Expansion plans in the works for Thailand and Vietnam
KUCHING: Korean Beauty startup Althea Inc (Althea), which is targeting the Southeast Asian market, has raised US$3.5 million in Series A funding from Mirae Asset Ventures, Posco Ventures, 500 Startups, Tekton Ventures, Cherubic Ventures and others.
Founded by entrepreneurs Frank Kang, Christopher Cynn and Jae Kim along with e-commerce veterans from Rocket Internet, Groupon, LivingSocial and TicketMonster, Althea has fueled the K-beauty wave in Southeast Asia since emerging on the scene last July.
Althea now has a presence in four major markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines, and plans to expand into Thailand and Vietnam by the end of this year.
Chief executive officer Kang shared with The Borneo Post that Malaysia being the first market for Althea and still the biggest market for the company, has been having a healthy growth continuously with a huge fan base built through almost an year.
“Looking at the other recent expansion, Indonesia also shows a rapid growth riding on huge population,” he said.
“We also have a high expectation on Thailand market where we are entering next month.”
Previously, Althea raised seed funding from top Korean VC Bon Angels and US accelerator fund 500 Startups. This Series A round has come less than a year since it launched its first country, Malaysia.
The funds will be used for executing on its aggressive expansion plan and enhancing cross border operations. The company also looks to continue to build its team in key areas of marketing, branding, merchandising, and logistics.
Althea now claims over 500,000 monthly active users and an annualised run rate of over US$10 million with an average 30 per cent monthly growth.
This year, Althea said would largely be focused on solidifying its leadership in the K-beauty segment in Southeast Asia and hitting profitability by the end of the year.
“Southeast Asia is already the second largest destination for Korean beauty products and is expected to grow to a US$8 billion market in the next five years.
“We are leading this growth by providing consumers with a user-friendly shopping experience seamlessly across national borders,” Kang said in a press release.
Even with the existing popularity of major Korean beauty brands such as Laneige, Innisfree and Etude House, Althea also carries a fair amount of products from new and emerging brands, called Trendy Items.
“There are more than 10,000 beauty brands in Korea with world-class cosmetics manufacturing technology. Young, beauty-savvy Korean women are always searching for new and cool brands through social media and other online channels, and several of those brands have really become a big hit among Korean consumers.
However, they are missing out on a larger opportunity because of the lack of a proper channel for them to expand to the overseas market,” Kang said.
The company supports these trendy brands by providing an end-to-end solution to expand into the Southeast Asian market.
It does this through a comprehensive marketing solution including promotion planning, advertising, international logistics and local customer service.
The company has part of its core team in place locally to provide these services more effectively.
Currently, Althea has exclusive relationships with more than 30 trendy brands in Korea that are carefully vetted and handpicked by its team of professional beauty merchandisers.
Althea’s goal is to become the number one destination for K-beauty in Southeast Asia (SEA). As Kang explains, “Our vision is trendsetting K-beauty throughout the world.”