Korean-Owned Piccoma Buys 70% Stake in Language Service Provider Voithru

Voithru acquired by Kakao’s Japanese subsidiary Piccamo (January 2023)

Piccoma, a Japan-based subsidiary of South Korean company Kakao, has acquired a majority stake in technology and content translation company Voithru for USD 16.2m, reported KoreaTechDesk on January 16, 2023. The deal was completed in late 2022, with Kakao now owning 70% of the company.

Voithru, founded in 2018, brings several localization offerings to Kakao, including content translation service PANOPLAY, video translation service JAMAKE, and translation platform TOTUS, which according to the company’s website has 2,000 translators working in nine languages.

Piccoma is a webtoon/web graphic novels publisher that has established a global presence with a popular subscription app available for smartphones, tablets, and computers. One key differentiator in Piccoma’s app is that the webtoons can be read by scrolling vertically. 

Kakao Corp. owns over 1,000 of these titles on the app alone, and close to 9,000 other titles. Acquiring Voithru is speculated to be a move toward intellectual property protection as this popular content continues to reach new audiences beyond Asia. Piccoma’s app also hosts an additional 70,000 titles owned by other Japanese publishers. 

In a precursor to this latest news, Kakao Piccoma announced its expansion to Europe and North America in 2021. Now, Kakao also owns a French language service through Piccoma that provides translated webtoons.

This is not the first time Kakao acquires a translation company. The South Korean conglomerate acquired Kiwi Media Company in 2021, whose offerings include translation, subtitling, and dubbing. Like Voithru, Kiwi Media Company was a startup at the time of acquisition.

Kakao’s strategy is to have most if not all cultural and linguistic localization teams as in-house capabilities. This latest acquisition certainly underscores the company’s philosophy of expanding while retaining management, intellectual property, and creative control.

Kakao has funds to spare as “Kakao Entertainment Corp.”, the South Korean division of Kakao Corp., received two large investment commitments in January 2023 to back its global expansion. 

Together, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC are investing USD 964 million. This latest investment round puts Kakao’s valuation at USD 18.8Bn.