"Indeed is before hiring ... So it has massive, massive information and data before hiring happens. What Glassdoor has is a data after the hiring app, because they review their experience at work. So I think this is another example of how Recruit is increasing their reach into different verticals, different areas in the same horizontal. As a result, now it's the seventh or eighth biggest company in Japan, with around $90 billion market cap." - Youngrok Kim
Youngrok is a partner at Ginza Ventures, cross border early-stage venture capital fund based in Japan and the US. Currently, he is structuring the fund while raising the capital from potential limited partners. With an emphasis on B2B and FinTech, the fund intends to invest in startups in various industries and aims to help its portfolio companies expand in Japan (and Korea).
He also launched a media project called VRidge. Along with the current weekly newsletter written in Japanese and Korean, he also plans to start podcasts and Youtube channels for the audiences in Japan and Korea featuring investors, founders, and builders from other countries.
With full of curiosity, he has always aspired to challenge new things. Born in raised in Seoul in Korea, he decided to go to Japan to play guitar in a rock band when he was in high school. While he was serving for Korean Army in 2005, he volunteered to go to Iraq for 7 months. Post-college, after spending six years as an engineer at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, he decided to go to the US for the MBA program at the University of Chicago to try out his venture capital journey. He spent one year at ARCH Venture Partners in Chicago before working at Recruit Strategic Partner, corporate VC arm of Recruit Holdings, the parent company of Indeed and Glassdoor.
He currently lives with his beautiful wife in the Bay Area. As for hobbies, in addition to playing guitar, he enjoys all outdoor activities
Jeremy Au: [00:00:00] Hi Youngrok, good to have you onboard the show.
Youngrok Kim: [00:00:03] Hey Jeremy, thanks for having me. It's really an honor to be here.
Jeremy Au: [00:00:07] Well, it's exciting to hear your perspective because you bring, I think, three very unique perspectives. I think obviously the Korean and Japanese angle. Obviously some experience in Southeast Asia intersecting with that. And of course, your time at Recruit, which is one of the most low key, huge companies that people don't understand that they probably work with or use every day, right? So yeah, it's a crazy thing. We have a fun set of conversations and obviously there'll be a transcript here on JeremyAu.com, and people get to discuss the insights here, there as well. So Youngrok, for those who don't know you yet, tell us about your professional journey from university till today.
Youngrok Kim: [00:00:48] Yeah, sure. So as you just talked, I was originally born in Korea. I grew up in Korea, but I moved to Japan for college. Originally, I was going to play a guitar in a rock band, but at the same time, I was really fascinated with the computer, everything related to computers. So I decided to go to Japan for college, majored in computer science. And then after graduate, I had an aspiration to work for a global company, although I was in Japan, from my experience in Korean Army. So when I was in Korean Army, I volunteered to go to Iraq, where I saw a completely different world. Only world that I knew before Iraq was Japan and Korea. Now, it's a whole different world, right? So after graduation college in Japan, I went to work for global company, and luckily I got a opportunity to work for Goldman as an engineer. So I was there for six years, but again, working for Goldman was great, but as an engineer, I wanted to do a little more than just working for internal system, right? So I decide to go to ... And I was fascinated venture capital around the time. It was 2014, 15. So I decided to do venture capital. Well, I decided to explore venture capital in the US, where the venture capital market is the biggest. So I applied for MBA program. So I got into Chicago, University of Chicago MBA program, where I started my venture capital journey. I worked for as a part-time consultant for Arch Venture Partners for one year where I build the ground knowledge of a venture capital. And then I got connected to Recruit Strategic Partner, which is the venture capital arm of Recruit Holdings, which you just mentioned, one of the biggest conglomerates in Japan. So, and in fact back then, the Recruit Strategic Partner was the active CVC amongst Japanese CVCs. So I got to know head of that fund and I got into there. So I was there for two, three years. And Recruit Holdings has a lot of subsidiaries, including companies like Indeed, which not many people know. So Recruit acquired Indeed in 2012 for $1 billion, and Recruit acquire companies like Glassdoor three years ago, for 1.3 or 4 billion. So not many people know about it again. So yeah, so I was a part of Indeed CorpDev as well in my last one year with Recruit. So yeah, and that was my experience with Recruit. And recently, I left the firm to start my own fund with actually my former boss at Recruit, so who hired me back then. So I was talking ... Because we were pretty close, we were talking like a lot. Back then, he was a Chief Investment Officer at MUFG , which is the fifth largest bank in the world. So he's a CIO of one of the funds of MUFG. So so we decided to spin off and create a new fund. So we are now structuring the fund and raising the capital, et cetera, et cetera. Yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:03:52] Amazing. So tell us more about your early days. What was it like in your family growing up? Was it like a business or what made you go do a business?
