The Korean electronics giant, which hosted a press event today here, said the Samsung Catalyst Fund will center on funding early stage companies focused on components and subsystems. Its $1 billion American Ventures America Fund will also be used to help further target areas like mobility, the cloud, and the Internet of Things.
"Much of our innovation in the past was done in Korea, because that's where the company began. That's where a lot of the engineers are," Young Sohn, chief strategy officer of device solutions at Samsung Electronics, told reporters during a press conference about the new initiatives. "Samsung has more than half of our employees worldwide."
To jumpstart the $100 million Samsung Catalyst Fund, the company is holding a competition, SamsungCreate Challenge, later this year. The program will encourage artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other innovators to leverage Samsung's technology. It will award $10 million in seed investments to winners and will also include incubation and support from Samsung's Innovation and Technology fellows and partners with Samsung R&D technologists.
The company plans to provide more details at a later date.
Samsung today also discussed its new Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center in Menlo Park. The business also has offices in Korea and Israel and is led by Sohn. He declined to detail the size of the innovation center.
Many tech giants operate investment arms to build companies developing technology in their interest areas. Intel's VC arm is one of the biggest startup investment funds in the world, and Google, Qualcomm, and Microsoft are some other companies that operate sizable funds. Samsung founded Samsung Venture Investment Corp. in late 1999, and it has increased the amount in the America-based fund frequently, Sohn said. That has meant more investment in Silicon Valley recently.
Sohn said that by focusing on academics and smaller-scale ideas the company's venture efforts are different from those at Intel, Qualcomm, and Microsoft. He added that the company's business style, which includes being "very patient," might attract entrepreneurs.
"A number of venture companies are running away from basic science that takes awhile to incubate and develop," Sohn said.
As for the size, Sohn said that the $100 million venture fund is just a starting point that the company has committed to. "Obviously the money can go up if we have other ideas," he told reporters.
The new investments discussed today, as well as the company's R&D center, will help Samsung become more rooted in Silicon Valley. It also should help drive innovation in areas related to Samsung's own business targets.
"There's a hunger for supporting entrepreneurs and academics, [things that] could be the next Google or other things that we can help be a part of that," Sohn said. "We are part of Silicon Valley."
Updated at 2:10 p.m. PT with additional details and comments from press event.