It has never happened before that a Korean startup has been able to secure early stage funding ($400k in this case) from such a high profile Silicon Valley investor line-up. The news that Korbit has achieved this momentous step heralds the start of a year that has already been billed as having the best potential ever, for Korean startups. While the value of the investment may seem small by Silicon Valley standards, it marks a landmark case for East-West investment, a trend that will accelerate from this point.
Investors in Korbit include prominent bitcoin supporters Tim Draper (DFJ), Naval Ravikant (AngelList), David Lee (SV Angel) and Barry Silbert (Bitcoin Opportunity Fund).
The bitcoin industry is starting to gain serious traction in Korea, and the support of these global investors demonstrate that Korean companies could be at the heart of Bitcoin’s expansion globally.
Korean bitcoin startup Korbit announced today that it has raised $400,000 in an angel round led by Tim Draper, founder of global venture capital firm DFJ. Joining Draper in this round is an A-list group of investors, with personal investments by Naval Ravikant of AngelList, David Lee of SV Angel, Pietro Dova of XG Ventures, Michael Yang, co-founder of mySimon, and Jay Eum, co-founder of Translink Capital. Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Fund and previous Korbit investor Strong Ventures also participated.
“Bitcoin’s growth in Korea is remarkable for the sophistication of the public dialog around its potential for innovation and wealth creation,” said Tim Draper, going on to say that “Korbit is setting a great example for Bitcoin companies around the world by laying a healthy foundation for digital currencies in the Korean economy. Korea can play a leading role in the future of global finance by capitalizing on innovations like Bitcoin.”
Michael Yang added, “Korea is looking for new growth engines in its push for a ‘creative economy,’ and in my view Bitcoin is a great candidate to fulfill this vision. Companies such as Korbit which combine technical expertise with customer loyalty can grow to become global players.”
The investment is also significant in that Korbit’s initial contact with the investors occurred through a Korean event, beGLOBAL in Silicon Valley last September. The event was sponsored by the Ministry for ICT & Future Planning, and Tim Draper was one of the judges brought in to access the Korean companies showcasing.
beGLOBAL itself was a groundbreaking event that brought together some of the most prominent figures in the Silicon Valley ecosystem, along with some of the top startups from Korea. “The support we received from our partners in Silicon Valley was phenomenal,” commented James Jung, CEO of beSUCCESS, who organized the event. He went on to say that “beGLOBAL, clearly demonstrated that to achieve big wins for entrepreneurship there must be stronger ties between East and West. Working together with the Korean government made it all possible from a financial perspective. All in all this is such a great story of collaboration and cross-border partnership” These words ring true more than ever today, on the announcement of Korobit’s historic investment from the Valley.
Korbit CEO Tony Lyu remarked, “Korbit has already reached profitability in less than a year of operations. In order to grow our lead and global competitiveness, however, we brought in strategic investors who can add critical value in addition to their investment dollars. We’ll be leveraging their expertise in order to realize Bitcoin’s full potential in the years ahead.”
More about Korbit: Korbit was established in July 2013 as Korea’s first bitcoin startup. With over 20,000 registered users, they operate Korea’s largest bitcoin exchange. Korbit has also received seed funding from a foundation established by Korea’s banking alliance (Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs) and SK Planet. On 15 January 2014 Korbit introduced real-time processing of all deposit and withdraw operations and boasted the world’s fastest bitcoin buying experience, with users being able to go from sign-up verification to bank deposit and bitcoin withdrawal in under 3 minutes.
More about beLOBAL: beGLOBAL, organized by startup media and global connector beSUCCESS, was first held in Palo Alto in September 2013, with the aim of opening a discussion on global entrepreneurship, and fostering greater understanding between entrepreneurship in East and West. Bringing together some of Silicon Valley’s seminal minds and inviting some of Korea’s top startups, the event created strong ties between East and West that will set the groundwork for ever more cooperation between two ecosystems that in the years to come will undoubtedly continue to work together in collaboration for joint success. Also, look out for beLAUNCH, the Korean version of the conference, scheduled to be held for the third year, May 14 – 15 in Seoul.