Youngrok Kim: [00:04:04] Yeah, so my father is entrepreneur. So he was an engineer at LG Electronics, which is one of the Korean's electronics companies, and then he actually speak Japanese, that's why how I got interested in Japan. And because of he's into entrepreneurship experience, I actually started my first company was in high school, I ... Because my father always took me to Japan whenever he goes to Japan, I was able to speak Japanese a bit already in high school. So I start importing stuff from Japan and sell the stuff in Korea, which really didn't go well. I ended up like giving all those stuff to my family and friends, but yes, that was my father, he's really influenced, he left a lot of influences on me, and in terms of entrepreneurship and explaining new things. So I think that's one of the drivers that helped me to be here now.
Jeremy Au: [00:04:59] Amazing. And what's interesting is that you kind of transitioned towards technology over time, right. So why technology in the early days? It wasn't as obvious back then as it is today to go towards a career in technology.
Youngrok Kim: [00:05:15] Yeah. So when I was ... So I got into Goldman in 2009, and back then, we didn't even have a cloud. And as a software engineer, I was managing bare metal server. So I literally ordered the server, waited for three months. So our database, a data center guy just installed the server, et cetera, et cetera, but it still, it was a really, really good experience, but I think it was a little bit too early to have a real meaningful impact that technology can have all different types of industry, including finance, right? As you can look at what Goldman is doing now, that's fascinating. Their technology footprint is like huge now. So even in 2009, the technology division is the largest division in Goldman, but now it's even larger. So actually I was talking with my former boss at Recruit ... Sorry, Goldman, yesterday. So he is transitioning to one of the commercial technology department, which didn't even exist, right? So anyways, so to answer your question, yes, it was fascinating back then, but I think the month of the impact of technology that could have to the bank back then was limited compared to what we have today. So I think that was one of the reason that makes me to think to explore some other area where I can exert more impact.
Jeremy Au: [00:06:37] Oh, wow. That's amazing. So that's a really interesting piece about it. Actually, I wanted to kind of ... I think we kind of skipped over your two years in the Korean military as well. So I want to kind of like, dive through that before we talk about the more recent stuff. So what's it like, not just being in Korea, but also Iraq? Tell us more about your two years.
Youngrok Kim: [00:06:58] Yeah, so it was a really eye-opening experience. I was not like a special force. I was just one of these administrative soldiers, which means I was basically assistant to our commander. So I did a lot of these office work, honestly, in Iraq, but still I had a chance to go outside of the camp. And so a lot of these Iraq local people engaging with Korean Army or US Army and how they leave, and what's the situation out there, which really helped me think ... Wait, so this is a complete different world from what I knew. Korea's okay developed country back then, Japan is a developed country, and I didn't know other word other than those two countries. And when I saw the reality of what's happening in this country, and again, it was 2005 and '06, so this right after the war is over. So everything was devastated, and everyone is really appreciated with really small things, for example. So in a nutshell, I just realized there is a lot of war that I don't even know, and first step I think I should do is to try out whatever things outside of Japan and Korea to realize and learn the true things happening around the world. So that was a really, really ... And one more thing is actually, so when I was in Army, all of my Japanese friends who were playing guitar or rock music with me, they start working for a company. So one of them is our drummer, actually became like a semiconductor researcher. I'm like, "What? You're now a researcher?" So and that motivated me to study for work. So yeah, a lot of thing happened in the two years.
Jeremy Au: [00:08:48] Amazing. Let's go back. So why did you volunteer? I mean to go to Iraq, or like, what was the reason for that? Take me there.Were you like bored? Were you excited? Were you curious? Why did you volunteer?
Youngrok Kim: [00:09:05] I think the two ... I think you used two right word, bored and curiosity. I don't want to generalize all the Korean Army experience, but two years, we were basically doing the same things every single day for two years, right? And after one year, I'm just like, I feel like dumb. I don't want to do the same things like every single day for another one year, right? And then I just saw this news saying like, "Hey, we're recruiting these people." So I'm like, why not? And I volunteered, and luckily, it was pretty competitive back then, but luckily I got in too. So I got the training for like a three month, which was another new experience because actually I was in the special force division, and we were all the special force division, only for the training, right? And that was a kind of eye-opening experience as well, because I was not trained for that kind of things before, right? It was short, but it's still a good experience, yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:10:01] That makes a lot of sense. And as someone who was also in the military for two years, I totally understand why you talked about bored and curiosity.
