Return of angels

This is another observation on recent angels and seed investment in Korea. Some of quite successful entrepreneurs has returned to the scene by setting up a new venture investment vehicle. As it has been short on early stage money in Korea, we’d like to welcome “return of angels.”

There are few notable entrepreneurs who successfully built a company and made meaningful exits in mid 2000s. Now, they are actively looking for a next big thing. Interestingly, many of them were in online game industry but are now widening their interests to more diversified interactive media space or even more traditional off-line business.

To name a few, Mr. Kim Bumsoo, a founder of Hangame (No. 1 online game portal acquired by NHN, the largest internet business in Korea), is working on his venture studio called IWILAB. Mr. Bang JunHyuk, a founder of NetMarble (acquired by CJ Group, largest entertainment conglomerate in Korea), also works on his private investment office holding a dozen of business portfolio by actively adding a value as a major shareholder. Mr. Chang Byung-Gyu, a co-founder of Neowiz (publicly traded and EA holds a chunk of shares) and Chut-noon (aka First Snow acquired by NHN), is currently turning his angel investment platform called BonnAngels to a venture capital vehicle.

It’s quite meaningful to see them to return to this early stage scene. Still there is controversy whether asset management style VC firm can really add value or entrepreneur-backed operational VC firm may do better. I’d say that it really depends on what stage a startup company raises capital for.

Though, it’s great to see them to return because not that many VC firms in Korea actively invested into idea stage companies and supplied capital to crop out of a business plan to become a real business. In fact, there are more policy money flowing into growth and mid market buyout market in Korea this year. However. when you think about there is a huge shortage in your seed and early stage pipeline, in 2-3 years, there wouldn’t be that many fundable businesses and competition would be brutal.

Like I spoke with one of BonnAngels partners yesterday, this is a great year for those entrepreneurs and early stage investors in Korea who know what to do and secure seed capital. If you have a compelling plan and passion to build a company that can change entire game rules of industry, please, come out and talk to us.


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