Crunchbase Spotlight: Susan Choe, Founder, Katalyst Ventures

Crunchbase Spotlight is a series that celebrates diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and tech by profiling people of color, women, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

Susan ChoeMeet Susan Choe, the Founder of Katalyst Ventures – a venture capital firm that invests in startups that apply artificial intelligence to solve problems in healthcare, financial services, operations, and other industries.

Choe has been on both sides of the investment table – as a former founder of a venture-backed startup and now as a Venture Capitalist. Her resume speaks for itself:

  • Became the first female executive (COO) at a publicly-traded company based in Asia
  • Corporate development and international operations management at DLJ Direct, Yahoo!, and NHN Entertainment Corporation
  • Founded Outspark (acquired, 2012) that generated more than $7 million in annual revenue within a couple of years
  • Co-founded Visionnaire Ventures, a global technology investment firm
  • Part of new media initiatives with Sprint and SoftBank teams in 2013

To say Choe has been there and done that is an understatement. But it’s how she got to where she’s at today that’s the real story – it wasn’t a linear path.

Road to The World Bank to Investing in Startups

Choe’s path to founding Katalyst Ventures wasn’t where she saw her career going early on.

In fact, investing in tech startups wasn’t the vision she had.

Receiving her undergrad degree in Political Science and a Masters in International Finance soon after, Choe had a goal of working for the World Bank – an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of developing countries.

Her goal of working for the organization almost became a reality when she went through the interview process after grad school. However, she quickly realized that the culture and overall way of conducting business didn’t align with what she had in mind. She wanted a much deeper relationship with the people in the developing countries the World Bank was impacting. As Choe explained it, “The direct relationship to the people that were directly impacted by the decisions that were made at that level was so far removed – I was a little disillusioned, like, ‘Okay, now what? What do I do?’ It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.”

Realizing that working at the World Bank was not for her, Choe made her way to Wall Street where she capitalized on her love for tech by joining American Express. This was followed by stints at Yahoo!, NHN Entertainment Corporation, and other companies before founding Outspark in 2007 and selling it in 2012.

The combination of her global tech corp dev background, global tech operations experience, and starting a company served as the perfect foundation for Choe to launch a career in venture capital. Although, again, this wasn’t her plan. That is until an original investor in Outspark came calling.

Next Exit: Venture Capital World

In 2013, Taizo Son, Founder of one of the most successful online gaming companies in Japan (now public) and an original Outspark investor, reached out to Choe about helping with a new media strategy for Sprint and SoftBank. After a little hesitation at first – given no background in telecommunications – she accepted.

Six months later, Son and his team got in touch with Choe again. This time they were starting a venture capital fund, Visionnaire Ventures, and wanted her to be part of it as Co-founder and Managing Partner. This was the moment when Choe officially started her venture capital career.

Through Visionnaire Ventures, Choe was able to call on her years of experience as a founder, investor, and operator to invest in companies that would end up performing well – Krux, Zipline, and Helpshift to name a few. In fact, the companies she invested in were doing so well that limited partners in her fund encouraged her to continue her investment journey.

In 2018, Choe launched Katalyst Ventures to invest in early-stage A.I. application startups that empower individuals and the enterprise.

The rest, as they say, is history.

  • Originally published September 4, 2019, updated May 5, 2023