Korean accelerator network SparkLabs today announced its new early-stage venture fund. Named SparkLabs Ventures, the US$50 million fund will target series A and B investments in South Korea, with a secondary focus on Southeast Asia.
SparkLabs Ventures managing partner Brian Kang tells Tech in Asia that the fund does not have any specific technological themes, though it will generally avoid pharma and cleantech startups which typically look for much meatier series A rounds – running into the tens of millions of dollars – than the new fund is looking to participate in.
We project more than half of our investments will be non-SparkLabs accelerator companies.
Explaining SparkLabs’ decision to focus on series A and B rounds, Kang – a former managing director of Samsung Ventures and the government-linked Korea Venture Fund – says that while Korea already has a healthy early-stage ecosystem, it can benefit from more VC players. “It also is a natural progression from our accelerators in the market,” he continues. “We can become one of the investors for those graduates [of SparkLab’s accelerator programs] that already raised a seed round, but are looking for a series A.”
Kang adds that SparkLabs Ventures isn’t looking to lead these rounds, but rather help fill them out once a lead investor is secured. And while the fund can provide a much-needed filip for SparkLab’s accelerator alumni looking for post-seed capital, they will not be its primary focus. “Overall, we project more than half of our investments will be non-SparkLabs accelerator companies, so we aren’t limiting ourselves,” he says.
While SparkLabs Ventures is concentrated on South Korean investments, Southeast Asia will be its secondary target. Notably, Nadiem Makarim, co-founder and CEO of Indonesian unicorn Go-Jek, is serving on the fund’s advisory board. “Our team is bullish on ecommerce opportunities, mobile plays and frontier technologies,” says Kang, in reference to SparkLabs Ventures’ ambitions for the region. “We are really looking at teams who are capable of scaling well across Southeast Asia.”
Joining Kang as a managing partner is Chris Koh, co-founder and former vice president of Softbank and Sequioa Capital-backed ecommerce player Coupang.
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