[THE INVESTOR] More Japanese investors are sitting up and noticing Korean startups, according to participants at Asia Beat Seoul 2017 on Oct. 27.
“Many Japanese big companies normally focus on Southeast Asia which is a huge market, so I woauldn’t say it’s a major trend, but there are some investors who are looking at Korean startups which we believe have better technologies than Japanese startups,” said Tomokazu Ushioda, general manager of KDDI Korea and KDDI Open Innovation Fund Seoul Office.
KDDI is Japan’s second largest telco and launched the Innovation Fund Seoul office a year ago after it successfully exited from 5Rocks, a mobile game analytics startup.
Hide Ebihara, founder of Hybrid Ventures and former head of Cyberagent Ventures Korea Office also showed interest in the Korean market. “We had no information about Korean startups then but during our stay here, we found that they have more advanced technologies than Japanese startups.”
Ebihara came to Korea four years ago as CEO of CyberAgent Ventures. Since then, the Korean office has invested in Kakao, Baedal Minjok and Kim Gisa -- renamed Kakao Navigation.
KDDI Korea's Tomokazu Ushioda (left), Hide Ebihara of Hybrid Ventures and Hong Jooil, Korea head of Global Brain, talk about their investment experiences and Korean startups.
Hong Joo-il, head of the Korea office of Tokyo-based early stage venture capital Global Brain, echoed Ebihara and Ushioda’s opinion. “We officially launched the Korean office three years ago because we felt Korean startups were technologically advanced,” Hong said. So far, Global Brain has invested in 10 Korean startups
“Japanese startups tend to focus on improving services and existing business models, but Korean companies seem to think more about developing technologies, maybe because of the competition,” said Ebihara said.
Another noticeable difference between Korean and Japanese startups, according to Ushioda of KDDI, is that in Korea there are more talents from science backgrounds with big company-expertise than in Japan.
Both Ebihara and Hong said they want to invest in Korean startups that have potential to expand in Japan and other overseas markets. KDDI is currently looking for startups that can create synergies with the telecom firm, such as IT, artificial intelligence and blockchain.