at Initia Labs / prev. Kakao Ventures, Kakao, Samsung, Apple, Carnegie Mellon, St. George’s
Caught the bug, switched gears, joined a seed stage team as an early member (non-cofounder).
With the growing interest and influence coming down from the parent company and its owner, Kakao Ventures was no longer able to raise capital from the outside world, but instead only take on corporate capital for the interest of financial security of Kakao corporate group.
As someone who wanted to lead globalization of Kakao Ventures by way of inviting more overseas LPs that manage $Bs and deploy worldwide, I decided parting ways is inevitable.
Agreed to continue to remain on board as a part-timer to help manage relationships with existing stakeholders.
Front office (investment) as well as middle office (global LP relationships & fundraising).
Fortunate to have returned to the seed-focused venture capital firm, now under the ownership of Kakao Corp but still with retained independence for early stage investments. The firm already have produced numerous unicorn companies by then, and with a more established team, it secured "founder's favorite" VC alongside with Altos Ventures.
Ended up backing interesting, unique companies with strong moats. Most proud of:
Also was able to capitalize on growing interest of foreign LPs into the Korean market, and, have struck a hallmark partnership with a Singaporean sovereign fund whom we invited as a fund investor in 2020. This feat was no easy to achieve due to systemic differences between the two firms, and was utterly worth it.
An interesting detour of career, so to speak.
Immediately after joining K Cube Ventures in 2015, the firm went through a sudden & unexpected transition of ownership change. The chairperson sold the management company to Kakao Corp., the other big franchise he founded and controlled. And soon thereafter, the founding CEO of K Cube Ventures became the CEO of parent company. I was summoned up on a special mission because of him needing direct reports as CEO Staff member.
However, due to internal demand, hands on deck were needed for the chairperson-level initiative to incorporate a DeepMind-equivalent subsidiary called Kakao Brain Corp. to stay relevant in the AI race. This ended up being a special, one-off gig, to be the lone operator to handle all backend matters of launching the business (except HR/recruiting) for the nascent child company. For 5 months I was solely responsible as a Deputy of corporate matters, ranging from working with in-house counsels and finance team members to incorporate the subsidiary, and run all operational tasks needed until hiring of non-R&D members.
Afterwards, I transferred over to the business unit responsible for AI business (smart speaker & voice assistant platform) to work on business development efforts.
A major career pivot.
During the post-Samsung self sabbatical, stumbled upon a job opportunity at the rising micro-VC founded by the esteemed chairperson of Kakao, Brian Bum-soo Kim. Wanting to gain breath of exposure into various different industries and businesses, I considered the switch a timely and choice one. And the firm saw the technical background and experience valuable for future deep tech investments.
This transition turned out to be "pivotal" jump also made at the right time, when Korean VC/startup ecosystem was going through its Cambrian explosion. Talent and energy were flowing in, as well as capital, and proper breakout companies were coming up. 2013~2014 vintage turned out to be stellar in hindsight - and watching those then-green companies grow into what they are now is truly rewarding.
Storage software stack for Galaxy smartphones.
As a Korean national the mandatory conscription is the inevitable; luckily, being at right place and time, Samsung wanted to poach anyone who could lead or aid in the crusade against Apple. I ended up switching to the dark side because of the expat offer they sugarcoated with.
Although it was truly difficult to close the American chapter of my life after spending 10 years abroad, in the end it worked out as the best scenario for taking care of the military requirement. As part of the special quota program, I had to stay employed for 3 full years at Samsung in order to have it count as alternative service.
Storage firmware for iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV.
It was the best first gig to have out of school. The company was undergoing the famed inflection point with the advent of iPhone on top of the iPod momentum, and so the journey with industry top talent was truly something else.
- BS + MS (integrated) in Computer Engineering
- Minor in Computer Science
- Rebellions.ai is Korea's best fabless startup, founded in 2020 by ex- Morgan Stanley / IBM / SpaceX / Samsung / Hynix folks. Boasting hyper scalable/flexible architecture, silicon-proven top notch performance, the team is building NPU accelerators for system trading & AI workload in data centers. Total raise is at 100B KRW ($80M) to date from instutionals Korea and Singapore.
- Participated in Seed, Pre- Series A, Series A rounds
A ten-part series on the career pivot I made for younger Korean audience
엔지니어링에서 벤처캐피탈로 전향하게 된 이야기를 10편의 블로그 글로 풀어 설명한 브런치 시리즈
Appeared on the Korea's national English news channel for a light touch on why Korean startups end up raising growth capital from overseas
Key interview questions:
Q. 개발자로 일하시다가 본인의 커리어를 바꾼 계기가 있으신가요? VC는 비즈니스 경험이나 컨설팅 경험이 필요할 것 같은데, 개발자 출신으로 어떻게 채용 과정을 통과하셨나요?
Q. 벤처캐피탈은 다양한 산업의 경력자가 모여 있을 것 같은데, 이들은 어떻게 일하고 소통하나요?
Q. 보통은 투자사가 ‘갑’이고 창업가는 ‘을’이라고 생각하는데, 직접 투자하는 입장에서는 어떻게 생각하시나요?
Q. 유능한 VC는 어떤 기준으로 평가되나요?
Key interview questions:
Q. 카카오벤처스는 초기 투자자 역할을 하고 있다. 초기 투자란 어떤 의미인가? / 벤처 캐피털이 정량적 지표가 없는 초기 스타트업을 대상으로 투자를 감행하려면 창업가 정신을 중점적으로 볼 수밖에 없을 것 같다.
Q. 스타트업에서 디자인에 대한 인식은 어느 정도인가? 디자이너가 공동 창업자인 소개할 만한 스타트업이 있다면?
Q. 카카오벤처스는 투자한 포트폴리오 기업을 ‘패밀리’라고 부른다. 호칭에서 투자사와 포트폴리오 관계를 넘어선 끈끈한 우정이 묻어난다. 미래의 패밀리가 될 창업가들에게 들려주고 싶은 조언이 있다면?