500 Startups names S. Korea specialist Chae SF-based GP

Seed-stage investor 500 Startups, which is expected to soon begin fundraising for its fifth global fund, promoted Tim Chae to general partner.

Co-Founder and Managing Partner Christine Tsai said Chae will oversee the San Francisco-based investment team and the seed-accelerator program, and will work closely with the organization’s 14 thematic funds worldwide.

That includes the $15 million Kimchi microfund, which focuses on South Korea. Chae launched the fund, which closed in 2015. Based in Seoul, it has invested in 35 companies in the past four years, including Spoon, PeopleFund and Dano.

Chae said Jeffrey Lim, who was brought on in South Korea a year ago, will lead the Kimchi fund. Chae said he will also remain on the board of some of the Korean companies he has invested in.

Tsai said she recalled Chae saying he wanted to start a thematic fund dedicated to South Korean startups.

“I remember thinking that’s a tough market for early-stage capital. It sounded impossible,” Tsai said. “But the Kimchi Fund has performed well. He clearly has all the skills to manage 500 Startups.”

As a GP, Chae said he’ll be managing the day-to-day operations of 500 Startups, including its accelerator program. He said Partner Marvin Liao will continue to lead the San Francisco-based accelerator program, which is currently recruiting its 25th batch of startups.

Other thematic funds 500 Startups operates worldwide include Vietnam and Istanbul. 500 Vietnam held its final oversubscribed close in 2018 and 500 TukTuks II held an initial close last year.

Founded in 2010, 500 Startups says it has now invested in 74 countries. Five of its 10 unicorn companies, and nearly half its overall portfolio, are based outside U.S. borders.

In addition to working with the organization’s international fund partners, Chae said he would also get involved in the firm’s fundraising for its main vehicle.

500 Startups has raised Fund IV at an undisclosed amount and is expected to soon begin seeking its fifth main fund. The partners at 500 Startups had no comment about the next main fund.

Chae, who’s originally from Sacramento, California, was previously a partner at 500 Startups and an entrepreneur-in-residence before that. Chae is also a former entrepreneur. He previously launched PostRocket, a Facebook page optimizer, as part of 500’s Batch 3 in 2011.

“He is a great example of 500’s mission and community,” Tsai said. “He came in as a founder and we asked him to come back a few years later as an investor.”

As an EIR for the accelerator program, Chae worked closely with such companies as Famebit (acquired by Google), AdEspresso (bought by Hootsuite), PredictionIO (acquired by Salesforce), and EquityZen, among others.