SK Networks, a general trading affiliate of South Korean conglomerate SK Group, has invested 25 billion won ($19 million) into generative AI startup Upstage as it looks to expand its footprint in the burgeoning technology. SK Networks President Choi Sung-hwan and Upstage CEO Kim Seong-hoon sealed the investment deal on the sidelines of the high-profile CES 2024 technology trade show in Las Vegas this week.
The investment is part of Upstage's Series B funding, with SK Networks as the lead investor. An SK Networks official emphasized the intent to foster Upstage's growth into a global leader in the LLM industry. This partnership is expected to leverage SK Networks' technological prowess and international presence to augment Upstage's market expansion and innovation capabilities.
Upstage has garnered attention for its innovative approach in the small-scale Large Language Model (ssLLM) market, specializing in private, domain-specific models that prioritize information security. This expertise has attracted a diverse client base, ranging from government agencies to financial institutions, illustrating the startup's versatility and potential.
"We are looking to back Upstage's market expansion and help the company grow into a global leader in the LLM industry," an SK Networks official said in a statement. "By utilizing SK Networks' extensive global network, crafted through investments in tech companies both at home and abroad, we will support Upstage to thrive on the international stage."
The vote of confidence comes on the heels of Upstage achieving the top spot in Hugging Face's prestigious Open LLM Leaderboard in December with its internally developed small-scale language model, Solar. The Seoul-based startup also holds the distinction of being the first domestic AI company to win a cumulative 10 gold medals in the renowned Kaggle competition.
Upstage plans to leverage SK Networks' global business network and recently acquired data solutions subsidiary en-core to accelerate overseas expansion. The two companies plan to create synergies by potentially combining Upstage's private language model capabilities with en-core's data management services.