Announcing START, Korea’s Standardized Early Stage Investment Document

Continuing on with our mission of trying to foster the best startup ecosystem South Korea can cultivate, we are really excited to announce START (Standardized Term Agreement for Raise Transactions), Korea’s standardized investment document for early stage startups. We partnered up with SEUM, a Korean startup specializing law firm, to make it available for anyone to download and start using for free to raise capital as a Korean startup. It was developed with input and feedback from many respected early stage investors in Korea (special thanks to FuturePlay, SparkLabs, BonAngels, and Altos).

Even before we launched the Korea specific fund, 500 Kimchi, earlier this year in May, I’ve been personally dedicating myself to try and really get to know the startup ecosystem in Seoul as I continue to make the biweekly cross Pacific flight from San Francisco. With every trip and every new founder and investor I got to meet, I learned something new, different, or unique about the ecosystem in Korea vs. Silicon Valley/US.

On the early stage investment side, I saw too many founders having to deal with investment terms that were potentially damaging for the company and/or the founder herself; and from the investors’ side, I saw and heard of too many instances where angel investors had no idea where to start to get a deal done or had to resort to the only investment doc they had available which were archaic and too lengthy (40+ pages).

Most of these problems don’t exist in mature ecosystems, like SF/SV, where general investment terms are widely known (and easily findable) and there’s a widely accepted format, such as convertible notes, Series Seed, YC Safe, and 500S KISS.

We hope that’s what the launch of START today will mean for the Korean ecosystem 2-3 years from now.

We designed it to be friendly for the founders while being fair for the investors. We made it easy to use (even for the first time founder or investor). We simplified it, reducing the number of pages to a total of under 10. And it’s completely free to be used by anyone, significantly reducing the cost of an early stage financing for both founders and investors. START will be improving continuously over time with more feedback and adjusting as the ecosystem in Korea matures.

Investors using START (or in-house founder friendly investment term sheets) are not using it because we don’t have any other options, but rather because we only want to succeed when our founders succeed. We hope this START Doc initiative make it easier for more investors to invest into startups in Korea and for founders to be able to raise early stage capital on fair terms and set themselves up for success.

Check out the START site and download it there.

If you are an investor and decide to use START as your standard investment doc, please let me know and we’d love to have you included on the site.

Press: beSuccess, Platum, ZDNet

Tim (팀채) is a Partner at 500 Startups and the Head of 500 Startups Korea. He is an investor in 40+ seed stage tech companies in SF/SV and Korea. He splits his time between San Francisco and Seoul. You can find more about Tim here.