Global venture capital firms invest in Korean startups like never before. They have been some of the biggest rounds raised by startups in Korea and have played a major role in helping them become Unicorns. With Coupang successfully launching its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange back in 2021, more and more global VC firms are looking to Korea to find the next big tech unicorn. In 2023, it is estimated that over $6 billion of global VC capital will go toward startups in Korea. Global VC firms are attached to Korea’s strong middle class and rapid technology development like 5G adoption. Many of their investment firms see South Korea as the next frontier of tech startups in the next decade. Below is a list of global venture capital firms that have invested heavily in startups in Korea.

Global VC Firms that Invest in Korean Startups

SoftBank Ventures Asia

SoftBank Ventures Asia

SoftBank Ventures Asia formerly known as SoftBank Ventures Korea is an investment company. It was established by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp in 2000. Therefore SoftBank Ventures Asia is a foreign holding company that invests mainly in Korean startups but by 2011 expanded into Asia. SoftBank Ventures Asia invested in many sectors such as IT, Biotech, Med-Tech, AI, Robotics, and manufacturing. They have invested in over 200 Korean startups with about half being early-stage startups.

Their focus is on startups that are looking to enter the global market or have already entered the global market. They have invested in Sunday Toz, the creators of Anipang. Other notable investments include Knowre, TrueBalance, RSquare, Tokopedia, Mythic, Hyperconnect, and Snow China, just to name a few.

SoftBank’s Network 

SoftBank Ventures Asia has operating teams in Seoul, San Francisco, Beijing, Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Shanghai. Companies invested by SoftBank have access to SoftBank’s community, resources, and network. Furthermore, their goal for 2021 is to continue to focus on AI technology and its application across different industries. They raised $341 million for early-stage investments globally, with a focus on Asia. This early-stage fund will target startups across the Series A to C stages to invest amounts between $2 million and $15 million. 

“As we pivot to Asia, South Korea will not be marginalized. Korea remains an important market for us, and we plan to continually invest in promising startups here. It’s IT engineers like those in Korea who can make competitive services that succeed not just in Korea but in global markets,” said JP Lee, CEO of SoftBank Ventures Asia. 

Over $1.2 Billion under Management

SoftBank has over $1.2 billion under management and has invested in over 250 companies across 15 funds. If you are an AI startup in Asia that is outside of China there is a good chance you can get an investment from SoftBank Ventures Asia. Their new $500 AI fund focuses globally on disruptive startups with AI technologies and services in the Asia-Pacific, except China. Furthermore, SoftBank Ventures Asia already has a $300 million China Venture Fund in partnership with TPG Growth, a US-based private equity firm.

Focus on Korean AI 

SoftBank Ventures Asia partners with Korea Venture Investment to help Korean AI startups. They will create a fund for investment into AI startups in Korea and help them grow their investor network. Therefore, this means that they will hold more AI venture investment conferences in Seoul moving forward. Their aim is to turn Korea into a world-class data and AI global hub/network. 

Primer Sazze Partners

Primer Sazze PartnersPrimer Sazze Partners is a VC firm based in San Jose, California. They recently announced their second seed fund at $125 million to invest in startups founded by Korean entrepreneurs based in North America and Asia. LG Corporation and Hana Financial led the second fund with participation from a number of successful Korean tech entrepreneurs. Their first fund was for $50 million. Therefore, their AUM now stands at $170 million. Their focus for the fund will be on early-stage startups from pre-seed to Series A. Initial investments will range from $500,000 to $3 million with options for follow-on investments.

The fund will target startups that are focused on health tech, food tech, A.I., SaaS, and sectors that incorporate Korean culture like Korean music, movies, and dramas. Furthermore, they will also help startups with global expansion

500 Startups 

500 Startups500 Startups is an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator founded in 2010 in Silicon Valley. Now over a decade later, 500 Startups has become a global early-venture fund with a presence in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Europe. 500 Startups has invested in over 2,400 startups in over 70 countries. Their portfolio consists of startup unicorns such as Grab, Canva, and Gitlab just to name a few. 

500 Kimchi

Back in 2015, 500 Startups launched 500 Kimchi, a $15 million fund that focused on mobile companies. Moreover, the goal of the fund was to provide promising startups in Korea with feed funding while at the same time giving them exposure to investors in Silicon Valley. 

500 Global Korea

500 Global Korea invests in Korean startups targeting Korea and the Global Market. As of late 2022, 500 Global Korea has invested in over 80 startups in various sectors. Some of their most promising investments include SPOON, Peoplefund, and Dano. They typically invest $100,000 – 250,000 per investment into 15-20 new startups a year in Korea. Furthermore, they also offer a 2-month in-house portfolio support program that helps startups reach their Series A rounds faster by providing opportunities to work face-to-face with 500 network mentors. Therefore, 500 Global Korea not only offers startups in Korea investment but also gives them a chance to build strong relationships with the most successful entrepreneurs and business operators in Silicon Valley. 

Sequoia Capital

Global Venture Capital Firms

Sequoia Capital is an American venture capital firm. The firm is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, and mainly focuses on the technology industry. It has backed companies that now control $3.3 trillion of combined stock market value, equivalent to 22 percent of Nasdaq.

They have recently broken away from the traditional fund structure. Now all investments will flow through The Sequoia Fund, an open-ended liquid portfolio made up of public positions in a selection of their companies. Therefore, the Sequoia Fund will allocate capital to a series of closed-end sub-funds for venture investments at every stage for startups from inception to IPO. However, this change only applies to US/Europe-focused funds. Sequoia China will not adopt this structure. Sequoia Capital led Korean eCommerce startup Market Kurly’s series F round which closed at $200 million. 

Aspex Management

Aspex ManagementAspex Management is a Hong Kong based investment manager focused on pan-Asian equity investing using a fundamental, research-intensive approach with a long-term horizon. They were also a major player in Market Kurly’s funding rounds. However, Aspex Management’s most popular move came when they led a $64 million funding round for Korean fintech startup Viva Republica, the PayPal-backed creator of financial services platform Toss. Moreover, their latest investment has been in Danggeun Market, a second-hand marketplace between users at the local level. 

Goodwater Capital

Goodwater CaptialGoodwater Capital is a venture capital firm that focuses on consumer tech startups. They recently announced $1 billion in new funds to invest in early and growth-stage consumer tech startups, along with access to an additional $500 million to support late-stage hypergrowth companies. Furthermore, the Goodwater community spans more than 25 countries, with over 140 companies powering $150B in annualized financial and eCommerce services. They invested in Viva Republica, Danggeun Market, Class 101, and Quotabook. 

DST Global

DST GLobal

DST Global is a venture capital and private equity firm that primarily invests in late-stage internet companies. Digital Sky Technologies (DST) is listed on the London Stock Exchange. As a result, DST Global was set up in 2009 by Yuri Milner as a separate fund management company for international investments. In addition, Naver committed over $100 million to a European startup investment fund launched by DST Global. DST Global has invested in Korean startup giants such as Market Kurly and Danggeun Market.

Bain Capital

Bain Capital

Bain Capital is one of the world’s leading private multi-asset alternative investment firms with over $150 billion in assets under management. The firm was founded in 1984 and focuses on a consulting-based approach to private equity investing. In addition, they partner closely with management teams to offer insights. They create value through private equity, public equity, and venture capital across multiple sectors, industries, and geographies. Bain Capital has invested in Korea-based ed-tech startup ST Unitas and Socar, Korea’s leading car-sharing platform. Moreover, Bain Capital has agreed to invest around $360 million in South Korea’s leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) software developer Douzone Bizon Co. 


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