Japanese internet giant Recruit has a new $25M blockchain fund

Crypto market prices may be down significantly, but new investors continue to enter the blockchain space. The latest is Recruit Holdings, the $45 billion Japanese internet giant that owns Glassdoor among other things, which quietly launched a $25 million fund.

The fund is based out of Singapore and it closed in November 2018, but its existence was only made public this week following the announcement of its maiden deal, an undisclosed investment in Beam. Recruit has been very vocal about its intention to offer a crypto fund — I interviewed SVP Youngrok Kim at a Coindesk event in Singapore last year — while it has made equity investments in blockchain companies through its central corporate fund, Recruit Strategic Partners (RSP). The current RSP fund is $100 million and it is the company’s sixth.

Now, with the crypto fund, Kim — who operates within both RSP and the new fund — said that Recruit is free to do deals in both tokens and equity and generally dive deeper into blockchain.

“When we had an equity fund we weren’t as flexible as we wanted to be,” Kim told TechCrunch in a phone interview this week. “We weren’t in a position to buy tokens and assets. We will continue to have two vehicles; we will use the crypto fund and the RSP fund in tandem as needed.”

That’s all well and good but, with the bubble popped, the number of ICOs is down but not quite out. The dynamics have certainly changed, with token sales now almost universally conducted privately rather than publicly, and for full-time investors and professionals rather than anyone. Still, Kim sees ample reasons to operate a token-based fund.

“We still see a lot of ICOs, the relative number is smaller but we still see a good amount of deal flow for token and equity raising. We are positive with the outlook,” he explained. “We’re a strong believer in blockchain and decentralized technology.”

Beyond direct investments, the fund will also invest in other funds as an LP to help spread its reach.

“Our investment area is broad, covering deep tech to the application layer too,” Kim explained. “We’re still conducting research to understand core technology and its potential. We’re going to very cautious spending the fund, we seek to discover companies that will have a real impact and society and where we can contribute as Recruit,” he added, claiming that there are a number of upcoming deals in the pipeline.

Recruit came on the radar for many in the U.S. through its acquisition of Glassdoor for $1.2 billion last year, but it is already a major name in the digital space in Japan, as a recent Bloomberg profile story explained in some detail.

Founded in 1960, it is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and valued at more than $45 billion. It isn’t just big in Japan, though, and Recruit has some 45,000 employees across 60 countries worldwide.

Its core services are recruitment and HR, but it also operates in the real estate, travel, dining and other segments. It has a history of acquisitions, some of which have included U.S.-based Indeed.com (2012) and  Simply Hired (2016), as well as European services restaurant site Quandoo (2015)hair and beauty service Wahanda (2015) and education technology company Quipper (2015).

Despite that, Kim said that he doesn’t anticipate that Recruit will acquire blockchain companies that the fund invests in because it is still early days for the technology in terms of development, adoption and monetization. But, with the fund, Recruit is determined to keep an eye on developments to ensure it doesn’t miss out on potentially significant innovation.

Recruit isn’t the only corporate to start a crypto token fund. Line, another Japanese company that’s best known for its messaging app, launched a $10 million crypto fund last year, while Korean rival Kakao has a blockchain consultancy and it is actively doing deals. Kakao made its first blockchain investment in December when it backed Israeli-based Orbs in an undisclosed deal.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.