Another promising initiative is Digital Entertainment Ventures (DEV). Launched in New York in 2012, DEV focuses mainly on media, entertainment and platform businesses, and only recently expanded to Korea. According to Kaine Kim the Co-CEO of DEV Korea, Seoul seemed to be the most suitable place for setting up a new office within the Asian market. This is in part due to the growing support of the Korean government, and the President’s “Creative Economy” initiative. These external resources though, are only expediting the existing growth of entrepreneurship in Korea.
“We are focusing on all-stage startups, however because Korea has very strong I.C.T. industries, we are actually making investments in those areas. Our main focus is platform businesses.”
Kaine Kim, DEV Korea
As well as providing capital, DEV runs its own acceleration program in Seoul. The unique characteristic of the program is that companies are accelerated at the same time in New York and Seoul. The program lasts between 3 and 4 months and is held twice a year. Enterprises are required to spend at least 1 month in America. After each program, DEV saves another 2 months for the host program, which is mainly devoted to evaluations, interviews and follow-ups. Up until now, DEV has made 11 investments and 8 of those companies took part in the acceleration program.
“Our focus differs from other Korean accelerators. We are willing to take some risks, as we are willing to invest in companies with no product.”
Whilst selecting participants, DEV is looking for two main characteristics. Firstly, ounders have to be able to adapt to other cultures very quickly, and the company’s technology has to be easily adapted abroad. Secondly, the companies need to be focused on global expansion. One of the examples is Mushroom, a platform that enables users to sell and buy art pieces at affordable prices. Even though Korea is not ready for art trading yet, in the USA there are a lot of independent artists, so the product is actually more suited to an international audience.
“We believe that as long as we continue to pursue our dreams and hobbies the outcome will always be positive.”
While many Korean corporations and investors still shy away from risky investments, American-based hedge funds or individuals want to diversify their portfolios and accept the greater rewards offered by increased risk. Over the next 2.5 years DEV has an ambitious plan of investing in at least 40 Korean startups, helping to greatly diversify DEV’s investment portfolio and explore new opportunities.