Group-Messaging App KakaoTalk, with 25 Mil Users, Leads the Way for Korean Start-Ups

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Korea-based Kakao Corp is one of the companies who received investment from A-Fund yesterday. The app development start-up made its name with KakaoTalk, a cross-platform mobile group-messenging app — for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry — with over a whopping 25 million users and 600 million messages sent, according to its in-app news notification. The number is staggering and so I decided to give it a try.

It has a neat user-interface and works very similarly to Whatsapp, or Kik. I’m not sure which of the apps was out on the market first – but that isn’t an issue since KakaoTalk, Whatsapp, Kik, et al, are enjoying high growth in different markets. Though it is increasingly clear that competition is getting pretty heated up.

Whatsapp is extremely popular in English-speaking nations, which includes Singapore. But in Korea and perhaps even in Japan, KakaoTalk dominates.


Emoticons are what make KakaoTalk kinda unique, and are apparently popular in Korea and Japan. Whatsapp doesn’t have that feature. But, to be fair, KakaoTalk doesn’t have an option for users to share their location. Some might think that isn’t a useful feature but I learned that it works wonders when you’re trying to let others know where exactly you are.

The rest of the features are pretty much the standard — group-messaging, video, and audio sharing.

KakaoTalk is free for users to download (iTunes link) and use, which explains its high growth. Whatsapp, on the other hand, costs $0.99 to download for iOS.

KakaoTalk has also recently introduced eight new languages, including Chinese (both traditional and simplified), which signals its ambition to break into the Chinese market. Tencent, as one of the A-Fund’s lead investors will surely be of great help to distribute the app in China. (Though, ironically, Tencent has its own group-messaging service, called Weixin).

The Korean app has won much praise too. It was awarded the best messaging app prize on CNET; the title of best Android developer by Google; and also won the Award Brand from K-Pop.

Other messaging apps in Asia include Miliao (which is integrated into the new Chinese smartphone, the Xiaomi M1), Pinch (Singapore), and Jay Chou-backed 31SMS (Taiwan).

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