If you’re in Korea and you want to meet a handful of startups, I suggest you visit D.CAMP, sitting in the heart of Gangnam in Seoul. This six-floored, 45,000 square foot building is fully packed with passionate local startups and entrepreneurs. First, you can go up to the 4th floor where you can encounter lots of entrepreneurs passionately working on their ideas in co-working space. Then you can grab an entrepreneur and both of you go down to the 2nd floor, where you can mingle in a small cafe and enjoy snacks like Kimbap or a cup of coffee. There sit the startups who rent office space – you might even get a chance to talk to Formation8, the Silicon Valley-headquartered VC firm. When the sky begins to darken, go up to the 5th floor. You might want to check you have enough business cards to hand out to the entrepreneurs participating in the Meetup.
Company manager Seokwon Yang also introduced the success story of Korean bitcoin exchange company Korbit, and how they had grown up in D.CAMP. “Korbit’s two co-founders first came to D.CAMP’s co-working space on 4F and started to build their business. Then they were chosen for D.CAMP’s accelerator program and moved to 5F’s private office. After they raised US$400,000 from Silicon Valley’s angel investors and the Bitcoin Opportunity fund and US$3M from SoftBank Ventures Korea, they independently rented office on 2F, then finally increased the size of the company and moved to the expensive Sinsa area.”
D.CAMP, also known as Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs, is a non-profit organization funded by twenty banks in Korea. Established in 2012, it is often referred to as one of the largest foundations in Korea to support startup activities. Last year, D.CAMP successfully held Startup Nations Summit (2014 SNS) with startups from 45 countries participating in the World Startup Competition. “D.CAMP expanded its overseas network by hosting this event. Last year, we formed partnerships with Denmark, Swiss and Finland organizations to cooperate with their startup communities,” Yang said.
With an asset base of approximately US$470M, the foundation’s investment activities are divided into two sectors:
1) Indirect Investment
Growth Ladder Fund Limited Partner As one of the four limited partners (LPs) in the Growth Ladder Fund, they are spearheading the fund for early stage startups and young entrepreneurs, committing about US$325 million, which is about 20% of the whole amount that the limited partners plan to invest for next three years.
Anchor LP They have formed a fund of funds worth US$30 million to play a catalytic role in fostering investment areas where investors’ interests are lacking, such as intellectual property, patents and cultural content.
Minority LP They also invest in early stage startup VCs. So far, US$4 million has been deployed in one of Korea’s most reputable venture capital Bon Angels, and Altos Ventures, a US-based venture capital focusing on the Korean/Asian market.
2) Direct Investment
Angel Investment So far they have invested about US$5.2 million with each startup receiving investment from US$100,000-300,000, covering industries from medical devices to animation production to game/software publishers.
Matching Seed Investment They made their first co-investment with SK Planet in an accelerator program ‘KStartup’, investing up to US$20,000 per startup. They are looking into Korea’s first vertical accelerator model in 2015.
The foundation hosted ‘Fintech Pitchday‘ together with Startupbootcamp Fintech this February and looks forward to actively function as a matchmaker between Fintech startups and the finance sector in the future. It has prepared a number of co-hosting events for this year together with strategic partners like Huawei Korea and Foxconn to aid cooperation between Chinese and Korean startups.
Recently D.CAMP and Huawei Korea opened subscription for ‘Geeks from Gangnam‘, bringing ten Korean startups to participate in TechCrunch Shanghai 2015 and visit Chinese companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Chosen several teams will be incubated in D.CAMP with mentoring and community activities.
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)