[THE INVESTOR] Korean venture capital firm Intervest is focusing on three major areas which are expected to show significant growth: biotech, information technology and Southeast Asia.
With 620 billion won (US$579.08 million) assets under management, Intervest’s team of 11 VCs invest in early-stage startups with new technologies. It is operating six funds in total with portfolio firms including biotech companies Genexine, Lunit, Tomocube and Noom; blockchain firm Blocko; IT firms Balance Hero, Alchera and Brich, among others.
One thing that makes Intervest stand out among the crowd of rivals is the expertise of its investors, according to Intervest Director Moon Yeo-jung. Moon, herself, is the first doctor-turned-investor here, who joined the firm in 2016 leaving her obstetrician-gynecologist career behind. After two years in the venture world, she thinks good bio startups could also save people’s lives with new drugs and technology, just like doctors.
From left: Shin Young-seong, Intervest manager, Moon Yeo-jung, Intervest director and Lim Jung-wook, managing director of Startup Alliance
“The process of making new drugs or implementing bio technology takes a long time, which requires expertise to fully understand the whole process,” Moon said at an event hosted by Startup Alliance on April 12. “Bio technology is getting more complex, and having medical or biology background helps to value and fund promising startups properly. These startups also need knowledge and professional guidance along the way to grow. We can provide that network, including major hospitals, doctors and researchers.”
Moon thinks Korea has the potential to become a strong biotech player, thanks to the great pool of bio talents and accumulated medical data, as all citizens are under the state’s single payer health care insurance program.
“If the country can open up de-identified medical records to researchers to a level that doesn’t breach privacy, it will be a great boon for the exponential growth of the bio industry,” she said.
As for the IT sector, Intervest is eying promising startups especially hottest technology trends, including artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual reality, that have practical use, according to Shin Young-seong, manager at Intervest who overseas IT investments.
For instance, Intervest funded blockchain startup Blocko from 2016 after spotting its application in the real world. The firm, which provides middleware platform for digital identity and payment services, already provides services for big financial and tech firms like Hyundai Card and Samsung SDS.
Despite the heated interest of blockchain startups to raise funds through initial coin offerings, Shin doesn’t view it will be a threat to VCs investing in startups.
“ICO is a very innovative way in fundraising, but VCs cannot participate due to the unregulated nature. As for VCs, I think there are many other ways where we can contribute with funds and business strategy to grow together.”
Invervest is also eying the burgeoning Southeast Asian market with its first-dedicated fund, partnering with Indonesian VC Kejora Ventures. The firm said it will soon start investing in startups in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, with the 70 billion won fund.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)