Samsung Unveils $100M Seed Fund, Vows To Expand Venture Investing

Samsung Electronics unveiled a $100 million seed fund to support innovation in components and subsystems related to its broad product line of televisions, cell phones, computers and other digital devices.

The Korean manufacturer also on Monday said it plans separately to increase its corporate venture investing this year to back the fundamental breakthroughs in digital science that venture capitalists have recently shied away from funding.

The dual push from Samsung piggybacks on its decision to open an innovation center in the Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park last summer, where some of the scientists and entrepreneurs receiving money from the new Catalyst Fund might choose to work. The company appears to be readying a nearby accelerator to expand this effort, thought declined to comment.

“We’re going to support early stage entrepreneurs and academia,” said Young Sohn, chief strategy officer of the company’s devices solutions division. “We want to make sure we’re part of the disruptive forces” sweeping the technology industry.

Sohn said the Catalyst Fund will dole out smaller sums of money than the company’s venture arm – perhaps a couple million dollars – and will hone in on projects related to cloud infrastructure, mobile, human interface and mobile health. And while it is focused on Silicon Valley, Cambridge, Mass., and Israel, it could fund initiatives elsewhere in the world.

To jumpstart the fund, Samsung kicked off a contest that will award $10 million in seed investments later this year to entrepreneurs, engineers and artists hoping to use technology to improve people’s lives.

On the venture front, Samsung said it expects to increase investing at its Samsung Ventures America Fund this year beyond last’s year $160 million. Last year’ money went to 20 companies. Sohn declined to offer a target figure for 2013, saying only “it’s going to be up.”

Samsung Ventures American Fund typically does series A, B and C rounds and 80% of its capital is deployed in the United States.

Photo of Young Sohn taken by Mark Boslet.

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