Over the past several months, our firm (www.sparklabsgroup.com) has made several announcements about SparkLabs Beijing, SparkLabs Taipei, SparkLabs Ventures (Series A fund for South Korea and SE Asia), SparkLabs Cultiv8 (AgTech, FoodTech, and Sustainability accelerator) and SparkChain Capital (Series A fund for blockchain and cryptocurrency startups).
Many people have sent one of our team members emails, texts or calls with congratulatory messages or comments on our “rapid growth”. But similar to a tech startup, launches don’t mean much. While we appreciate the kinds words and it might rub some of our egos for a few minutes, these milestones are just milestones in a long journey that we see ahead of us. Also these new launches don’t pay the bills :)
The reality is that most of these have been in the works over a year and randomly they have all been announced during these past six months. For example, we started to work on SparkLabs Beijing over two years ago. Surveying the startup landscape in China, speaking with several potential partners, negotiating the terms, finding the right people to lead the accelerator and other important steps took us over two years. SparkLabs Group might been seen like a duck paddling across the pond. Gliding, briskly across the waters of innovation adding new accelerators and funds here and there, but the reality is that we are paddling fiercely underneath the surface. Legs kicking, hearts pumping, sweat dripping and dreams of rest abound.
Operating SparkLabs is similar running any tech startup that all of us have done before or currently doing again (on HanJoo’s startup and Frank’s startup). The only difference we joke around is that we fundraise more often. Seriously.
We are a young venture capital firm focused on seed stage startups with less than five years of history. We do not have any signature exits yet. Established and storied venture capital firms such as Sequoia, Benchmark and Accel can almost snap their fingers and close their funds in weeks.
While there are great stories of quick exits in Silicon Valley, such as Cruise (acquired by GM for over $1B within 3 years from its founding), we haven’t been so fortunate. We are focused on selecting startups to invest in and then helping them grow their companies in whatever is needed. Well, this isn’t going to change with big exits from our fund portfolio either. At least I assume it will not change anything motivation or effort from our team because we are all passionate about helping entrepreneurs.
My Co-founder, Jimmy Kim, jokes around that as venture capitalists we are suppose to be motivated by carried interest, but as a new fund with no big exits “carried interest is like a mythical beast to me that I can imagine it, but not touch or feel it or believe that it is real.”
So SparkLabs Group is not a graceful water fowl, but a vigorously paddling duck working to build up our track record, impact, and influence on startup ecosystems across the globe.