Youngrok Kim: [00:10:09] Exactly, yeah. And the war was over around that time. So I thought, ah, we may not be that dangerous, right?
Jeremy Au: [00:10:17] Yeah. That's what we always think, right?
Youngrok Kim: [00:10:23] Yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:10:23] So before we talk about it, but what do you think you learned from those two years in the military? So every Korean has to go through the military. Every Israeli has to go through the military. Every Singaporean has to go through the military. So now there's a lot of people who they have to go, right? I mean for the Americans, for those that volunteer, that's a bit different, right? But for people who have to go, a lot of people go in and they're like, "Oh, I have to go. It's a waste of my time. There goes two years of my life." So I don't know, is there advice you would give them about how to think about the time?
Youngrok Kim: [00:10:58] Sure. I mean so it just very stereotypical advice, but I actually managed to study a lot when I was in the Army. So I didn't speak English at all. I don't know whether or not you're familiar with the scale of the TEPS, the TEPS test. I was like bottom. So I took the opportunity to study English back then, and I also pass a few like a certificate. So instead of just complaining the time, I just, I would like to encourage other people to try to proactively spend time for ourselves, right? And then for me, it was really good experience to have this feeling of the team. It was my very first time to have a very strong feeling with being a member of stronger community beyond myself, especially when I was in Iraq, we couldn't really leave the camp. We had to do like, stay in the same places for seven month and doing the same things with these 20 people in our company. So we built a really strong team level. So it was a really good experience and really helped me to have a similar ... try to build a similar experience even now with our team members.
Jeremy Au: [00:12:12] Amazing. So kind of like, I guess going from there. After there, you went off to Goldman, and then you're working in Japan. It's interesting, right? Because you've been someone who's Korean, but you work in Japan, right? And it's not a common ... I mean everyone ... I think in the West, everyone is like, "Oh, those two countries are the same," you know? Kind of same part of the world, next to each other, it's like, but for us in Southeast Asia, we know that Korea, Japan, the border's a little bit ... It's not the physical border, right? It's the cultural border, right? So why did you choose to work in Japan and at Goldman?
Youngrok Kim: [00:12:51] Honestly, I didn't really think too much. I was working in Japan. I was studying in Japan. So I was hoping to get a job in Japan, instead of going back to Korea, because once I go to Korea, probably it's more a challenge to come back to Japan. So while I'm staying in Japan, why don't I have a job here, right? And obviously, Japan is a much larger economy, meaning there's more opportunity in terms of good jobs and professional experience. So for example, Goldman was not recruiting any new grads for technology division back then, I don't know now, but Goldman Tokyo is recruiting for engineers as a new grad, right? Surrounded by those opportunities that I didn't have in Korea, so I just decided to work there, and I ended up staying there for more than decade, but I'm happy.
Jeremy Au: [00:13:41] Wow, amazing. I mean I think there's really something there, right? I mean for me, similarly, I was applying for Bain , and I was like, should I apply for Bain Los Angeles, where it's very warm? Should I apply for Bain Singapore? And I was like, ah, and then my mentor was like, "Ah, just go to Bain Singapore," you know? And I was like, I'm glad I did. It happened that way, but I wasn't very sophisticated as a job applicant back then, I was like Los Angeles, California is warmer.
Youngrok Kim: [00:14:12] Yeah. I mean my choice was like that too. Yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:14:15] So what was it like? I mean obviously, before then, you already spent some time, obviously in Japan, but what was it like? Do you feel like you had to learn the culture or obviously you to improve your Japanese, I guess, but I'm just kind of curious, what did you feel like you learned while transitioning from Korea to Japan?
Youngrok Kim: [00:14:30] So a lot of people ask like, "Hey, do really Japanese hate Korea?" But honestly, I think it is, but well, it is for some occasions, but it's happening everywhere, and it's happening even within the same country, right? So honestly, I didn't really have a strong like experience with any kind of sort of very terrible discrimination, I never had. I was there for like 14, 15 years. I never had. In fact, I had really good friends. I still, I have good friends. And my wife is Japanese, who I met in Goldman 10 years ago. And at the same time, I really like a terrible friends in Japan, but you know what? I have the same things in Korea. I have really good Korean friends and I have really like terrible, terrible friends, but yeah. I mean they would think I am terrible friend too, right? So I think it's really not about like I'm Korean and Japanese or where I live. It's really depending on who I am hanging out and who I am. And plus, because I was there for a long time, and because I didn't have really a language barrier, that really helped me to even further build that kind of relationship with them. In fact, I'm more comfortable working with Japanese companies now than Korean company, because I really have limited experience working with Korean in my career.
