Exclusive: Silicon Valley VC firm bets big on Korea

September 18, 2014, 5:47 PM UTC
Myeongdong at night, Seoul
Photo by John W Banagan—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Altos Ventures, an 18 year-old Silicon Valley venture capital firm, has just finished raising a $60 million fund dedicated to South Korea-based startups, Fortune has learned. It is believed to be the largest Korea-focused fund ever raised by a U.S. venture firm,.

“We’ve invested opportunistically in Korea for several years, but macro conditions have just gotten to a point where it made sense to do something on a dedicated basis,” explains Anthony Lee, an Altos Ventures partner. “There has been something like $60 billion in market cap created by Korean tech companies in the past decade but, with one or two exceptions, none of those companies took Western venture capital or private equity.”

A question, therefore, is if the next generation of Korean entrepreneurs will warm to a Silicon Valley-based firm like Altos. Lee believes they will, in part because many of them went to school in the U.S. and view Silicon Valley capital as a leg up operationally and a mark of validation.

Approximately 40% of the fund commitments came from Korean investors, and Altos opened an office in Seoul earlier this year. It is staffed with partner Han Kim, who relocated earlier this year, and new principal Hee-Eun Park, the co-founder and former CEO of mobile dating company IUM.

Lee says that the fund will focus on what he refers to as “venture growth,” which primarily means companies doing their first institutional funding round, but which may already have revenue and profitability.

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