Venture investment is a high-stakes game that demands vision, persistence, and adaptability. Although venture capital is often viewed as a maze, there are those who have paved the way, making the journey smoother for others.
One such luminary is Yongmin Kim, whose journey through the ups and downs of the investment industry is nothing short of inspiring. In an exclusive interview with Asia Tech Daily’s Editor, Yongmin Kim shared his insights, wisdom, and some great stories that can guide fledgling entrepreneurs and seasoned investors.
“The meaning of the venture investment profession in my heart is the process of finding myself by going through difficulties together with others.”Yongmin Kim
Back to roots:
Before we delve into the treasure trove of Kim’s insights, it’s important to understand the man behind these words. An experienced investor, his journey in venture capital began in 2007, a tumultuous period with a global financial crisis. Despite the prevailing economic chaos, Mr. Kim embraced the challenge with fervor. He shares, “It was something that could not have happened given the sentiments of Korea at the time.” This resilience and determination would become hallmarks of his illustrious career.
From his previous role at HYUNDAI, Kim gleaned valuable experiences, including the relentless pursuit of excellence, the willingness to tackle any job, and a commitment to taking calculated risks. These attributes, along with his unique perspective on the investment industry, were instrumental in shaping Kim’s path.
“In the end, the sense of social balance in response to reckless challenges that I learned upon entering the world gave me a unique perspective on the investment industry.”
Notable Achievements and Lessons
Throughout his illustrious career, Kim has encountered numerous milestones and experiences that have left an indelible mark. However, it’s the recent events that hold particular significance for him. In Singapore, a global expansion base, Kim organized a Demo Day event for the companies in his portfolio looking to expand internationally. This gathering included Autonomous A2Z, a leading Korean autonomous driving industry player.
What was astonishing during the preparations for this event was the decision of Autonomous A2Z’s CFO to have a new employee, who had been with the company for just three months and was diligently learning English, as the presenter.
This choice showed an organizational culture that empowers all employees to participate in critical moments, giving them the confidence to represent the company. “I thought that an organizational structure that allows employees to participate in important moments for the company and gives employees confidence that they can do the same might be a model that can grow in a rapidly changing market.” – Kim.
Enlight Ventures, under the stewardship of Kim, is known for its comprehensive support for startups. He elucidates their distinctive approach, emphasizing the strength of Korea’s venture investment industry.
The company capitalizes on partners’ individual interests by operating as an LLC, encouraging diverse investment sectors. This approach, combined with government funds, ensures stability and robust R&D subsidies for portfolio companies.
Kim’s commitment to startups extends to manufacturing-based small and medium-sized companies, often overlooked by traditional venture capitalists. His dedication mirrors Enlight Ventures’ investment history, with over 30% of total investments allocated to the manufacturing sector.
“By incorporating a method of collaborating with investee companies, even down to the details that others find difficult, into investment review and follow-up management, we have created a structure in which partners can understand each other comfortably rather than having to work hard.” Kim.
For Kim and his team, the investment decision-making process hinges on a unanimous structure of partners. They assess whether they can effectively support a company’s growth through step-by-step investment and ensure alignment of interests among partners. The goal is not merely to invest but to collaborate and achieve shared success.
Kim emphasizes that while all investments are focused on short-term financial performance, founders must concentrate on their long-term business strategy to increase valuation. A company’s ultimate goal is short-term valuation, long-term stability, sales growth, and sustained profitability. It’s this long-term vision that provides stakeholders with a reliable structure to enjoy lasting benefits.
In the startup world, exit strategies are vital. Kim highlights the importance of understanding that exit strategies should not be the end goal but rather a means to strengthen the ecosystem. Investors’ primary objective is to recover their investments. However, founders must focus on creating a business that continually generates sales and profits. Balancing these goals ensures a company’s stability and enhances its negotiating power.
Kim offers invaluable advice to newcomers in the startup investing scene. He stresses the significance of ethics in the financial industry and the need for continual self-improvement. “Only when you are equipped can you become firm.” He reminds us that history’s heroes are those who align their ethical standards with the ever-evolving market’s requirements.
Guiding new startup founders:
From his vast experience, Kim highlights a common mistake among early-stage founders – the misconception that receiving investment funding guarantees success. It’s crucial to remember that attracting investment is just one part of the business strategy, and it can become an internal opposing force if it conflicts with the company’s direction. The leader’s role is unique in creating a vision and connections that investors or their recommendations cannot replicate.
Early-stage startups often grapple with limited resources. Kim advises them to define roles within the organization clearly. By dividing responsibilities and preparing to make strategic pivots in response to external changes, startups can maximize their resources. This approach ensures internal stability and adaptability, which are crucial for success.
“The biggest goal of a company is to create a structure that can carry out business permanently. Only then will a management community centered around the company be formed, and many long-term benefits can be enjoyed by stakeholders.” –-Yongmin Kim
Balancing Professional and Personal Life
Outside of his professional endeavors, Kim values the concept of family-like relationships. He places a high premium on personal connections and emphasizes understanding and accepting others. This philosophy is reflected in his personal life, where he enjoys spending time with his family and nurturing relationships akin to a close-knit community.
In the whirlwind of his professional life. Kim finds solace in reading specialized books to expand his knowledge. He also enjoys watching movies, not just for entertainment but for the insights they offer into diverse lives and ideas. These hobbies provide him with a well-rounded perspective that enhances his ability to make meaningful connections in both his professional and personal endeavors.
“I tend to read a lot of specialized books to gain information. I also enjoy watching movies out of a desire to live a different life.” – Kim
When building strategic partnerships, Kim maintains a simple yet profound principle: he values interpersonal relationships. He seeks partnerships where he can interact like family without the need for excessive strategizing. It’s this genuine approach that builds trust and lasting connections in the business world.
“As a person who values interpersonal relationships, I want to continue to live without feeling embarrassed about making up for what is lacking in the world.” – Kim.
The journey of Kim in the world of venture investment evidently values ethics, long-term vision, and balance in the startup and venture capital landscape. His experiences, advice, and personal anecdotes serve as guiding lights for both newcomers to the investment scene and early-stage founders.
By upholding ethical standards and striving for sustainable, long-term growth, individuals can make their mark in this dynamic field, creating legacies that align with their values. Kim’s journey is a beacon of wisdom for anyone navigating the ever-changing seas of investment.
In a world that values short-term gains, Kim reminds us of the enduring significance of nurturing sustainable growth and building businesses that stand the test of time. Through his life and career, he exemplifies the spirit of a true financial therapist, dedicated to serving humanity and contributing to a brighter, more prosperous future.