Jeremy Au: [00:15:50] Interesting. Very interesting. So you worked at Goldman Sachs for six years, and then after that, you decided to do an MBA, right? At Booth, University of Chicago-
Youngrok Kim: [00:16:02] Yeah-
Jeremy Au: [00:16:03] My wife is a University of Chicago, Booth MBA as well.
Youngrok Kim: [00:16:06] Oh?
Jeremy Au: [00:16:07] Yeah, so-
Youngrok Kim: [00:16:08] Oh, really?
Jeremy Au: [00:16:08] So I used to go swing by Chicago in the middle of winter, totally mind blown by how cold it was. I was just like, what is going on?
Youngrok Kim: [00:16:17] It was not fun, yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:16:19] She would always like chat with me and like, "Hey Jeremy, did you know some runner died running outside from the snow?" And I'll be like, "How does that even happen? I mean I'm really sorry for the family, but like it's so cold," right? Anyway.
Youngrok Kim: [00:16:34] But Jeremy, I got to say this. Boston is also pretty on par in terms of the winter, right?
Jeremy Au: [00:16:42] True, but I think Boston doesn't have the wind, see, so it doesn't have the ... You know it has the cold, but it doesn't have the wind chill, right? That's a big one, right?
Youngrok Kim: [00:16:50] That's true. That's true.
Jeremy Au: [00:16:52] And so when I went, I thought it was cold in Boston, and I went to Boston, and then to Chicago, and it was even colder, and I was just like freezing. And I was like, okay, I need to get back to the equator as soon as possible, and buy coconuts at the beach, right, you know? So why? Why did you decide to do an MBA at the time?
Youngrok Kim: [00:17:11] So in a nutshell, as everyone, every MBA students know, I was a career switcher, right? And MBA is a really good platform for a career switcher. And plus, I wanted to explore these venture capital industry in the United States because that's where this industry's heading most, right, leading most. So that's why I decided to go to MBA in the US, so I didn't even apply any programs outside the US . Yeah, that's why I decided to go to MBA, which where I had a really good experience, including the winter.
Jeremy Au: [00:17:45] What did you learn in the Chicago MBA?
Youngrok Kim: [00:17:49] Yeah, that's a common question that I get, but I think most of the things I learned is, of course, like I learned a lot of what's a term sheet? Where's the venture cap industry, blah, blah, blah. But I think that's something I learned more when I started working for the actual shopon the job. But I don't know, I just, the biggest asset for me was to just have the experience being in that kind of environment. Everyone's motivated. A lot of people is having the same motivation, the same aspiration, same dream. So I still have a lot of friends from Booth, who are in the venture cap industry, who are just starting a community. So that experience and the friendships were the biggest takeaway for me.
Jeremy Au: [00:18:35] Yeah. I mean I think that's interesting because the MBA feels like something that obviously continues to get more popular for some reason than technology. So we were in a clubhouse earlier and people, you know, the Indonesians were having a good discussion like, MBA, technology, how does it work, right? And I think that someone was recently put an article out, like all the top US technology firms are now led by MBAs now. Except for Elon Musk, he's the only non-MBA.
Youngrok Kim: [00:19:07] Yeah. In fact, I think one of the interviews he said like, "Hey, what do you think is the problem with corporate America?" And he said, "Too many MBAs."
Jeremy Au: [00:19:16] Yeah, I know. It's funny world, right?
Youngrok Kim: [00:19:19] Yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:19:19] So yeah, so tell us more. So you were at University of Chicago, you were there for two years, and then you got to work for a little bit in Chicago, and then you left there, the MBA, and then you joined Recruit. So why did you decide to choose, to join Recruit?
