It is a very rare exit.

It is a very rare exit. At a $63bn market capitalisation at flotation, South Korea-based e-commerce company Coupang has delivered a paper $20bn-plus in profits for SoftBank’s Vision Fund and its partner, Lydia Jett – a GCV Rising Star award winner last year.

Coupang’s initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange in a $4.55bn offering on Friday was the year’s biggest so far and the second-largest by a foreign company since China-based peer Alibaba’s back in 2014.

Its roots, however, perhaps lie more as a combination of Chinese superapps, such as Alibaba and Tencent’s, or a combination of US peers.

Similar to US-listed social media network Facebook, Bom Suk Kim founded Coupang after dropping out of Harvard in 2010. A decade on and Coupang’s revenue last year was $12bn, nearly double (up 91%) from 2019’s, and a narrowing loss of $475m for 2020.

This sort of growth is attractive to investors and the public market gave Coupang a first-day pop of 41% to $49.25 per share (more than $80bn by market cap), up from a listing price of $35 each.

For SoftBank, this adds more lustre and lucre to its shareholding (39.4% pre-IPO, 33.1% post, according to Coupang’s regulatory filing).

SoftBank invested $1bn in Coupang in 2015 and added a further $2bn through its Vision Fund in 2018, with Jett having a board seat.

News provider Barron’s said: “It is a monster win – and possibly the biggest exit ever for a deal led by a woman venture investor.”

Jett said in a LinkedIn post: Is there any doubt the future of VC is female? The original team on SoftBank’s Coupang investment was Michelle H. [Huang], Jessica Xu and myself.”

She added to Barron’s that SoftBank aimed to be a long-term investor in Coupang, as it had been in Alibaba where it remains the company’s largest shareholder after 20 years since its first venture backing.

And she said: “This will transform how Korean companies are funded. This is just the beginning.”

For more on the secrets in South Korea’s entrepreneurial and corporate venturing ecosystem do check out this month’s Global Corporate Venturing (full issue out tomorrow) and Liwen-Edison Fu‘s report.

James Mawson

James Mawson is founder and chief executive of Global Venturing.