Founder: Bom Kim (CEO)
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Funding: $3.4 billion (PitchBook)
Valuation: $9 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies: Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning
Industry: E-commerce, retail
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0
Making your way through Harvard’s prestigious MBA program is one route to starting a company, but for Bom Kim it was taking too long. The founder of Coupang — dubbed the Amazon of South Korea — dropped out after six months, eager to get his e-commerce business off the ground. That was in 2010, when he saw how technology could create the opportunity for an on-demand delivery service for a country (South Korea) whose citizens work long hours and live in densely populated cities.
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Today the company serves the world’s third-largest e-commerce market and has over 5,000 drivers who deliver more than 99% of orders in less than 24 hours. Last year it went even further, with the introduction of Dawn Delivery. Orders placed before midnight are delivered to customers’ doors by 7 a.m. the next day. That level of detail has garnered the company fiercely loyal customers. It claims that over 30% of them buy from Coupang more than 70 times per year. Though Amazon isn’t active in South Korea, there are other local competitors, including Gmarket and 11Street, that Coupang consistently has beat in surveys of favorite online retailers.
The company admits that the coronavirus created massive disruptions in supply, logistics and prices but that it took bold steps early on. It was able to replenish supplies of face masks and hand sanitizer just as the virus began to spread, but Coupang froze prices so customers wouldn’t be adversely affected. The company has raised $3.4 billion in eight rounds of funding and counts SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital and BlackRock among its investors. The company has begun working on tax structuring and other key changes as it eyes a public listing that may happen as soon as 2021.