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Decile Summit 2023

Youngrok Kim on How to Back Iconic VC Managers

Youngrok Kim emphasizes strategic investment in emerging VC managers alongside established brands, outlining the ‘barbell strategy’. Focusing on risk and return profiles, he shares insights on backing iconic VC managers, balancing established successes with the potential of high-growth newcomers, and underscores the importance of due diligence in fund-of-funds.

Summary of Youngrok’s Presentation

In his presentation, Youngrok Kim, Partner at Gree LP, elucidates the nuanced approach of backing VC managers who possess the potential to become iconic in the industry. His discussion pivots on the ‘barbell strategy’—a method that involves investing in both well-established funds and high-potential emerging managers. Kim provides a masterclass on the due diligence process of fund-of-funds, offering venture capital professionals insights into the creation and management of a diversified investment portfolio geared towards exceptional returns.

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Venture Capital Landscape

The venture capital industry is dynamically evolving, with new players emerging and investment strategies diversifying. As digital transformation accelerates across industries, VCs play a pivotal role in shaping the future by funding innovative startups. The competitive landscape requires VCs to remain agile, informed, and forward-thinking.

Emerging managers are increasingly significant in the venture capital ecosystem. Their agility and novel perspectives often translate into early identification of groundbreaking opportunities. However, their potential is frequently matched by the challenge of establishing credibility and securing capital in a field dominated by well-known entities.

Barbell Strategy

The ‘barbell strategy’ is an investment approach that involves allocating assets to high-risk, high-return opportunities at one end and low-risk, stable investments at the other, much like weights on a barbell. In the context of VC, this translates to investing in a mix of established funds with a track record of success and emerging funds with the potential for outsized returns.

For instance, a VC firm using this strategy might allocate a significant portion of their capital to a well-known fund with consistent returns while also investing in a selection of early-stage startups that exhibit disruptive potential. This dual approach mitigates overall portfolio risk while maintaining the opportunity for high returns from the startup segment.

Risk and Return Profiles

Venture capital inherently involves a high level of risk due to the uncertainty surrounding new ventures. VC managers must evaluate the potential for return in the context of this risk, often looking at factors such as market size, product innovation, and the founding team’s expertise. The aim is to identify startups that, despite the odds, have the potential to disrupt markets and deliver substantial returns.

Balancing risk with potential returns is a fine art in venture capital. Diversification across sectors, stages of company growth, and even geographic regions can help mitigate risk. Additionally, employing a thorough due diligence process allows VC managers to assess and manage the risk effectively, ensuring that each investment has a fighting chance to thrive and provide a healthy return.

Risk Factors:

  • Market size: The potential market size is a strong indicator of the possible return on investment.
  • Product innovation: The uniqueness and competitive edge of the product can significantly drive success.
  • Founding team’s expertise: The experience and track record of the founding team can predict the venture’s future performance.

Risk Mitigation:

  • Diversification: Spreading investments across sectors and stages can reduce overall risk.
  • Due diligence: A thorough vetting process is crucial for understanding the risks associated with each startup.

Emerging vs. Established Managers

The dichotomy between emerging and established VC managers can be stark. Established managers benefit from a track record, reputation, and often a more straightforward path to raising funds. In contrast, emerging managers, while they may struggle with brand recognition and fundraising, can offer fresher perspectives and more personalized attention to their investments.

Emerging managers are often more nimble and willing to take on ventures that present unconventional opportunities, which established firms might overlook due to their size and risk protocols. However, the lack of a substantial track record can make it difficult for emerging managers to attract large institutional investors. Established managers, on the other hand, must work to maintain their status and manage larger sums efficiently, often leading to more conservative investment choices.

Due Diligence Process

Due diligence in a fund-of-funds context is a meticulous process, involving the evaluation of a fund’s management team, track record, investment strategy, portfolio composition, and operational infrastructure. The process is designed to uncover every aspect of the fund’s operations and strategy to assess its potential for success.

For venture capital professionals, due diligence is not merely a procedural step; it is a critical component of investment decision-making. The depth and quality of due diligence can significantly impact the potential returns from a fund. This rigorous process is crucial for separating truly promising VC managers from the rest, ensuring investments are allocated to those with the best chances of delivering strong returns.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Management team: Assess the experience and past performance of the fund’s management.
  • Track record: Review historical returns and the fund’s ability to meet objectives.
  • Investment strategy: Understand the fund’s approach to selecting and managing investments.
  • Portfolio composition: Analyze the diversity and potential synergies within the fund’s portfolio.
  • Operational infrastructure: Ensure the fund has robust systems for operations, compliance, and reporting.

Investment Insights

Youngrok Kim’s presentation serves as a beacon for venture capitalists seeking to navigate the complex waters of fund investments. The crux of his message is the imperative of a discerning eye when selecting VC managers. Understanding the intrinsic value and strategic advantage of each manager is paramount for constructing a resilient and profitable portfolio.

Investors should approach fund selection with a balance of skepticism and optimism, rigorously evaluating potential managers while remaining open to the unique opportunities they present. Building relationships with managers, understanding their investment philosophy, and aligning it with one’s own investment thesis is critical for long-term success in the venture capital domain.


Youngrok Kim’s insights into venture capital investment strategies, particularly the ‘barbell strategy’, provide a roadmap for investors seeking to back the next generation of iconic VC managers. The careful balance of risk and return, the discerning selection of emerging versus established managers, and the rigorous due diligence process are all integral to achieving success.

Venture capital professionals are advised to embrace the complexity of this investment landscape with a strategic and analytical mindset. By leveraging the lessons from Kim’s presentation, investors can refine their strategies to build portfolios that are not only diverse but also positioned to capitalize on the transformative potential of innovative startups.