Korean Venture Capital Firms have grown quickly over the last decade. Seoul is becoming a major tech hub in Asia. Furthermore, they have the highest concentration of smartphone users. Therefore Korea presents a good place for innovative startups that can shake up the market through technology. Many Korean startups have been upgrading and introducing new products to the market which they can test in Seoul.

The global market sees Korea as a limited market due to its tough regulations that limit entrepreneurs from doing new business models, mainly in the fields of finance and Blockchain. Once this changes, multibillion-dollar markets will be up for grabs for VCs in Korea. Korea has a strong talent pool. Big corporations like Samsung, Kakao, LG, and Naver have some of the highest trained engineers. Many Korean startups are looking to find the right Korean VC. Therefore here are the Top 20 most active Korean VC firms to date.

The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on 4 factors:

  • Investment Funds
  • Asset Under Management
  • Global/Domestic Partners
  • Portfolio

Most Active Korean Venture Capital Firms

1. Korea Investment Partners

 

Korea Investment Partners Logo

Korea Investment Partners is the largest VC firm in Korea in terms of assets under management (AUM), investment funds, number of investment professionals, and portfolios. With their AUM of $2.7 billion with 51 funds under management, they invested more than $450 million in 2020 and already exceeded it with $500 million by Q3 2021.

 As of 2020, the total amount of VC investments was $3.8 billion (4.5 trillion KRW), and the market share of KIP on total investment was more than 10%. From the early 2000s, KIP has invested market leaders in each industry in Korea such as Kakao Corp(16.4x), Hyperconnect(9.8x/Partial), Action Square(55x), Kurly(4x), YG Entertainment(9.2x), and etc.

 To provide financial supports for future unicorns, KIP has been actively fundraising for the last 10 years. Along with successful liquidation of previous funds (Average multiple 2.0x, pooled IRR of 16.5%, and all 16 liquidated funds are profitable), they gained trust from various financial institutions in Korea as one of the best performing firms and firms that provide the most stabilized fund management.

KIP Bio Global Fund

After their last close on KIP Bio Global Fund (backed by National Pension Service) which is one of the renowned subsidiaries of Sovereign Wealth Fund in Singapore, they are actively working with international investors by bringing 6 new investors with interests in Korean Market.

 They are currently raising for another fund backed by NPS with a total expected fund size of 400+B KRW. 

 “Throughout long years of experiences, KIP has built vast networks (GPs, LPs, Portfolios, and institutions) within the ecosystem. By leveraging these networks, we are keen to back promising startups in Korea for a fast-shifting market. Moreover, we opened and currently are expanding our teams in global core regions (China/U.S./Singapore). With successful investment performance in core regions, our goal is to be Asia’s leading Venture Capital house,” said Mr. MahnSoon Hwang, CEO of Korea Investment Partners.

2. InterVest

Intervest Korea

South Korean VC firm Intervest is focused on BioTech, IT, and Southeast Asia. They have $580 million assets under management. Their team consists of 11 VCs that focus on early-stage startups that have new and innovative technologies. Furthermore, InterVest has 6 funds and has invested in Genexine, Balance Hero, Alchera, Brich, Tomocube, Lunit, and Noom.

InterVest is one of a handful of VCs that are actively investing in Blockchain technologies. Therefore, they have invested in a Korean Blockchain startup Blocko. Blocko provides a decentralized platform for digital identity and payment services. Furthermore, they are focusing on BioTech because Korea has the potential to become a great biotech player globally. This is because Korea has a great pool of medical data collected by the Korean government.

“Biotechnology is getting more complex, and having medical or biology background helps to value and fund promising startups properly. These startups also need knowledge and professional guidance along the way to grow. We can provide that network, including major hospitals, doctors, and researchers,” said the Director at InterVest, Moon- Yeo-jung.

Outside of BioTech, they are looking into new and innovative technologies like AI, Blockchain, and VR.

Currently, Interest is very active in Southeast Asia and has partnered with VC Kejora Ventures an Indonesian VC. Therefore, they will soon start investing in startups in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand through their $60 Million Fund.

3. Altos Ventures

Altos VenturesAltos Ventures is one of the more established Korean Venture Capital firms (Founded in 1996). However, they operate out of Menlo Park, California but also have an office in Seoul. Therefore they not only invest in Korean startups but companies in North America as well. They do have a dedicated fund that is solely focused on Korean startups. Altos Ventures is a first-stage venture capital firm that also incubates its startups. They focus mainly on cloud-based business software companies. They offer funding investments for seed rounds and early to late venture companies. Their aim is to nurture and develop startups and companies that have the potential to scale globally.  

“We have worked with entrepreneurs for over a decade to build great ideas into great companies. We have the patience and staying power to partner with entrepreneurs to build market-leading companies,” said the Co-Founder of Altos Ventures, Han Kim. 

