Sequoia Expands Scope Of Asian Investments

June 3, 2014

With its latest $100 million investment in a Korean startup announced late last month, Sequoia Capital is seemingly expanding the scope of its investing in Asia.

Since 2009, Sequoia Capital has invested nearly $2 billion in over 100 startups, primarily in China. Now, with its commitment to a $100 million round of financing for the e-commerce company Coupang, the firm is adding Korea to its geographic mix.

Seqouia’s investments in Northern Asia declined with the declining fortunes of the Chinese market in 2011 and 2012, but have since rebounded. Meanwhile, other firms have significantly slowed the pace of their investments into Asia, according to several people familiar with the North Asian market.

Sequoia actually led the round for Coupang, South Korea’s answer to Amazon.

The investment, which was spearheaded by Sequoia chairman Mike Moritz adds one of Asia’s fastest-growing and most valuable startups to Sequoia Capital’s already impressive roster of Asian deals. According to one person with knowledge of the deal, the new investment values Coupang at well over $1 billion.

Founded three years ago by Harvard Business School dropout Bom Kim, Coupang now has over $1 billion in sales — a milestone it reached faster than any other Asian e-commerce company.

According to previous reports, Kim had the idea for Coupang after seeing the explosive growth of online retail companies like Groupon in the late 2000s. Realizing that the ship had sailed for a similar company in the U.S. Kim thought that the South Korean market, where shopping is a pastime, mobile phones are everywhere, and high-speed Internet is ubiquitous, would be an ideal country to launch an e-commerce site.

Kim’s gambit paid off, and with the help of initial investors Greenoaks Capital Management, Rose Park Advisors’ Disruptive Innovation Fund, and LaunchTime, Coupang has grown to become the country’s top privately held e-commerce vendor.

Sequoia backed the latest round through its Sequoia Capital Global Equities and Sequoia Heritage investment vehicles, according to a statement.

“Organically, we’ve grown faster than any e-commerce company we know of, and with these resources, we can set our sights even higher,” said Coupang’s chief financial officer, Richard Song, in a statement. “This financing is highly strategic as we continue to go after a rapidly growing $45 billion market.”

E-commerce is one of the areas where Sequoia has invested heavily in North Asia. The firm has also backed security companies like Qihoo 360,the used car trading platform Cheyipai, the mobile Karaoke app, Changba, and loan advice software provider Rong360.