|NLVC(Northern Light Venture Capital) CEO Jeffrey Lee|
|NLVC English Logo|
NLVC is a U.S. venture capital firm based in Chaoyang District, Beijing with five branches in Shanghai, Hong Kong and the U.S. Managing 10 funds with a total value of about 5.5 trillion won (4.5 billion USD), the company is investing primarily on promising startups in TMT, advanced technologies and healthcare sectors in Asia. NLVC seeks to back outstanding companies in the early stages, with 70 percent of them funded in the A round stage, 20 percent in B round stage, and 10 percent in the seed stage.
It has invested in more than 350 ventures in the U.S., China and Korea, among which 25 were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. As a result, it was selected in 2018 as one of the top 10 venture capital firms in the IoT (Internet of Things) sector in the U.S. by Global Data, a global data analysis and consulting company.
NLVC has recently established a branch in Korea, with a keen interest in the rapidly growing Korean startup market. The company then invested in Kornatus, a company providing a taxi-sharing service platform, and Kasa, a company operating a platform for transactions of digital asset-backed securities (DABS).
NLVC was founded by its Korean-American CEO Jeffrey Lee alongside co-founder Feng Deng in 2005. Jeffrey Lee himself has a keen understanding and interest in Korea, being fluent and literate in the Korean language. After graduating in economics from Harvard University and earning an MBA at the Wharton School, he built his career in IT-related areas at companies like Agilent Technologies in addition to investment and finance companies such as Jardine Fleming.
Q: NLVC Is global venture capital firm. Would you tell me why NLVC is focused on serving companies in Technology, Media, Telecom (TMT), New Technologies, and Healthcare?
A: Enterprise, consumer, and healthcare are NLVC’s core investment areas. In particular, we’ve been recently investing in technologies that can change society in disruptive ways, such as AI, IoT, and healthcare technology.
Q: What do you think about NLVC’s competitive features and advantages over other investment banking firms?
A: We have two major strengths. First is the NLVC team’s technical and operational background. Many of NLVC team members have educational background in science and technology and experience working in or founding a company in related fields with significant track records. This expertise and experience greatly help NLVC understand and invest in innovative technology. Second is that NLVC can and does actively support the founders we invest in, which is the storied tradition of Silicon Valley. Some of our best entrepreneurs come to us even before the business plan is finished but with a clear vision. We don’t just provide financial support when we invest; utilizing our know-how and global network, we provide long-term support to founders in a variety of areas, including product-market development, HR recruitment, and new market penetration. Our belief is that an investor should not merely benefit from the founder’s efforts but should be a partner who grows the company together with the founder.
Q: I am curious why you get to pay attention to Korea’s promising startups. I’d like to hear about your expectations and insights into Korean market.
A: Korea has a number of characteristics that make it a suitable ground for a world-class company, such as high educational achievement, excellent IT infrastructure, and open economy. In the past twenty years, Korean companies have become world leaders in a number of fields such as semiconductors and display devices, and we expect there will be a number of Korean companies, especially startups, that become global leaders in new fields in the next twenty years.
Q: Would you please tell me about key factors(points) you emphasize in determining investment? Do you have any checklist?
A: We emphasize technological edge and growth potential. Superior technology is a necessary element for competing at the global level. Moreover, we examine whether a company has the potential to make the leap to global leader status by looking at how big the available market is, whether the founder has global outlook, etc.
Q: There is still big gap between future technology and reality. It is outstanding that many companies make utmost effort to go beyond the limits filling the gap. I guess you are also looking for these kind of companies not afraid of challenges. What do you think?
A: It may appear at present that future technology remains far away. But adoption of new technology and rise of new companies happen more quickly than people typically think. For example, a number of technologies such as smartphones, electric cars, and AI were adopted and popularized much more quickly than people thought. In this sense, Korea has a big advantage in that it responds very quickly to market changes.
Q: Could you elaborate on your partnership with the SBA and ISC?
A: When NLVC first entered Korea, we were able to access Korea’s startup ecosystem thanks to the help from SBA and ISC. We came to understand the growth potential of Korean startups with SBA and ISC’s active support, and this had significant impact on our recent investments. Going forward, we hope to help Korean startups make the foray into the global market through win-win partnership with SBA and ISC.
Q: Last but not least, I would like to hear about NLVC’s vision and prospect.
A: Since its founding in 2005, NLVC has incubated a number of global leader companies in fields such as mobile O2O services, software platforms, semiconductors and medical technology. We expect there will be a lot of upstart companies with innovative technology and global growth potential in the coming years, and we will source and grow these companies. We anticipate a number of such companies will come from Korea as well.