Altos Ventures has invested in all sectors in IT such as application and infrastructure software, systems, services, and components. They can invest up to $10 million, but they typically invest $1-2 million for initial investments for 20% equity in the startup. Some of the startups they have invested in include, Coupang, Woowa Bros, Kmong, MEMEBOX, Zikbang, and Hyperconnect just to name a few. Overall they have invested in more than 100 startups to date. 

First Investors in Korean FinTech Unicorn Toss

Altos Ventures was the first investor in Toss, a now $2 billion money transfer company. They invested $1 million back in 2014 with an additional $27 million since then. It was considered a very risky investment because peer-to-peer transfer services were technically illegal in Korea at the time.

4. STONEBRIDGE Ventures

Korean Investment Firm StonebridgeStonebridge Ventures is a venture capital firm in Korea that invests in seed to late-stage technology companies. They are a spin-off from Stonebridge Captial a Korean private equity firm. They focus on bio/healthcare, fin-tech, and consumer spaces. Stonebridge has over $500 million in assets under management across multiple funds.

The firm looks for long-term investments by analyzing the growth potential of the target companies. Their CEO previously headed Kakao Ventures. Stonebridge Ventures participated in Korean fintech startup Rainist’s series C round of funding in 2019. In addition, Stonebridge Ventures had placed a bid to purchase a controlling stake into Asiana Airlines. 

5. LB Investment

Korean VC LB Investment

South Korean VC firm LB Investment founded in 1996 specializes in buyouts and seeds for early-stage, growth stage, cross-border transactions. They invest mainly in companies operating for 3 to 5 years since the date founded. The focus of their investment is mainly on information technology, electricity hardware, digital device, mobile content, digital media, education, and entertainment.  They have invested in not only South Korea, China, South East Asia, and the United States. The firm invests between $500,000 to $3 million taking between 10-15% equity.

LB Investment was formerly known as LG Venture Investment. In 2000 LB Investment separated from LG Group. They have a very diverse portfolio. In addition, some of their investments include Big Hit Entertainment which is the agency for K-Pop group BTS, Kakao Games, Bodyfriend, and Korean biotech firm Toolgen just to name a few.  

6. IMM Investment

IMM Investment Corp

Korean venture capital firm IMM Investment was founded in 1999. IMM manages around $3 billion in assets with its 12 venture capital funds and 13 private equity funds. Therefore, they have a team of over 35 investment experts that invests over $330 million in over 200 promising venture-backed firms and startups. In addition, some of their investments include IDUS which is the largest handicraft market in Korea, Coupang which is Korea’s largest social commerce site, and StyleShare which is now the largest fashion social-media site, Woowa Brothers, Bluehole Studio, WeMakePrice, and Celltrion,  just to name a few.

Their focus

For their growth stage investments, they spend 20% on startups, 40% on expansion, and 40% on others. The industries they focus on include information technology infrastructure focusing on security, e-commerce solutions, biotech, and content that focus on education, game, and animation.  Furthermore, they also invest in digital hardware focusing on network and communications equipment and semiconductor parts. In addition, IMM Investment’s larger affiliate IMM Private Equity invests in growth capital opportunities and buyouts, such as Holly’s Coffee and Woori Bank. 

Startups should focus on their business model, market size, and the industry’s potential in order to get funded by IMM. However, they pride themselves on trying to find great entrepreneurs with a great drive.

“We do invest in overseas startups, but it’s difficult to fully engage with them due to the physical distance. One role for VCs, in my opinion, is to continuously engage and support our portfolio company, including follow-on investments. That’s where VCs shine the most,” said CEO of IMM Investment, Ji Sung-base. 

7. KTB Network

KTB Network Korea

KTB Network is a leading Korean VC firm that is also in Silicon Valley and Shanghai. They lead a $7 million funding round for Indian Startup NoBroker which is an online real estate marketplace and also invested in Indian online grocery startup Grofers for $20 million. The investment of NoBroker was the first time a Korean fund has led the funding round for an Indian Startup. KTB is one of the oldest VC funds in Korea. They are the VC arm of Korean brokerage firm KTB Securities & Investment. 

Justin Shin leads KTB Network investments and has over 30 years of venture capital experience. The firm will be doing an IPO soon and could be listed on the Korea Exchange sometime this year. KTB Network is owned by KTB Investment & Securities. They are the largest VC in terms of investment volume. KTB also operates a $300 million fund that only invests in Chinese firms. Their latest investment for that fund was with Clobotics, a computer vision technology startup. In addition, KTB leads the funding round with participation from Capital Development Investment Fund in China and GGV Capital. 

