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Samsung Looks To Invest $100m In Silicon Valley Start-Ups

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The South Korean electronics giant has established an innovation centre in Menlo Park but Cambridge could be its next stop

Samsung is setting up a Silicon Valley-based $100 million (£63m) venture fund intended to focus on early-stage research and start-ups, the company said on Monday.

The South Korean electronics giant, which is now the world’s largest smartphone maker and one of the world’s most-recognised brands, already operates a $1bn Samsung Venture Fund, but the new Samsung Catalyst Fund is intended to invest in ideas at an earlier stage, Samsung said.

Start-ups

The company said it wants to invest in basic science and technology start-ups and hardware components such as displays and batteries, areas left out of existing venture-capital investment, which has tended to focus on software.

Samsung chip logo“This is the epicentre of disruptive forces,” said Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer of Samsung’s device solutions unit, who is directing the new fund along with an associated strategy and innovation centre in Menlo Park, California.

“We want to be a leader in innovation,” he added.

Samsung’s venture-funding organisation, headquartered in Seoul, has more than $1bn in assets and closed 20 deals worth $160m last year, according to Sohn. Aside from Seoul and Silicon Valley, Samsung runs venture operations in Israel and is considering locations in Cambridge, Boston, Massachussets and Austin, Texas, Sohn said.

Areas of investment interest for the fund will include remote computing, security, mobile computing and mobile privacy, Samsung said. Successful ideas could ultimately be used by Samsung’s device solutions unit, Sohn said, emphasising that the company is willing to invest in ideas that may take a long time to pay off.

Expertise

Sohn said Samsung is not looking to act as an incubator, clarifying that the fund will provide seed investment, as well as expertise and access to Samsung’s resources.

When asked how Samsung’s patent lawsuit with Apple has influenced the company’s Silicon Valley investment strategy, Sohn reportedly replied, “I don’t think about that particular topic at all. I feel very free to innovate.”

Sohn, a former executive at Intel, ARM and Aligent, has been at Samsung for about four months. He declined to specify when the Menlo Park centre opened or to disclose the number of staff it employs, other than saying it is in the double-digits.

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