Naver is one of the 27 startup incubators that have joined Station F so far, which also include Facebook and Microsoft. Opened in June last year, Station F is a startup campus located in Paris, France. The 27 incubators support the growth of startups from all around the world.
Naver’s space in Station F, dubbed Space Green, is the starting point of Naver’s business in Europe. Naver declared that it would aim for the global market beyond Asia back in July 2016, when its Line was listed on the Japanese stock market. Naver joined Station F one year later. At present, about 20 startups are being supported by Naver in Space Green and most of them are European ICT startups.
These startups are focusing on Naver in that the South Korean company has potential to keep Google in check. “An increasing number of startups are expressing discontent with Google’s predominance in Europe,” said Lucas Bouyoux, who is the founder of French startup Gabsee, which produces avatars used in augmented reality. He also said that collaboration with Naver will provide new experience for users wishing to use non-Google services.
Naver itself is also saying that it is aiming to become the linchpin of an anti-Google alliance in Europe. “Our short-term goal in Europe is not to launch a business or make money but to form a firm collaborative system,” said a Space Green manager. This is why Naver provides its space in Station F free of charge unlike the other incubators. Instead, Naver puts much emphasis on unique technology related to content closely associated with consumers and comments from existing startup partners in choosing new members.
In June last year, Naver acquired Xerox Research Center Europe, an artificial intelligence (AI) research lab located in Grenoble, France. Xerox Research Center Europe was a leading company in the field of machine learning, natural language processing and so on. “The acquisition will lead to some synergy with the 3D maps, robots and the like Naver is currently working on,” said Naver CTO Song Chang-hyun.
In September 2016, Naver and its subsidiary Line invested 100 million euros in venture capital firm Korelya Capital, which was founded by former Digital Economy Minister Fleur Pellerin. In addition, they made an investment in French startup Devialet, which has premium audio technology, via Korelya Capital. Devialet is planning to open a store in South Korea this year to show its Phantom speakers already popular worldwide. AI speaker development forms a part of Naver’s future growth strategy and collaboration with Devialet is expected to accelerate the progress of the development.