Coupang, South Korean E-Commerce Start-up, Raises $2 Billion From SoftBank

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The start-up Coupang has set its sights on conquering South Korea’s fast-growing e-commerce market. Doing that just got easier, with the announcement on Tuesday that the company had raised $2 billion in new capital from Softbank’s Vision Fund.

Since its inception in 2016, the Vision Fund has had a singular goal: use its roughly $100 billion to take big stakes in companies it believes will redefine the future. It now holds investments in companies like WeWork, the owner of so-called co-working offices, and the vertical farming start-up Plenty.

Coupang, one of South Korea’s most popular e-commerce platforms, is the latest to benefit from the Vision Fund’s largess. The company compares itself to Amazon, but unlike the American retail behemoth, it has the infrastructure necessary to deliver nearly all purchases to customers within a day, if not sooner.

The potential of Coupang’s business model drew SoftBank’s attention in 2015, when it invested $1 billion in the company and gained a seat on its board.

Since then, Coupang has spent heavily on its delivery options and on its RocketPay payment service. In the past two years, sales have doubled, and they are expected to climb to almost $5 billion this year. Many Coupang customers shop on its platform more than 50 times a year.

Further growth requires more money, and around February the company began discussions with SoftBank about additional investment.

“The primary job of this investment is to help us become a deeper part of customers’ lives,” Bom Kim, Coupang’s founder, said in a telephone interview. “We’ll continue to invest in new services and new experiences.”

Coupang’s growth has come at a cost. The company lost more than 673 million Korean won, or about $598 million last year, according to data from S & P Capital IQ. And it faces competition from rival upstarts like Ticket Monster and traditional Korean retailers eager to combat newer entrants.

Mr. Kim is undeterred. He said he expected Coupang’s investments in its technology and delivery infrastructure, made possible by SoftBank’s money, to give it an edge.

He also said that recent controversy over Saudi Arabia, the biggest single investor in the Vision Fund, did not diminish his enthusiasm for the SoftBank fund’s support. Of the cloud hanging over the Saudi government, which is accused of orchestrating the killing of a prominent dissident, he said, “I don’t think it represents SoftBank or us.”