Coupang: Harvard Dropout Rockets Into Mega-billionaire’s Club

South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang has raised $4.2 billion in the initial public offering that creates it the most important listing within the US so far this year.

Shares within the company surged once they began trading, valuing the Harvard graduate school dropout’s stake at quite $8.6bn (£6.1bn).

Coupang’s US listing is the biggest by an Asian company since Alibaba in 2014.

While it’s still loss-making, revenue almost doubled last year because the pandemic boosted online shopping.

Coupang’s share price rose 41% in its trading debut, which was the biggest US initial public offering (IPO) since Uber in 2019. Coupang is usually mentioned because of the Amazon of South Korea.

The online retailer, whose biggest backer is Japanese multinational SoftBank, said it would grant its warehouse staff and 15,000 full-time delivery workers as much as $90m worth of its shares.

“We were fortunate to possess demand from tons of great investors and that we did not have room for all of the good investors out there,” Mr. Kim said, who is both Coupang’s founder and chief executive.

Born in Seoul, Mr. Kim moved to America when he was in secondary school and obtained US nationality.

After dropping out from his Harvard MBA, he returned to South Korea and set up Coupang in 2010, inspired by Groupon’s business model.

The company has aggressively expanded its delivery operations, putting 70% of South Korea’s population within a seven-mile radius of its distribution centers.

Coupang, whose one-day service is named Rocket Delivery, has also invested in new business lines like food delivery and streaming services.

Despite the company’s popularity, it’s faced scrutiny after reports of several deaths among delivery and logistics employees who were allegedly overworked.

“What takes you to the next level is to not settle because customers will never settle,” Kim said in 2019. “Challenge yourself and say ‘how can you let the customer have it all?’ If the customer has it all, they can’t live without you.”

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