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State-backed W8.6tr fund adds to Korea‘s post-COVID growth capital

KDB headquarters building in Seoul (Herald DB)
KDB headquarters building in Seoul (Herald DB)
South Korea’s signature “Growth Support Fund,” a state-backed financing program for venture firms, raised a combined 8.6 trillion won ($7.2 billion) in commitments as of July, one of the fund backers, Korea Development Bank, said Thursday.

Given the higher-than-anticipated matchmaking activities for subfunds by external partners, the Growth Support Fund’s total commitments for growth equities is expected to reach the mark of 9 trillion won by this year, KDB added.

This indicates that the startup financing program using the fund-of-funds scheme -- so that external partners from the private sector could match public money to create a subfund -- has remained unscathed in the wake of the novel coronavirus. This comes as the fund has strived to support the domestic startup ecosystem in adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, KDB said in a statement.

Out of the 8.6 trillion-won commitment, a combined 2.3 trillion won went to some 380 startups, including later-stage startups dedicated to business models adapting to the COVID-19 situation. They include test kit maker SD Biosensor, mobile real estate listing platform operator Zigbang, e-commerce platform provider WeMakePrice, online travel app operator MyRealTrip and virtual and augmented reality gaming firm Kakao VX.

In the meantime, the program has offered its external partners various incentives, partly by allowing the partners to take excess return if the partner manages to outperform goals of the program. Its external partners to the program, including investment houses IMM Investment, JKL Partners, SkyLake Investment and LB Investment, have created some 40 subfunds and seek to generate 15 additional subfunds.

KDB is one of the state-run backers in the program, along with KDB Capital and Korea Growth Investment.

For the first two years, the Growth Support Fund fetched a total of 6.1 trillion won in commitments. It vowed to snap up an additional 2.5 trillion won for 2020 earlier this year, which the fund was able to achieve by July.

By Son Ji-hyoung (