Korean VC Sopoong closes $8 million fund for startups focused on environmental impact

Korean VC Sopoong closes $8 million fund for startups focused on environmental impact

Two years ago, South Korea unveiled a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Getting there will be another story.

AAlthough Korean manufacturers say they are trying to change their ways, the country’s GDP is tied to some particularly polluting industries, including petrochemical producers, automakers and shipbuilders. Although some businesses are never truly sustainable, a risky business in Seoul says emerging climate tech startups will help big manufacturers do better overall.

Sopoong, a social impact-focused VC, intends to support environmentally conscious tech founders in South Korea and Southeast Asia, while bridging Korean conglomerates and startups of the sector. Sopoong closed around $8 million (10.3 billion won) for its latest sixth fund, bringing the company’s total assets under management to around $22 million (28 billion won).

I spoke with Sopoong CEO Max Sang-Yeop Han, a serial entrepreneur who joined Sopoong in 2016 and acquired the company in 2019, to learn more about the VC’s plans.

Picture credits: Sopoong Ventures / CEO Max Han

“This is a significant signal for large South Korean companies that participate as limited venture capital partners focused on environmental and climate technologies like us,” Han said. “Participating LPs [Korean conglomerates] are passionate about climate technology and want to be part of solving the climate and environmental issue because they agree that the climate crisis is one of the pressing issues.

Korean oil refining company GS Holdings and chemical company Isu participated in Sopoong’s climate-focused fund as limited partners, Han said, adding that they would be more of Sopoong’s strategic partners. Nonprofits such as the Asan Nanum Foundation, created by the Hyundai Group, and D.Camp, as well as startup founders and executives, including Krafton co-founder and former CEO Gang-Seok Kim, also joined Sopoong’s climate fund, Han continued. .

The start-up venture capitalist had already created five social impact funds and backed 81 startups since 2020, after Han acquired the company in December 2019. Sopoong was launched in 2008 by Jaewoong Lee, who co-founded the largest operator of South Korea’s Internet portal, Daum Communication. , which merged with Kakao in 2014.

Now, the venture capital firm wants to focus on the climate crisis and other environmental issues through its sixth fund, but other tech sectors like SaaS and IT will still be on its radar, according to Han. “Two-thirds of the fund will be invested in environment and climate technology, including renewable energy, agritech and food technology, and the rest will go to investment in the information technology industry” , Han said.

Its sweet spot is early-stage ventures, from seed to Series A stages in South Korea and Southeast Asia. His average check size is $150,000, but the business can go up to $600,000, Han told TechCrunch.

The sixth fund has already invested in 16 startups, including MetaTexture, a plant-based food startup; Selex, a Vietnamese start-up specializing in electric scooters and battery swapping technologies; Myorange, charitable donation management platform; and Function 12, an automation tool that helps users complete coding and design files.

Nine of the 16 portfolio companies are participating in Sopoong’s first accelerator program, which was launched in June and lasts six months. Sopoong invests up to $350,000 in each startup through the accelerator program and provides mentorship, coworking space, administrative support, and networking opportunities with experts.

In addition to the accelerator, the company has also launched a six-month fellowship program to foster entrepreneurship in climate technologies. So far, Sopoong says he has selected 13 people with master’s or doctoral degrees in environment-related disciplines, offering them $1,700 in grants per month and other supports, including the program for the environment. ‘acceleration. If participating fellows are successful in founding a startup, Sopoong could make a seed investment, Han said.

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