2016 was a crazy year for the Korean startup scene. The scandal of President Park, as well as the slowing economy, played a large role in the drop in funding. Government funding for local venture capital firms dropped and even worth many investigations were undertaken to find out if any one of these firms made deals with Choi Soon Sil. As 2016 comes down to a close it is important to see which Korean investment firms could look to revitalize the Korean startup scene. Here are the five investment firms that every Korean startup should know for 2017.
A lot of mystery surround Q Capital Partners which has been around since the 1980s. They made big news recently by investing $21 million into Yello O2O in 2016. Yello O2O is part of mobile marketing jack-of-all-trades startup Yello Mobile, a South Korean unicorn and a holding company for a multitude of startups in various verticals. Not a lot is known about Q Capital Partners except that it is a Seoul-based investment firm that specializes in corporate buyouts, corporate restructuring, and venture capital. Is it possible that Yello Mobile is losing money? Or could they be using the capital to accelerate other areas of investments?
Those looking for a more early-stage VC, K Cube Ventures is one of the leading early-stage VCs that focuses on everything from software to mobile. They have invested heavily in gaming startups in 2015 like Kokomo Games, Moai Games, and most of their investments range between $1-4 million. They have a strong track record of identifying strong contenders and investing in startup teams that are armed with a competitive edge.
Founded in 2001, Korea Investment Partners is considered one of the biggest VC firms in Korea. 2016 was a down year as they only made $17 million in investments compared to well over $100 million in 2015. Korea Investment Partners has invested in Kakao, Naver, YG Entertainment, and Bodyfriend just to name a few. They have over $1.8 billion in total assets under management. This is why the large drop in 2016 is a concern. It will be interesting to see if 2017 will be more like 2015 or 2016. Signs point to more of 2015 with their first investment happening in January with a $10 million series A with Monese, an online banking platform that offers super quick current account opening for all EU residents.
NHN Entertainment Corp is a company that develops mobile games and apps. However, they made waves last year when they invested $40 million into Ticket Monster, a leading South Korean mobile commerce company. It was regarded more of a unique partnership rather than an investment. NHNE signed an MOU to form a strategic partnership with Ticket Monster to promote NHNE’s payment solution PAYCO on Ticket Monster. They will also share in the research and development of new technologies in the mobile commerce market. This could be a stepping stone in NHN getting into other investments as well. Many thought this was a one-time investment but in September of 2016, NHN made a $4 million investment into Critical Force, a Finnish video game company. 2017 will be very interesting to see if NHN Entertainment continues to invest in other starts, possibly in Korea.
IMM Private Equity or also known as IMMPE is a private equity firm that specializes in minority investments and middle market buyouts. They have been operating for over 10 years and have growth because of their great record on returns. They are considered one of the top private equity industries in Korea. They have managed over $2.7 billion and is led by CEO Song In-jun. They were made famous with their launch of a $1.2 billion blind fund. It has pooled over $1 billion from Korean pension funds and major institutional investors. They have invested the most in 2016 and is looking to do the same for 2017.