8. Atinum Investment

Atinum Investment

South Korean VC firm Atinum Investment is the venture capital arm of Atinum Partners which is a private investment company owned by a high-profile independent investor, Lee Min-joo. It has over $450 million in assets under management. Lee Min-joo became famous for losing hundreds of millions on his investment in a shale gas venture in the United States 5 years ago.

However, since then Atinum has invested in Medy-Tox, Gamevil, and $41 million in a Singaporean digital cross-border money transfer startup InstaReM.

Atinum has also invested in Fast Five a South Korean co-working space startup. Fast Five received funding of $15 million from Atinum Investment. The investment from Atinum will allow Fast Five to open 20 additional coworking spaces in the Gangnam area. In addition, Atinum Investments have also invested over $10 million in Cheongju-based Aero K Airlines.

9. DSC Investment

DSC Investment

DSC stands for Dream Shelter Charity. They are a venture capital firm in Korea that was founded in 2012 that invests in early-stage startups. However, they also invest in innovative companies in various stages. DSC Investment focuses mainly on startups with high growth potential. Many of their investments have been related to content creation, Blockchain, biotech, software, and robotics. They have 19 funds which total $586 million in assets under management. 

10. Sparklabs Ventures

Sparklabs Ventures Korean Venture

Sparklabs Ventures is the venture arm of SparkLabs Group. Their goal is to lead the revolution of the Korean startup ecosystem by helping Korean startups go global. Their Sparklabs Demo days are famous in Korea and they do a great job of showcasing some of the best up-and-coming Korean startups. They have a vast global network that plays a large role in helping Korean entrepreneurs expand globally.  

“We are really looking at teams who are capable of scaling well across Southeast Asia,” said the Managing Director at Sparklabs Ventures, Brian Kang. 

SparkLabs Ventures Ignition Fund

The SparkLabs Ventures Ignition Fund is a $50 million fund that was launched in 2016 to focus on Korean and Southeast Asian startups. While their main focus is on Korean startups, they have invested in Southeast Asian startups in the past. In addition, back in 2017, they invested in a Vietnamese e-commerce firm called Tiki. 

SparkLabs Ventures Focused on AI Technology in 2021

Recently Sparklabs Ventures led a $3.4 million Series A round in Allganize, an Oakland-based startup that provides deep-learning-based Natural-Language Understanding (NLU) and conversational AI for the enterprise. Furthermore, AI investments in Korea have grown 5x from last year.  

SparkChain Capital 

SparkChain Capital operates a $100 million early-stage venture capital fund focused on investing in the leading Blockchain startups and innovations across the world. They typically invest $1-3 million per startup.

11. SV Investment

SV Investment Korea

SV Investment is a South Korean venture capital firm that invested in Big Hit Entertainment. The investment was before BTS became the sensation they are today. Their initial investment was $3.3 million. Their return on investment was $91 billion. That is a return of over 25x. Through their IPO they also raised $25 million.

SV Investment has a valuation of $160 million. In 2019 expanded their investments overseas including the US. Furthermore, they launched a $100 million fund with the help of U.S.-based VC Kensington Capital Ventures. The industry they focus on is IT, bio, and health care.

Continued Support for Big Hit Entertainment

SV bought 33% of Big Hit Entertainment back in 2011 and was able to recoup over 25x of its initial investment.

“Back then, BTS members were trainees. We checked out the member’s reputations, and they were famous among other trainees. We inquired trainees of other companies to get a better sense of who the guys Bang (CEO of Bit Hit Entertainment) was raising were,” said the CEO of SV Investment, Kim Joong-dong.

Since 2016, Big Hit Entertainment has exploded. Revenue increased from $30 million in 2016 to $200 billion in 2018. Net profit rose from $8 million to $47 million during the same period. SV Investment sold off $75 million of its stake in 2018 but continues to support the K-pop entertainment company.  

12. Bon Angels

Korean VC Bon Angels

Bon Angels Venture Partners is a Korean venture capital firm that invests in early-stage startups. They are considered one of the first early-stage VCs in Korea. They have helped shape the Korean startup ecosystem for over 10 years. Bon Angels have invested in over 120 startups in the fields of IT, O2O, EdTech, FinTech, and etc. They were early investors for Woowa Bros, Daily, and Jobplanet. The firm expanded outside of Korea and into Southeast Asia with the aim to build a greater Asia startup ecosystem.    

Pacemakers Fund 3

Bon Angels announced their plans to launch their third Pacemakers Fund which is dedicated to early-stage startups. The fund will be worth over $40 million.

“We will expand our investments overseas such as in Southeast Asia while maintaining investments in Korea. We will continue to enhance our performance and awareness as an early-stage VC throughout Asia” said CEO of Bon Angels, Simon Seok-heun Kang. 