Youngrok Kim: [00:19:38] So I had back then, like a few options, it was three options. Work for very niche corporate venture capital based in US. So they are very sector specific VC based in the physical sciences space, and other option is a micro VC in the US. They are very small, but growing fast. And then the other option was Recruit. And when I was thinking like my next journey, the most thing that I have to build is experience and track record, right? And with Recruit, I knew, because of the brand, because people know Recruit. I mean the people who know Recruit, knows their value, right? So they actually had a good access to the quality deals only because it was Recruit. So when I took a look at the portfolio of Recruit Strategic Partners, I noticed like they invest in lot of good companies, in fact, in the US, right? On the other hand, for the micro VC, actually, maybe I will have more exposure, but it might be a little more difficult to get into the competitive deals, and the other CVC it's just too niche. I cannot really go, once I get in there, to other area, another area, right? Oh, and then Recruit Strategic Partner, their industry focus is very broad . So they're in B2B, like a fintech, blockchain. They were doing pretty much everything. So that's why I decided to go to Recruit. Oh, another reason is because it made so many investment, it has quite a lot of these co-investors, and one of the co-investor was actually the Booth professor. So when I spoke with him, his name is Ira Weiss . He's a GP at Hyde Park Ventures, which is one of the top venture shops Chicago. And when I spoke with him, he strongly recommend Recruit out of among those three options because of their track record and the experience that I can build there. So that's why I decided to work for Recruit and which was I think one of the best decision I have made.
Jeremy Au: [00:21:40] So for those who don't know about Recruit, because it's so low profile, and I remember, I think a few years ago, discovering recruit, right? And I was mind blown by Recruit, because I was like, I've never heard of this company, but so many people are using this all around the world. How about you explain it, and then I try to explain it.
Youngrok Kim: [00:22:01] Sure, sure. By the way, Jeremy, you're one of the few people who know actually Recruit, outside of Japan. So the Recruit, it started as a HR magazine for college students, and still it college student, HR business, recruiting business, they're one of the biggest, their business. So it started around 50 years ago, but over time, it expanded into other areas well beyond HR. So for example, it also has the ... It has like a Zillow, the real estate marketplace type of platform called, Sumo . It also has a secondhand car marketplace. It also start building like a Open Table like system as well. Okay, and it start building a lot of these small other business, which grow so big. So all these like a secondhand workplace, that is the biggest secondhand car marketplace in Japan, the Zillow type of a platform. Again, that's the biggest marketplace in Japan. It has also things like called, Hot Pepper, which is the dining marketplace, one of the biggest in Japan again. So success was transformed from just HR company to auto marketplace businesses, along with the growth of their core business, which is HR. Now, around 10 years ago, they start thinking ... Well, Recruit start thinking, well, we should continue to explore new opportunity, right? That's how we encountered the opportunity with Indeed. Back then, the Recruit platform, they were a bunch of salespeople, right? The salespeople go to company and recruit, find the job information, and list it in our Recruit's website. But what Indeed does is they scrape all those information without humans touch, right? And we could have thought, oh, that could've really, really threat for us, so that they acquired Indeed. Glassdoor is the same story. It has a lot of ... it's a marketplace, right? So let's think about it. Indeed is before hiring, right? And we had so many ... India's the biggest marketplace, by the way, in the world now. So it has massive, massive information and data before hiring happens. What Glassdoor has is a data after the hiring app, because they review their experience at work, right? So I think this is another example of how Recruit is increasing their reach into different vertical, different area in the same horizontal. As a result, now it's, I think it's seventh or eighth biggest company in Japan, with around $90 billion market cap. And the next, as going forward, I'm very bullish with Recruit because I really like Recruit people and Recruit company, and I'm pretty sure their focus is the global market going forward, and I'm confident. And the next CEO actually, who has become a new CEO as of this April, will be based in Texas, where the Indeed headquarters located. So the globalization or global strategy will be even more strengthened and we'll see a lot of more interesting outcomes .
Jeremy Au: [00:25:17] Yeah, that's amazing, and thanks for sharing the history and dynamics. I mean, I think the part for me is surprising is because everybody in America uses Indeed, and everybody in America uses the Glassdoor, right? And so those are two big ones. I mean of course, LinkedIn is the third one that's adjacent to it. But people just post jobs on Indeed and people just review companies on Glassdoor, right? And if you ask anybody, they'll be like, "Oh, this is obviously an American startup, that's growing and very successful." And then I was like, "Wait, it was?" But then it's still run by the Japanese who have been very silent of it. Like it's not Recruit dash, it's Indeed, right? And of course, the Indeed folks are very independent and still growing the leadership team. It's very ... So I know it was a very interesting remodel as well, is where Recruit has given its investments a lot of free reign to pursue the strategy that's optimal. And that's quite rare actually, because I think if you hear of other companies in Japan who are investing in different companies and they're are a little bit more hands-on about their strategy, right?
