SparkLabs launches $50M early-stage fund for South Korea

SparkLabs Group, a network of accelerators and funds, is launching a $50 million early-stage fund (Series A & B) primarily focused on South Korea. The fund will be led by Brian Kang, who was a founding member of Samsung’s first venture capital arm and later led Korea Venture Fund, which was Korea’s first VC fund of funds. He has over 20 years of experience as an investment professional and several years as an entrepreneur and operator. He was CEO & Chairman of the Board at Gravity, a Softbank affliated gaming company, and then went on to launch his own gaming startup.

Brian is joined by Chris Koh, Co-founder of Coupang which is the leading ecommerce player in South Korea and received $1 billion investment from Softbank in 2015. Chris started Coupang with a classmate from Harvard Business School and their friend at Harvard Law. He was vice president of the company for five years focusing on operations and growth.

“We are grateful to SeAH who was one of the first investors in SparkLabs Global Ventures, our global seed fund, and now the anchor investor along with Korea Development Bank/Multi-Asset in our new Series A fund for South Korea. We believe we have assembled the best team to service entrepreneurs in Korea since all of us have built companies from the ground up in Korea and the U.S.,” stated HanJoo Lee, co-founder of SparkLabs.

SeAH is a top 50 business group in South Korea and Korea Development Bank/Multi-Asset is subsidiary of Mirae Asset, which is the largest asset manager in South Korea with over US$100 billion assets under management.

Brian Kang and Chris Koh are joined by Venture Partners (part-time partners) Rob Das, Co-founder and former Chief Architect of Splunk, and John Suh, CEO of Legalzoom. Splunk is a $8 billion market cap company that Rob helped grow from concept to its IPO in 2012. John has served as CEO since 2007 to help grow Legalzoom into the leading provider of online legal document services in the U.S. that has serviced almost 4 million customers.

“We are excited to launch this new early-stage fund to help Korea’s rapidly growing startup ecosystem. I believe the venture capital business must evolve as the startup environment is changing fast in Korea. Finding companies of global capacity, generating rich deal flow, adding real values post investment are becoming more and more critical to the success of venture investments. Chris and I look forward to working with other investors to help nurture the next generation of impact entrepreneurs in South Korea,” said Brian Kang, Co-founder and Managing Partner of SparkLabs Ventures.

SparkLabs Ventures is also supported by a heavy hitting advisory board that includes former Congressman Mike Honda, who served in the U.S. Congress from 2001 to 2017 (represented Silicon Valley in the 17th congressional district from 2013 to 2017); David Lee, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Refactor Capital; and Nadiem Makarim, Co-founder and CEO of Go-Jek, which recently raised $1.2 billion from Tencent and others.

The fund will focus primarily on South Korea startups at their Series A or B rounds, and will not be limited to graduates of SparkLabs accelerator in Seoul. The fund will focus its investments on companies that have potential to expand abroad to different markets and have the ability to take advantage of the global reach of the SparkLabs’ network. A secondary target region is SE Asia, so the fund will be open to startups within this region who have global ambitions.

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