Interview with Yong Gwan Lee, CEO of Blue Point Partners

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A staunch supporter of startups, equipped with experience and trial-and-error

“The nature of investment is the asymmetry of information. It is neither coaching nor entrepreneurship or simply adding a spoon to a table prepared by others. We invest in value, not in ways that others acknowledge.”

Today, growth is improbable without creativity and innovation. Sustainable entrepreneurship is a prerequisite, but it is not easy to strike a balance between technology and business, which are key elements of growth. As an entrepreneurial ecosystem that could sway the national economic growth rate is attracting much attention lately, Yong Gwan Lee, CEO of Blue Point Partners, who identifies, nurtures, and invests in a promising startup, thereby accelerating their success and growth will tell us about the secrets behind and answers to successful entrepreneurship.

A Startup Management Company, Blue Point Partners

Blue Point Partners is a company similar to an entertainment management agency. The main purpose here is to unearth start-ups with potentials and help them establish a full-fledged business after providing it proper training and solutions, just like an entertainment company discovering and training promising singers and entertainers.

Established in July 2014, and invested in 30-plus deep-tech start-ups

A Doctor of Physics from KAIST, Lee established Plasmart in 2000, and developed a plasma generating and measuring control system. At that time, he was one of the most sought-after entrepreneurs in a number of domestic and overseas businesses.

Lee sold Plasmart in July 2012 to MKS, a US company that had been making incessant requests for many years, and established Blue Point Partners in July 2014 with the returns from the sale. His motive behind the establishment of a venture capital company was that he did not want the late-comers to waste time and repeat the trials and errors that he had made. Blue Point Partners, composed of 14 partners who have successfully founded start-ups and experienced diverse business practices, has for the last two and a half years nurtured and attracted investment in more than 30 deep-tech startups, ranging from bio and medical sensors, virtual and augmented reality, robots and drones, and advanced materials. Approximately 60% of recipients are entrepreneur teams in the Daejeon area and about 10 to 20% are in Gyeonggi-do and Seoul; the rest are scattered in many other regions nationwide. The high proportion of Daejeon is because the region is advantageous in terms of resources, with national labs, government-funded research institutes, and many other internationally competitive businesses all gathered in the area.

Younger team with open-mind is the best

Lee, who has been steadily discovering entrepreneurial teams, has determined the characteristics of teams that show a constant growth curve and are favored by the VCs: Openness and team-ship. A team with an open mind and strong team-ship pays heed to advice from others, and focuses on making up for any shortcomings they have.

“A team that seemed clever and had high expectations at first sometimes stopped growing at some point because they were not open and united enough. They did not make efforts to make up for things they lacked. However, one desperate team was excellent in openness and teamwork, and they continued to grow every week and month, waking up their inner tiger. Naturally, many talented people continued to join the team. When you maintain the authenticity of the technology while carefully listening to feedback, you can continue to grow as a business and develop new solutions.”

In light of these aspects, while some seniors are excellent in skill and experience, younger teams are far superior to their seniors in terms of openness.

Preparing startups in the rapidly-changing industry

He said one company had secured 5 billion won in investment from three VCs, but the project was killed off due to internal trouble in its team. Because the industry is not as predictable or stable as before, the importance of the team cannot be stressed enough. Therefore, a team must be capable of following rapid industrial changes. Blue Point Partners continues to monitor industry trends while upgrading and strengthening its capability as a locomotive for startups.

“We invested in about 20 companies in the last year and this year. Next year’s target is 35 businesses, and the target of the year after next is 50. Training 50 startups a year for entrepreneurship is our mission now.”

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