SK Networks invests $22M in the U.S. AI device startup ‘Humane’


As interest in artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly mounting, innovative companies around the world are expanding investment and partnership in the AI field. Under current circumstances, SK Networks’ decision to invest in an AI-powered device and software platform has drawn major attention from the market, especially with the company’s active move to transform itself into a business-oriented investment company by driving up investment into promising tech startups since 2018.

SK Networks announced on the 9th of March that the company has made an investment of 22 million dollars directly and indirectly through SK networks’ U.S. investment arm Hico Capital, securing 2.6% of ownership in total. 100 million dollars were raised for this round in order to bring Humane’s product to the market and further develop technology.

The investment decision was made late last year and the details were officially disclosed to stakeholders as Human’s investment round was closed recently.

The round was led by Kindred Ventures and saw participation from existing investors like Sam Altman who is the founder of OpenAI, Tiger Global, and Valia Ventures, along with new investors including SK Networks, Microsoft, Volvo, and LG Technology Ventures.

Humane is a company that uses AI to develop first-of-its kind of next generation device after mobile phone. The company was co-founded by two prominent ex-Apple talents, Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri, who have both played a crucial role in cradling industry-leading IT hardware and software including iPhone and iPad. Humane is making AI-based innovative device software platform through which it will fulfill its mission to deliver the next era of personal mobile computing, driven by AI.

SK Networks decided to make an investment after seeing huge growth potential of the startup. It also paid attention to the facts that the company was started by top talents who led the IT device innovation in Apple and that the startup is partnering with global IT giants including Microsoft, Qualcomm, and OpenAI.

Imran Chaudhri, co-founder of Humane, commented on SK Networks’ investment, “It was very clear from the early conversations we had with SK Networks that we shared similar value and vision for the future,” and added, “We are full of expectations as to how our partnership will allow Humane’s innovation to expand to many countries around the world including Korea.”

SK Networks expects to leverage the investment to capture top-tier global network and investment prowess for AI domain. At the same time, the company will cooperate with Humane to expand their presence into global market going forward.

“Following an investment in Standard Cognition in 2021, which offers autonomous checkout solution for unmanned stores, the investment in Humane will enable SK Networks to lay the groundwork for collaborative framework with B2C and B2B businesses that utilize AI computing solutions” said Samuel Kim, managing director of Hico Capital. “We will strategically ramp up investment in Silicon Valley-based tech firms to bolster up our corporate value and share it with stakeholders.”

During its Global Annual General Meeting in February, SK Networks has presented to potential investors the current status and performance of its early stage investments with a focus on U.S. Transitioning toward a business-oriented investment company, SK Networks has declared that it will continuously enhance its investment capabilities and thereby boost up the synergy between business and investment.

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