SoftBank-Naver Joint Venture’s NFT Unit Raises $140 Million From Peter Thiel-Backed Private Equity Firm

Peter Thiel. Launched in 2012, its other investments include semiconductor equipment manufacturer Hanmi Semiconductor, whose CEO Kwak Dong-shin became a billionaire in July as investors looked for the next beneficiary of the AI frenzy, and Medipost, a Korean biotech founded by Forbes Asia Power Businesswomen honoree Yang Yoon-sun.

Established in 2021, when NFTs exploded in popularity, Line Next is owned by LY Corp., which is the result of a merger in October between Z Holdings and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, including Line Corp., the operator of popular messaging app Line. LY Corp. itself is a subsidiary of A Holdings, a joint venture established in 2021 between billionaire Masayoshi Son’s technology investment giant SoftBank and billionaire Lee Hae-jin’s Korean internet giant Naver.

Line Next raised about $10 million in July 2022 from investors including SoftBank, Naver, Korean billionaire Chung Yong-jin’s retail giant Shinsegae, as well as CJ ENM, the entertainment unit of Korean billionaire Lee Jay-hyun’s conglomerate CJ Group.

The frenzy of NFTs, in which its advocates believe could be a valuable way of proving the authenticity of digital assets, however, didn’t last long. Monthly trading volume for these digital art and collectibles recorded on blockchains has tumbled 94% between January 2022 and November 2023, according to data from blockchain analytics firm Dappradar. An index by data firm Nansen that tracks the market cap of the top 10 NFTs has plunged 72% from its peak in February 2022 as of Tuesday.

Even though the NFT bubble has burst, Line Next has been pushing forward new digital asset-related projects. Over the past year, the company has set up a NFT platform featuring digital collectibles of K-pop stars and has launched several Web3 games. Line Next claimed that its offerings have amassed 5.5 million users with more than 470,000 cumulative transactions over the past year.

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