Youngrok Kim: [00:26:22] Jeremy, I think you made a really good point. In fact, Recruit acquired a bunch of bunch of companies all around the world, and why people keep saying about Indeed, because that's the one who, which was ... it became so successful, and the sickest ... One of the secret sauce of that is actually hands-off strategy. As he exactly mentioned in the past, Recruit try to hands-on. They try to get involved in their management. That didn't really go well. And some of them ... Well, went okay, but Indeed, they just let them and just provide the capital and resources to grow, help them grow, and that's how Indeed became so powerful currently.
Jeremy Au: [00:27:02] Yeah, that's amazing. And yeah, is this mind blowing because it's just like, because you know, you always hear about all the Japanese conglomerates, or the Japanese investors are very hands-on, and it's about a Japanese way, Japanese leadership style, and it's all over the press, right? And then the returns are like, okay, good. But Recruit has been great, and they're not in press. Like Forbes isn't writing about it. The financial times is not writing about it. Everyone's like, it's very low key and I'm just like very different, right? And then, you know, obviously you were at a corporate venture capital. So I think less about that role per se, but for a lot of people, you know, we see a lot of corporate VC is getting formed, especially now today, zero interest rates. So all these corporates are all trying to figure out, what to do with their cash? And see if the technology firms going up. So there's opportunity to make money, opportunity for strategic partnerships, opportunity not get left behind, but tell me more like, what's it like to be at a corporate venture capital? Like what is a corporate venture capital fund? Maybe it's just for those who don't know yet, and then we can go into what makes one successful.
Youngrok Kim: [00:28:12] I think there's a lot of different forms of CVCs, but in a nutshell, corporate venture capital shop. When people call corporate venture capital shop is there's a corporate who is dominantly investing in the specific fund, and that fund makes a strategic investment. And when it comes to strategy, what strategic investment means is they often pursue, they make investment for the strategic return for that corporations, and when it comes to ... when I say strategic return, it could be really ... It could vary, depending on the companies, but for example, Recruit. When I joined the Recruit Strategic Partners is part of Recruit R&D. So our strategic return is find alliance opportunity, we just wanted to find opportunity and collect information of what's happening in the market. So that was our core mission, and we had our CEO visited some of those portfolios every year just to feel what's really happening in the frontline of the startup scene.
Jeremy Au: [00:29:22] So the Japanese really did a ton of CVCs, right, for the past 10 years. Is that because of the low interest rates in Japan and everything? Is that a big reason or was it because of like Japan wanted to do it? I'm just kind of curious, why there's a wave of CVCs?
Youngrok Kim: [00:29:40] Yeah, that's a really good question. And I think a lot of people forget, but Japan is still the third biggest economy in the world. They have a massive amount of capital, massive size of the economy. The thing is, it's not really evolved in the past couple of decades when people ask, "Hey, what's the major competing in US?" They may say Google, Amazon, Apple, which are like, how old are they? 30 years? 40 year? When you ask, "Hey, what's the major company in Japan? Sony they're hundred years ago, a hundred years old, right? So there hasn't been no innovation, but one thing I'm really bullish about is Japanese, they are smart. They're super smart, right? They finally start realizing they need digital transformation and innovation, right? So, and they had money, right? They have capital. So they start using those capital for the innovation digital transformation, and having the CVC is one of means to achieve that. So a lot of CVC actually make investment, not for the money. So even for example, when they make a investment, their investment, the proposal doesn't really have a word saying, "Hey, we expect this amount of return. We expect this amount of valuation." They don't say that. They just say, "Hey, we want to make investment because if we see this kind of synergy or potential for the digital transformation that could helpful for their company. So I'm really looking forward to see more and more coming, and at least stay as a third biggest economy going forward.
Jeremy Au: [00:31:16] Yeah, definitely. I think it's something that we're definitely seeing a lot more of everywhere in Europe and America as well, and also, exploring companies in Southeast Asia, so that's really interesting. So for someone who's exploring VC, et cetera. What skills are needed to be successful in corporate venture capital?
