WADDLE Secures 2 Billion KRW to Expand Conversational AI Shopping Agent Gentoo

Korean startup WADDLE, the developer of the conversational AI agent Gentoo, which aids in purchase conversion, has secured 2 billion KRW in pre-Series A funding from Kakao Ventures, BonAngels Venture Partners, and Fast Ventures. BonAngels Venture Partners, a participant in the seed investment, also joined as a follow-up investor.

WADDLE is developing Gentoo, an AI agent that interacts with online shopping mall visitors, recommending products that match their purchasing intentions and situations. Gentoo learns detailed information and reviews of products sold in the shopping mall, introducing and recommending products to customers like an experienced sales clerk. Its strength lies in reducing drop-offs during the product search stage, where the most drop-offs occur, and increasing the purchase conversion rate. It continuously learns from conversation history with customers to find the optimal sales strategy. Currently, Gentoo is being used on domestic and international e-commerce platforms for meal kits, alcoholic beverages, dietary supplements, bedding, and more.

Since 2021, WADDLE has been operating a conversational shopping service in the barrier-free online shopping app ‘Sori Market,’ securing commerce conversation data. Based on high-quality conversation data from product search to payment, they developed language models specialized for each stage of the commerce purchasing journey. They built a Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) architecture, where specialized language models collaborate to solve problems, enhancing conversation accuracy and usability. In March, WADDLE was recognized for its technological prowess, being selected among the top three companies at the OpenAI Matching Day held in the U.S.

Following this investment, WADDLE plans to expand its service range to help businesses and customers build meaningful relationships. They will provide analysis results of shopping mall visitors’ interests and preferences and release CRM solutions such as personalized push notifications and curated promotional events. Starting in the second half of the year, they plan to extend their reach beyond e-commerce into areas such as automotive, real estate, and finance. The goal is to offer new purchasing experiences in high-engagement product/service markets where there is a significant information gap between suppliers and consumers and purchasing decisions are challenging.

WADDLE’s team is led by CEO Park Ji-hyuk, CSO Cho Yong-won, and Tech Lead Lee Jin-won, who have been working together for over 10 years since their time at the Korea Science Academy and KAIST. The three co-founders have built their teamwork and technical capabilities together, from academics to entrepreneurship. With their experience in collecting high-quality commerce conversation data and developing SaaS products, they are seen as a team well-suited to open new horizons in the customer engagement market.

Kim Young-moo, an investor from Kakao Ventures who led this investment, said, “WADDLE possesses overwhelming technical capabilities that can quickly settle into the high-engagement commerce market and expand into various fields. As we are entering a new phase beyond the mobile era, we expect WADDLE to lead the future with a ‘conversational interface’ as the new interface.”

Park Ji-hyuk, CEO of WADDLE, stated, “Through Gentoo, our conversational AI that understands customers, we will present consumers with an innovative online shopping experience and address the perpetual challenge of purchase conversion rates for sellers. We aim to grow by leveraging the potential of conversational AI to open a new interface era and drive the expansion of the digital base.”

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