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Japanese billionaire invests in Korea’s hearing aid startup

Japanese billionaire invests in Korea’s hearing aid startup

Posted August. 17, 2023 08:03,   

Updated August. 17, 2023 08:03


Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and the founder of a custom-fit apparel brand ZOZO, is set to invest in a South Korean hearing aid startup, which shows his strong belief in the potential of the elderly care industry in Korea as it approaches the threshold of becoming a super-ageing society.

According to the IB industry on Wednesday, Mr. Maezawa has injected 5 billion won into Olive Union, a pioneering smart hearable startup. The investment also saw participation from Beyond Next Ventures, a Japanese venture capital firm.

Often likened to “Japan’s Elon Musk,” Mr. Maezawa initiated a punk band and ventured into the mail-order album business back in 1995. Following his debut in 1998, he launched the online retail clothing platform Zozotown in 2004, subsequently achieving a listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2007. In 2019, Maezawa made headlines by selling a 50.1% stake of his company to Yahoo Japan for a substantial 4.4 trillion won, solidifying his status as a self-made billionaire. By December 2021, Forbes estimated his net worth to be around 2 billion dollars (about 2.51 trillion won). Notably, he garnered attention by announcing his intention to partake in a lunar voyage aboard Space X in 2024, alongside eight others, including T.O.P. from the K-pop band BIGBANG.

Established in July 2016, Olive Union specializes in the manufacture and sale of innovative smart hearing aids that integrate with smartphones through Bluetooth technology. The company has ventured into the Japanese market, leveraging its larger aging industry, and took up 10 percent of Japan’s hearing aid market share. Following its acquisition of medical device certification, Olive Union is poised to initiate sales from August onwards in Korea as well.

Earlier, PARTRON, a key subcontractor to Samsung Electronics for camera modules and fingerprint sensors for smartphones, also took part in the investment in Olive Union. The smart hearable startup is strategically eyeing entry into the U.S. market following its expansion in Japan. To this end, it has enlisted SMBC Nikko Securities as the lead manager, with aspirations to be listed on the Tokyo Exchange in 2024. CEO Song Myung-geun expressed his optimism that the company’s global market penetration would gain momentum, riding on the wave of the flourishing aging industry in both Japan and Korea.