Furthermore, Bon Angels Pacemakers Fund 3 has raised its seed funds from the private sector, including successful entrepreneurs and companies that want to work with promising startups. In addition, Bon Angels Venture Partners has over $80 million in assets under management.

13. TBT Partners

TBT Partners

 

TBT Partners serves as a bring for conglomerates in Korea who are interested in financing VC funds as limited partners. This gives them the opportunity to not only support startups in Korea but also invest in them. TBT was founded in 2018 with their first fund brought in big companies like Naver and Amorepacfic and was able to raise $92.6 million. These corporations also got the chance to collaborate with TBT Partner’s portfolio companies. TBT Partner will launch their new fund post-COVID. So far they have received commitments from corporations such as SK Broadband and Shinhan Bank. 

14. Company K Partners

Company K Partners

Company K Partners is a principal investment firm that specializes in culture content, electronic components, computers, mobile, and software. The company was founded in 2006 and focuses on equity funding. In addition, some of the companies they have invested in include: Zikbang, NAT Games, Rainist, Riiid!, RIDIBOOKS, Buzzvil, Now Busking, and most recently Lunit. In total, they have invested in over 300 startups.

15. Bass InvestmentBass Investment

Bass Investment is an investment firm in Korea that aims to support early-stage startups, participating in seed, pre-A, Series A, and Series B rounds. The founders of Bass were the core leaders or founders at Kakao and TMON. They offer investment as early as seed and help with future rounds. In addition, they help with operational support for their portfolio companies such as making partnerships with larger Korean companies. In addition, they have a fund of over $26 million. 

16. Fast Investment

Fast Investment Korea

Fast Investment is the investment arm of Fast Track Asia, one of the top accelerators in Korea. The VC firm was founded in 2013 to focus on angel investments. In addition, their focus is on mobile security, messaging solutions, workplace communication, new media services, and data analytics. In addition, some of their investments in Korean startups include SEWorks, Sendbird, Jandi, Outstanding, and Zoyi. Furthermore, Fast Investment continues to form new funds in order to invest in more Korean startups. They invest mainly in early-stage startups.

17. KOLON INVESTMENT

Korean VC Firm KOLON Investment

KOLON INVESTMENT is a Korean venture capital firm that was established in 2000. They manage various types of funds such as startups, growth capital, and M&A funds. They specialize in buyouts, mezzanines, corporate restructuring, growth capital, and turnaround investment. Their focus is on electronic components, petroleum, energy, computer, and telecommunications equipment. They invest mainly in Korean startups. In addition, they have invested in Korean startups Pearl Abyss, ProtoPie, and Wanted, just to name a few.  

18. Capstone Partners

Capstone Partners

Capstone Partners was founded in 2008. It is one of the most experienced venture capital firms in Korea. They have invested in over 100 Korean startups and have a vast network within the Korean startup ecosystem. They are considered a micro VC that specializes in investing in early-stage companies. Capstone Partners has around $168 million in assets under management. They invested early into Market Kurly, Zigbang, and Danggeun Market (Karrot). Their focus is on new innovative technologies led by passionate entrepreneurs. While they are very interested in AI startups, they are open to all sectors. They invest in Korean startups and are expected to carry out an IPO in 2022. 

19. HB Investment

HB InvestmentHB Investment invests in SMEs and startups with high growth potential. They have also formed and successfully operated many startup investment associations in Korea. The VC firm was established in 1999 and focuses on investing in high-tech startups that deal with biotech and software. They have over 75 portfolio startups and have done 14 exits to date. 

20. Ascendo Ventures

Ascendo Ventures

Ascendo Ventures is a Korean early-stage VC fund that focuses on Korea’s tech and market innovation strengths in sectors such as IoT, AI, Machine Learning, Fintech, Blockchain, New Media, entertainment, beauty, and Data Intelligence. They have a strong network of rough partnerships with R&D hubs and tech institutions in Korea. Their investment plan is to target early-stage startups and obtain deals at each stage of investment.  

Ascendo supports its invested startups by connecting them to its global network of strategic advisors and partners. Therefore their cross-border business development activities really help accelerate Korean startups looking to go global. Therefore they target Korean startups that bring a kind of “unfair advantage” into already strong industries in Korea. For example innovative technologies that can help the K-Beauty or K-Pop industry.  

In 2018 Ascendo had three funds, together worth around $75 million. Therefore, they not only focus solely on Korean startups but Southeast Asian startups as well. They are especially interested in Vietnam and Indonesia.  

“We believe firms with a strong basis in software, blockchain, fintech, data, e-commerce, and AI will still fare well in the next 5 o 10 years. The startups that can apply these mainstream technologies to specific industries where Korea has an advantage can differentiate themselves globally,” said co-founder of Ascendo Ventures, Shin Dong-suk.