Samsung launched an Israeli branch of its Global Innovation Center on Sunday, opening the doors to its Samsung NEXT center by the trendy Sarona Market across the road from Google’s headquarters in central Tel Aviv. It is the third GIC location to open after Mountain View and New York. The new hotspot was opened by Samsung NEXT CEO and Managing Director Eyal Miller at a press event.
“The decision to open our Israeli office is rooted in the region’s strong startup ecosystem and world class talent,” said David Eun, President of Samsung GIC, said in a press statement. “The country also has a proven track record of software and services innovation and a deep expertise in areas that are particularly interesting to us.”
NEXT is all about software, with more of a focus on cyber security and AI than in GIC’s NY and Silicon Valley hubs. They are also looking at AR/VR, IoT, natural language processing (NLP) and business intelligence (BI). That big data and cloud companies are on the agenda should go without saying.
They have an entrepreneur and seed-stage focus, investing into individuals via its Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program to build companies around nascent ideas from scratch. Investments at seed may go up to $500,000, while Series A investments can reach as high as $1 million per startup. GIC operates somewhat independently of its parent company, which explains why it does not — yet — have a branch in Seoul.
“We want to help Israeli software companies grow by leveraging Samsung’s unique expertise and scale,” said Eyal Miller, Managing Director and CEO of Samsung NEXT Tel Aviv. “While our focus is working with entrepreneurs and startups who are primarily developing software technology, we will also provide a community and resources for entrepreneurs of all kinds.”
While they do not give a guarantee that Samsung Ventures will come knocking for future rounds, the goal of the program is to make these companies self-sustaining with the help of NEXT’s (GIC’s) business networks and expertise on what they have described as “rapid” development, testing and launching. But what might catch some people off guard is that a program that seems so tailored for newcomers to the founding game is actually targeting second-time entrepreneurs with a definite degree of expertise in the field they are trying to punch a hole through.
When asked why a serial entrepreneur would choose to go with Samsung over his or her existing resources among friendly investors who have seen their success before, Samsung GIC New York’s managing director Kai Bond – who was on hand for the launch – told Geektime there was no guarantee that someone who had made it through the entire start and exit cycle once was comfortable enough to go through it alone again.
“Anyone who’s a repeat entrepreneur knows how hard it is. Even with a successful outcome, you know how hard it is,” he says.
GIC and Samsung NEXT provides breathing space for entrepreneurs that they might not get with more aggressive backers. Citing one portfolio mapping company from the New York office as an example, he added that, “He came to Samsung because he knows building a mapping platform is an 5-7 year venture. Samsung NEXT won’t force his hand into a sale like a typical VC.”
Joining the nine startups houses in New York and seven in Mountain View, there are four entrepreneurs between two startups who have now set up shop at NEXT. A third is expected to join in the next few days.