Two years ago, South Korea unveiled plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Getting there will be another story.
Awhereas Korean manufacturers say they are trying change their ways, our country’s GDP is link to some industries unique pollution, including petrochemical producers, automakers and shipbuilders. whereas some business can never be truly sustainable, a venture company in Seoul says emerging climate tech startups will help big factories do better overall.
Sopoong, a social impact-focused VC, intends to support environmentally minded tech founders in South Korea and Southeast Asia, while building a bridge between Korean conglomerates and startups in the sector. Sopoong has closed about $8 million (10.3 billion won) in its latest sixth fund, bringing the company’s total assets under management to about $22 million (28 billion won).
I spoke with the chief executive of Sopoong Max Sang-Yeop Hanserial entrepreneur who joined Sopoong in 2016 and acquired the firm in 2019, to learn about our VC plan.
“This is a significant signal for large South Korean corporates participating as limited partners of environmental and climate-focused tech-like venture capital,” said Han. “Participate in LP [Korean conglomerates] are passionate about climate technology and want to participate in tackling climate and environmental issues because they agree that the climate crisis is one of the most important issues.
Korean petroleum refining company GS Holdings and chemical companies issue participate in the Sopoong climate focus fund as a limited partner, said Han, adding that they will be more like a strategic partner for Sopoong. Such non-profit organizations Asan Nanum Foundationfounded by Hyundai Group, and D. Campas well as startup founders and executives, including the co-founder and former CEO of Krafton, Kim Gang-seokalso joined Sopoong’s climate fund, Han continued.
The early-stage VC has set up five social impact funds and backed 81 startups since 2020, after Han took over the company in December 2019. Sopoong was launched in 2008 by Jaewoon Leewho co-founded South Korea’s largest internet portal operator, Daum Communication, which merged with Kakao in 2014.
Now, the VC firm wants to zero in on the climate crisis and other environmental issues through its sixth fund, but other technology sectors such as SaaS and IT will still be on its radar, according to Han. “Two-thirds of the funds will be invested in environment and climate tech, including renewable energy, agritech and food tech, and the rest will go back to investing in the information technology industry,” said Han.
The sweet spot is early stage ventures from seed to Series A stage in South Korea and Southeast Asia. The average check size is $150,000, but companies can get up to $600,000, Han told TechCrunch.
The sixth fund has invested in 16 startups, incl MetaTexturea plant-based food startup; TelexVietnam-based electric scooter and battery-swapping technology startup; my orange, a platform for managing charitable donations; and Function 12automation tools that help users complete coding and file design.
Nine of the 16 portfolio companies participated in Sopoong’s first accelerator program, which launched in June and ran for six months. Sopoong invests up to $350,000 into each startup through its accelerator program and offers mentorship, co-working space, administrative support and networking opportunities with experts.
On top of the accelerator, the firm is also launching a six-month fellowship program to foster climate technology entrepreneurs. So far, Sopoong said it has selected 13 people with a master’s or doctoral degree in an environment-related department, offering them a $1,700 grant per month and other support, including an accelerator program. If the participating participants succeed in establishing a startup, Sopoong can make a seed investment, Han said.