Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges visited SK Telecom in June and discussed ways to collaborate in 5G mobile communication services. The two companies agreed to invest in promising 5G Information & Communication Technology (ICT) start-ups and nurture them into unicorn status with a valuation over $1 billion.
Four months later, Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners (DTCP), an investment management firm funded by Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom and other investors, opened its first Asia office in Seoul. It appointed Seo Dong-il, the co-founder of Oculus, a Facebook subsidiary, as its inaugural country manager.
“Korea is home to the largest pool of highly innovative ICT venture companies in Asia,” Seo said in a recent interview. “We look forward to supporting their global expansion.”
“Korea introduced Cyworld before Facebook, NateOn before MSN and Dialpad before Skype. It’s a country rich in ventures with outstanding ideas and technology,” He said. “However, it significantly falls behind China in the number of unicorn startups. That’s because of the size of the market.”
Seo added, “Overseas expansion is key for Korean ICT ventures to achieve unicorn status and become a global company. We will bolster the growth of Korean ICT ventures and help provide an international footing for them to become a unicorn.”
He said, “Korea is on the brink of entering a ‘second venture boom’ backed by the Korean government’s investment in the fourth industrial revolution.” Seo projected that the government’s strategic investment in artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and big data will soon pay off, which is the backdrop of why DTCP decided to open its Asia office in Seoul.
“DTCP’s typical investment has so far been focused on 5G IoT, big data and business to business (B2B) ventures. Considering the high number of business to consumer (B2C) ventures in Korea, we are going to keep our eye on that industry as well.”
DTCP’s Seoul office is the group’s fourth global location after offices in Hamburg, Germany; Silicon Valley, U.S.; and Tel Aviv, Israel. Since launching in 2015, DTCP is managing investment assets worth $1.7 billion (2 trillion won). Among the first 13 companies it has invested in, four have either listed or were sold off. SK Telecom has invested $30 million (35.4 billion won) in a fund managed by DTCP.
Seo is one of eight founding members of Oculus, a virtual reality gaming company which was sold to Facebook in 2014. He worked at Facebook after the acquisition and later founded another VR contents firm VoleR Creative.
By Jun Sullie
<Edited by Jane Han>