South Korea’s SK Planet sets aside up to $1 billion to invest in US tech firms over next 3-5 years

South Korea’s SK Planet sets aside up to $1 billion to invest in US tech firms over next 3-5 years ...

Many tech companies might be eyeing Asia for its rapid growth prospects, but South Korea’s SK Planet will spend $500 million-$1 billion to acquire, invest in and build tech firms in the US over the next three to five years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

SK Planet is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SK Telecom focusing on Internet services. The report said San Francisco will be a new hub for the company (it already has a new 15,000-foot office in San Francisco’s SoMa district), and cited SK Planet CEO Jinwoo So as saying that a team of around 40 people, including ex-Google and Apple employees, are already coming up with new mobile video, commerce and education services.

In one of its first efforts, SK Planet is backing a new messaging app called Frankly, which is expected to launch this summer.

So said SK Telecom did not manage to make a mark in the US previously because it had not modified its products enough for US consumers.

Currently, SK Telecom still has an office in Silicon Valley – SK Telecom Americas – which says it “develops new growth opportunities for SK Telecom”. However, the report noted that the company has had some flops – Helio, a mobile virtual network operator joint venture with American internet services provider EarthLink, was sold to rival Virgin Mobile USA in 2008, which retired the Helio brand soon after.

So said finding new growth beyond the maturing Korean market is “part of the story.” Instead, the company is interested to swoop in on early adopters in the Silicon Valley and the proximity to companies like Google and Apple, with So noting that Valley companies are changing consumer behavior through software platforms for mobile developers.

SK Telecom isn’t the first South Korean company to zoom in on the US. Earlier this year, Samsung expanded its US presence with the creation of a Strategy and Innovation Center (SSIC), utilizing $1.1 billion to create two new funds: the Samsung Catalyst Fund and the Samsung Ventures America Fund. It also invested $25 million to form Intellectual Keystone Technology (IKT), a wholly-owned Washington DC-based patents firm.

Other Asian companies active in the US include telecom operators such as SoftBank, NTT Docomo and SingTel, as well as Chinese Internet giant Tencent.

Image Credit: Choi Jae-ku via AFP/Getty Images

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