Youngrok Kim: [00:31:39] So again, I think there's a lot of different types of CVC. So the required skillset could be really different. For example, when you say, when I ... As I mentioned, I was in Indeed CorpDev there, and they have a venture investing team as well, but their investment is more like a very ... It's even more is close to acquisition, right? So, all the team members were there back then, was you have either a management consulting background or investment banking background, right? And I think that's one of the skillsets, CVC want. On the other hand, for me, for example, I didn't have those kinds of experience, but because I was an engineer, I'm familiar with these technology and these coding stuff, right? So this how, why I was a lead in the blockchain investment. Which is relatively ... which require a little bit of these hands on where technology understanding, right? So I think it's really depending on like, well, the role and the company. One thing I really interesting, I found interesting was when I was in a booth, I visited a General Catalyst which is one of the ventures shop in the Bay Area, right? And the lady that I forgot the name of the lady, I met them, there was actually a former reporter. So she's a professional interviewer, right? Which means that she's really good at collecting and getting information out of the conversation, which is a very, very important attribute to become a successful VC, right?. So I think that there's a hole, and some people have a really strong background in cybersecurity, and who became a cybersecurity VC, right? Because it's a, it requires some time, it requires a segment expertise. Right. So it's really varies, but I think most important things that curiosity, I guess. Yeah. Because you have to explore a lot of these near opportunities .
Jeremy Au: [00:33:27] Yeah. So when you think about corporate venture capital, obviously, and then being it's different from the investment team at a company itself, and I don't think people really understand that, right? Because they're like, Oh, I'm taking money from the CVC, means I'm taking money from the mothership, right. But it's not right. It's two different groups of people, two different mandates. So how did you explain it to people?
Youngrok Kim: [00:33:54] I think there's an example that I use, easy example that I use is Google capital and Google ventures. So when it comes to Google ventures, I feel it is more like a CVC. They make all these big investment. It's more close to traditional VC. On the otherhand, Google capital, they are more like a private equity, traditional private equity CorpDev like activities, right? So if you take a look at like a portfolios, and the type of investment, and a month of the size of the deal they make is pretty different. And I think that's a good way to start to understand how they are different.
Jeremy Au: [00:34:31] How should a startup engage a corporate VC? Like how should they talk to you? How should they have a conversation with you? Did they approach you and say like, "Oh, you are the company? Or should we say like, you, you are a VC. Like how, how should they approach the conversation?
Youngrok Kim: [00:34:48] I think it's the same way as a traditional VC because after all, they are just another investor in the cap table, right? So I think it's just, just treat them, please treat them the same. But one thing, I would like to ask is you may want to be ... they may want to be patient because when it comes to corporate, they have processed because it is a corporate, right? I mean, because of their people have a CVC to streamline the process, but still, a lot of CVC from my experience have a process as a corporate, right? So it takes some time, a little longer than traditional VC, but if the startup thinks they're a new strategic synergy, we're having them as a cap table could make a synergy for their future business, please be patient and engage with them. For the rest of the part, please engage with them, like another financial VCs.
Jeremy Au: [00:35:40] I actually like the one about being patient actually. That's a important tip for a lot of, many people, right, because it takes time, right?
Youngrok Kim: [00:35:52] Yeah.
Jeremy Au: [00:35:53] I think one thing is interesting is I saw a lot of startups, obviously they say something like, "Oh, I should go with this corporate VC because I want them to become a client of mine," Right? You know to say that, "Oh, I want to join this incubator by this firm because I want a company to become a client or maybe give connections." How true is that? Is that very likely? Is that very independent? Like what do you think?
Youngrok Kim: [00:36:17] So I think it's going back to your ... one of the previous question. So when it comes to CVC, I often see, there are not necessarily mandate to work together for something, right? But I would encourage you, startups to still work with them to get the opportunity. Who knows, right? And on the other hand for the investments, the corporate investment side, from my experience. They often see little more synergetic expectations. So they have ... That doesn't necessarily mean that everyone has that kind of arrangement, but I feel they have a little more chances to have that kind of engagement. And some, some companies have like a basic contract or arrangement to help those startup to start up, to use their services, for example, for this kind of prices or something like that. So that's, if you think of something different, but when it comes to actual business arrangement, I would say just don't expect too much. They want, because it doesn't happen all the time necessarily.
Jeremy Au: [00:37:24] Yeah. That's really good advice because I think at one level, because don't expect too much, be aware that it's number one.
Youngrok Kim: [00:37:33] And be patient.
Jeremy Au: [00:37:33] And be patient number two. And then number three is if you really want a partnership, you got to go to the CorpDev. Whereas the VC's going to act more of the connector, the advice, the insight, and from my perspective as well. And so, obviously, you know, Recruit, it's across Southeast Asia, you had moved to HQ for that. Tell us more about Southeast Asia in your eyes.
