personalization, as it relies on algorithms and data gathering to present restaurant deals to a user based on their location and cuisine preferences.
“Lots of companies claim to use big data but just crawl [through] Naver and blogs,” Mangoplate co-founder Joon Oh told TechCrunch. “Mangoplate really is a big data-driven personalization service, it’s like Yelp on steroids.”
The company is also planning to expand into the rest of Asia in 2016. Oh said the company is eyeing markets that share similarities to Seoul, including Singapore and Hong Kong, but emphasized getting a strong footing in the domestic market was a top priority.
Before Mangoplate, there was Naver’s Wingspoon, but the Korean government ordered Naver to shut it down back in 2013. Until then, Wingspoon had been the go-to food discovery service in Korea, but it eventually drew criticism for fake reviews and restaurants abusing the system.
Mangoplate has since filled the void. To address the concerns people had with Wingspoon, Mangoplate apparently has a “number of systems in place to detect specific behavior,” said Lee, including sign-in via Facebook or Kakao to rate and review.