In February this year, Samsung Next, the Silicon Valley-based investment arm of Samsung, announced it was entering the Indian market with an investment in Healthify Me, an app that uses both artificial intelligence and human coaching to help its users lose weight.
And this is only just the beginning. Outlining the global investment firm’s plans in India and other markets was Brendon Kim, VP, MD, Global Head of Ventures, Samsung NEXT, one of the key speakers at Techsparks 2018, who also addressed Emerging Technologies.
“As Samsung Electronics’ software and services innovation arm, Samsung Next is looking to work with startups, because that is where the innovation is happening. We have a number of teams that are partnering with startups to help them build, grow and scale their companies,” said Kim.
“Samsung Next has an internal development team that is building innovative products and services for consumption within Samsung. If you are an early-stage startup and you are looking for capital, we make early-stage investments around the world to help businesses accelerate, partner with Samsung. If you’re ready to scale globally with Samsung, we also have an M&A team, and that team has been responsible for most of our large software acquisitions over the past 7 years. We also have a partnership team, if you interested in building an ecosystem within the Samsung Ecosystem,” he added.
Speaking about his firm’s interest in India, he said, “We chase innovation wherever it is happening around the world, and India is certainly a big centre for innovation. We have offices in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, Tel Aviv, Europe, and Korea, and now in India. We want to make sure that we are taking advantage of the innovations that are happening here and we want to grow our presence.”
A growing influence
With over 370 million devices sold per year, Samsung Electronics is one of the largest companies in the world, with a massive hardware ad IoT footprint, which it is looking to expand to enhance user experience.
“But, we know that the future is also in software services. And for us to continue, it means we need to bring that software and services innovation that all of you are working on and integrate that with our partner. And that’s why we’re making such a big push in software,” said Kim.
He said that from an investor’s perspective, Samsung Next believed that the world is becoming increasingly decentralised whether that’s in terms of computing architecture or terms of business models. “In computing architecture, we see a pendulum going from a centralised architecture to a decentralised one. The question is what might happen in the future. We have seen a move from an era where corporations held all of the value to a world where platforms held value to where value is in the network. There has been an explosion of IoT and Data,” said Kim.
He said 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. “These devices cannot all possibly connect to the internet. We need Edge Computing. Data Security also becomes an issue. We are looking at the future through that decentralised lens and applying it to the investment focus areas that we have. One example of that is AI. A lot of AI is done on the cloud and we’re interested in continued innovation in the cloud. We’re also interested in how you take good AI to the edge where you have to use less compute power and less data.”
“We believe that is where the world is evolving to. How do you make good decisions at the edge? Our brains work on 20 watts and process much less data and yet we make pretty good decisions most of the time. There is so much more data on the cloud. But how can we take less data and less processing power and apply it?”
The India experience
Kim said there were a lot of things that they were hoping to learn from India. The top three among these were:
– Understanding the next billion internet users: Samsung Next was learning how different the next billion users in India were going to be from users in other markets, how they would use technology, and how this opportunity could be monetised. He said that the lessons learned here in India would be applied around the world
– The opportunity to leapfrog technology: The desire to rethink the way things are done is happening across the world. India is not going to see desktops, landlines or checking accounts. Samsung Next is learning from rapidly developing economies and seeing how they can apply these learnings across the world.
– Full funding experience. India has seen a cycle of success and failure and there is a whole generation of successful entrepreneurs who can now give back. The Indian startup ecosystem is getting better very quickly.
“We have over 55 companies in our active portfolio. This has happened over the past seven years or so. Samsung Next is planning 20 investment globally this year and we hope to maintain the same pace over the next few years,” said Kim.
Addressing the kind of support Samsung Next offered startups, he said, “We are very hands on. Whether you looking for help with design, access to technology, go to market, and many other things, we can provide all that.”
“Finally, being good partners in the Indian ecosystem, we want to make sure we do one thing really well. We want to be good partners, add value. We will do this through collaboration. As strategic investors, we want to add value to the startups we invest in. One of the things we bring is access to the Samsung platform. We become your advocates in the Samsung ecosystem. We are a global company and can provide international access to wherever we have offices. We want to give you the right opportunities to meet the right people at the right time.”
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