Youngrok Kim: [00:37:55] So, first of all, Recruit has a lot of business in Southeast Asia. One of my actually ... my colleague is a work in Southeast Asia as part of Recruit, but unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to be part of that area. But when I was leading the blockchain investment, we feel we have launched the blockchain fund, token fund in Singapore. So we explore a lot of countries, including Cayman, Switzerland. So like three candidate is we had at the end of the day was Switzerland came in and Singapore, and we chose Singapore for two reasons. One, reputational risk. Two, the regulation perspective, right? So the Singapore was very favorable in terms of regulation. It was still, it was 2018. So still, the blockchain crypto regulation is in a grey area, but at least Singapore had a very clear guidance compared to other countries. Plus, from the tax perspective, it's a much more favorable, right? And from the reputation perspective, it's a lot better than cayman from the corporate perspective. Again, Recruit is one of the big, largest company, and our CEO doesn't want to answer question, "Hey, why do you build these blockchain fund in Cayman." So we didn't want our CEO to answer that kind of questions. So we decided to go to Singapore. Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting because I think people don't really see and understand how like Singapore's favorable financial regulators has actually brought a lot of investment and a lot of talent to Southeast Asia. And obviously, if the investors are here, they start looking at Southeast Asia deals, they start looking at Southeast Asian talent. So it's really interesting to see that happening. I'm just kind of curious, like obviously you had a chance to be in both, Korea and Japan. How do Koreans and Japanese think about Southeast Asia for technology?
Youngrok Kim: [00:39:48] That's a good question. Let me start from Japanese perspective,although I'm not Japanese. I think I have enough experience to share my thought. I think of Singapore as very favorable country for Japanese. In fact, a lot of businessmen ... Not only businessmen actually the celebrities spend time in Singapore for many reasons. First of all it is a very good country for tax perspective is a major, right? And number two is very, very close in Japan in terms of the crime rate and in terms of how clean the street is, right? And number three is I think a lot of Japanese, I feel alot of Japanese wants to find a way to use English more because when you, when you live in Japan, you don't really need to speak English at all right. But Singapore is a, is not the closest, but it's not too bad.
And as I may say, safe enough, food is great, streets are, clean and people speak English. Right. So because of those reasons, I think a lot of people find the Singapore various countries to leave. Yeah. In fact, it's not about like a Japanese-Korean things, but when I was in Goldman, I heard a lot of senior people from in Hong Kong moved to Singapore back then, because it's much constructive from their perspective. So I think as this happening now, given the situation in Hong Kong. From the Korea perspective. I can say from blockchain perspective, Korea and Singapore are as well. I think a very strong, are you build a strong reputation in a blockchain startups and investors, right? So one of the investors that are closed with is based in Singapore. So I work with them a lot, and I saw a lot of Korean blockchain ... people from Korea and blockchain ecosystem spend time in Singapore as well. So I hope there are more opportunity for those three countries work together now on a good blockchain brother, so other area-
Jeremy Au: [00:41:41] Amazing. Well, definitely, we're seeing Southeast Asia is seeing many Koreans and Japanese all hanging out and welcome, welcome. Everyone's welcome to hang out and chill and relax. I think kind of like Kenny Cole closing here. And when you look back and you think about life, if you could travel back 10 years and time to meet your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
That's a good question. No, I think I I'm just happy with myself right now. So I think just, I'm just going to watch him doing what he's doing and try to not to disturb, honestly, I made a lot of mistakes. I was like 10 years ago. It was like my second or third year in Goldman. I was learning a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. It was a really painful time. It was really painful, right? But looking back, it was really, really good experience for me. I learned so much. That's why I still like, I love people in Goldman, like the country or the company itself, right? Like, so I don't know. I'm probably just going to do the same 10 years. Even if I go back to 10 years and I believe I have to, I want to believe that I was there. I didn't just write things in 10 years ago.
Jeremy Au: [00:42:51] Awesome. Thank you so much, Youngrok.
Youngrok Kim: [00:42:51] Thank you.
Jeremy Au: [00:42:51] Well, if you want to hear more interviews like this, go to JeremyAu.com and there'll also be opportuntity.
Youngrok Kim: [00:42:51] I already listened to a few episodes, so I really enjoyed it.
Jeremy Au: [00:42:51] Yeah, Awesome. And there'll be opportunity to discuss this episode and insights on this as a group community when we talk about this. So thank you Youngrok for coming on this show.
Youngrok Kim: [00:43:21] Thank you so much, Jeremy, for having me. It was really fun.