How to Promote Equity Investments in Innovative Firms
Knowledge of a startup’s technology, human resources, marketability, and growth potential lowers the risks of venture capital investments.
Information asymmetry hinders financing for innovative firms. Sufficient amount of relevant quality information about them must be circulated in the market to mitigate the knowledge imbalance and guide market participants with their investment needs. Establishing an intuitive and accessible financing portal where they can access the said information is likewise essential.
In the Republic of Korea, funding a new or growing business is supported by government policy. The Special Act on Fostering Venture Business was enacted to facilitate the transformation of companies into venture businesses (as defined by Korean law) and stimulate venture startups to contribute to industrial restructuring and gain a competitive edge. Companies that met qualifications for funding support are identified as venture firms. Currently, efforts are underway to create a private sector-led financing ecosystem—a broader concept than venture financing. This ecosystem will be inhabited by innovative firms in need of funding, diversified investors searching for profitable opportunities, and financial intermediaries, as well as by the government side for policy support and supervision. A financing ecosystem for innovative firms needs to be flexible and highly accessible so that all companies with strong technologies and business models can tap into resources and business support.
Equity investment and credit lending take place in this ecosystem. The former is likely to be dominant since innovative firms can entail high risks and generally lack collateral. Among various types of securities, equities are the residual claimant and thus have the lowest priority compared with other claims on a business. Because investment in equities is a high-risk, high-return strategy, potential investors would conduct a thorough inspection of the target company’s technology, human resources, marketability, and growth potential. Therefore, generating and circulating sufficient quality information on innovative firms can facilitate investment in innovative firms. Access to information is likewise important for investment-receiving firms so they will know how they can benefit from the investment and government support.
Currently, useful information for an innovative financing ecosystem comes from various sources, including government ministries, local governments, interest groups, and private organizations. In the Republic of Korea, examples include K-Startup of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, Seoul Business Support Center of Seoul Metropolitan Government, DIVA of Korea Venture Capital Association, and Angel Investment Support Center of Korea Business Angels Association. However, a lot of information is not managed systematically and remains inaccessible or hard to find. Financial firms have their own information on client companies and investors, and share them through their own networks. Information on a company’s sales volume―overall revenues and revenues by specific channels, accounts receivable and payable, and records of payment―are quite useful in making an investment decision. Unfortunately, a database that compiles and communicates these has yet to be established.
Looking ahead, it is important to enhance information access for market participants.
- First, the available pool of information needs to become both wider and deeper to help figure out investment opportunities. Making currently restricted information―e.g. results of the technological evaluation, company information accumulated through various startup-supporting initiatives―available to potential investors and financial firms would be useful.
- Second, a financing portal for innovative firms where all relevant information is pooled needs to be built. The portal must have an intuitive interface and should provide users with information in an easy-to-understand manner. It should also be able to direct users to respective websites where they can obtain information that will suffice for their needs. If necessary, it might be useful to designate an organization that centrally collects, manages, and circulates information related to financing for innovative firms.
Youn, T. 2019. Information Structure to Facilitate Financing for Innovative Firms. Korea Institute of Finance.
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