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Samsung reveals details of Silicon Valley innovation center

February 04, 2013|By Chris O'Brien
  • Young Sohn, Samsung's chief strategy officer, discusses plans for the company's new Silicon Valley innovation center.
Young Sohn, Samsung's chief strategy officer, discusses plans for… (Chris O'Brien / Los Angeles…)

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Samsung disclosed more details Monday of the company's planned Silicon Valley innovation center, including plans for increased venture capital investment in the U.S.

The South Korean tech giant is making a big push to expand its Silicon Valley footprint on several fronts. One effort previously announced was a Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, or SSIC, located on the valley's famed Sand Hill Road, the epicenter of the region's venture capital industry. However, few details were previously available. 

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Young Sohn, Samsung's president and chief strategy officer, said the center has actually been open at least since August and would be a place where Samsung's nine product divisions can tap into Silicon Valley's innovation economy to help it continue to navigate the tremendous disruption occurring as the world moves into the post-PC era.

"That’s an opportunity for Samsung," Sohn said. "And that’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs."

Sohn said SSIC will have its headquarters in Menlo Park, but will eventually establish other offices in other global innovation hot spots. The SSIC will invite a number of fellows to join the center to conduct research there, as well as mentor and reach out to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

In addition, the SSIC will be a place where entrepreneurs can build partnerships with Samsung's nine product divisions as they seek to develop their own ideas and turn them into products. The center will also be part the company's strategy to expand its mergers and acquisitions activity by identifying companies and technologies that can fill various product gaps. 

"We have done quite a bit of M&A recently," Sohn said. "But we will continue to do more."

Sohn couldn't say how many people will be based at the SSIC. 

To help fuel interest in center, the company is launching a $100-million Samsung Catalyst Fund aimed at early stage and seed stage investments. Sohn said that will complement Samsung's $1-billion corporate venture fund, which he said has also been ramping up investment in the U.S., though he declined to say by how much. In general, Sohn said about 80% of the larger corporate venture fund has historically been invested in other companies in the U.S., and that Samsung is one of the three largest corporate venture investors in the world.

Sohn said the company has become concerned that as the venture capital industry struggles and consolidates, it's running away from funding the earliest stage ideas and basic research that could result in big product breakthroughs.

"We think venture capital is not doing all of what we're looking to see in early stage," Sohn said. "There is a hunger for supporting entrepreneurs, academics and artists so they can get their wind behind them. We want to make sure we help that process."

In addition, the company will launch a $10-million SamsungCreate Challenge later this year, inviting entrepreneurs, academics and artists to submit proposals. 

While Samsung has been one of the world's largest consumer electronics company, and has become the leading seller of smartphones, its reputation as an innovator has at times been challenged. Apple, in particular, has accused the company of essentially ripping off its designs and technology, the subject of multiple patent legal disputes around the world. 

The innovation centers seem in part meant to address the company's practical needs to tap more innovative ideas, but also to enhance its reputation as a place that innovates.

"We want to make sure we’re on top of that innovation engine," he said. 


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