June 21st, 2013 The Hatchery - Samsung Ventures: Beyond Mobile, Innovating Consumer Markets
On Friday, June 21, 2013, OLC attended The Hatchery’s Friday speaker series featuring thought leaders, investors, executives, specialists and others to a fireside chat setting to give entrepreneurs an intimate and conversational approach to better understand the ecosystem and how things work. At this particular event, Hyuk-Jeen Suh of Samsung Ventures was the featured speaker.
Hyuk-Jeen Suh joined Samsung Ventures joined Samsung Ventures in 2012 and is the head of the Samsung Ventures East Coast office.
Before joining Samsung Ventures, Suh worked at JP Morgan investment banking in the Technology, Media, and Telecom group. Prior to JP Morgan, he was the global senior business development and marketing manager at MEMSIC, a semiconductor startup with clients in the automobile and consumer electronics industry. He led the global marketing strategy, which contributed to the successful IPO of MEMSIC in 2007.
Suh was also a senior research engineer at Sequenom, a biotech startup. He conducted research on DNA biochips and led joint venture projects with Hitachi and Samsung to successfully design and launch high-throughput bio instruments. He began his career at Intel Corporation as a process engineer, leading yield improvement projects, which contributed to one of the highest yield rates in Intel history for the Pentium microprocessor.
Hyuk-Jeen Suh: Samsung is interested in growing the Android system, but in reality, it’s interested in growing the Samsung name. So, in the mobile space, the wireless spectrum is increasing. We have the largest consumer electronics lithium battery factory—it produces 50 to 60 batteries per second. Batteries are huge in the tech space. When it comes to batteries, the technology improves only 2-3 percent a year. We’re looking very hard to help get faster charging, longer life—actually, we’ve managed to develop and algorithm that charges a phone in 16 minutes, instead of the 2 hours it usually takes.
Health and medicine are areas of interest for us. We’re also in the food business, but we’re not in the robotics space yet. We’re interested in wearable technology, but not going to enter it just yet. It feels kind of young. We’re going to play in the field, but we’re going to see how Google Glass does first.
I can’t disclose what we’re working on regarding ad tech, but I can say that we’re interested in real-time assessment technology. We’re one of the few companies that doesn’t have its own map technology—to have a good map tech, I think it’ll boost Samsung significantly. When you think of maps, it’s used as a traditional tool. You go from Point A to Point B. There’s a social aspect of it. To have a map that recommends things to you, that’s complementary to Google Maps. We’re looking at various fingerprinting technology to get more accurate navigation and location.
Samsung is a very big pusher of NFC. We’re trying to make that push into the US. It’s very popular in Asia, but with a limited number of engineers, it’s difficult to do so. It hasn’t caught on in the US. In Asia, mobile phones—well, in the US, traditionally, mobile phones are a utility device. No person in the US is willing to pay over $200 for a phone. That’s the market price. NFC hasn’t taken off because of it. Phones are a fashion statement in Asia. They’re very tech savvy. They want the latest, greatest trends. Korea is the highest connected country in the world. People are demanding these things. It’s only recently in the US that people are looking at alternative sources for NFC.
I was an engineer for 12-15 years so I went back to school because I wanted to go into finance. I got my MBA at Yale and went to JP Morgan. I worked for two VC firms and in investment banking for two years. I looked around for new opportunities, but I had to wait another two years to become the head of Samsung’s East Coast Venture firm.
The latest acquisition I can talk about is a company in the digital marketing space. They make portable CAT scanners. It’s used in MLB, NFL and the NBA to quickly scan athletes when they get injured. What Samsung Ventures is interested in is user interface and user experience-friendly companies. A company called Swype—it makes typing easier and faster—we invested $500,000 in it and Samsung actually invested $5 million in and we made a ton of money. We sold off a Boston company [to Qualcomm] that makes really cool display technology. The company allows you to create displays that are power efficient.
We invest in all stages, but mostly in Series B or late Series A. There’s the Samsung Accelerator program that looks for early-stage startups and transfers them to us. We invest in social stuff all the time, but we don’t announce it. We have internal challenges to consider, too, like, is this the right fit for us?
Samsung, right now, is in a very unique position to create a smart living space. The whole internet seamless connection is a very exciting thing. Another space is healthcare.
Being connected and possessing self-awareness is very important. We’re interested in natural language processing, big data, batteries, energy management systems, displays—these are things that we’re most interested in.
Samsung is working on its own OS and we’re working with Intel on that.