Startups: The Secret Ingredient of Samsung’s Open Innovation

on September 21, 2015
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David Eun speaking at the opening of the New York Samsung Accelerator


It’s another typical 70 degree day in Silicon Valley. Just a few miles from Stanford University, the streets of University Avenue are bustling with hoodies, laptop bags and outdoor meetings. Inside one particular office, an elite team of experts in sensors, automation, and open ecosystems are plugging away on Samsung Electronics’s next big push into the Internet of Things (IoT).


The team is SmartThings, and they’re building technology that enables any home to be a Smart Home, in which home appliances and accessories connect to the Internet – and to one another.


In January at CES, it was SmartThings’ CEO, Alex Hawkinson who joined Boo-Keun Yoon, President and CEO of Samsung Electronics, on stage when Yoon stated that 90 percent of Samsung’s products would be able to connect to the Web by 2017.


SmartThings is just one of many companies contributing to Samsung’s software and services efforts through the Samsung Global Innovation Center (GIC). With offices in New York, San Francisco, Seoul and Silicon Valley, the Samsung Global Innovation Center is boosting Samsung’s software strategy in a major way. Founded in 2013, GIC’s mission is to evolve Samsung from a hardware-driven company, to one that also leads in software and services. “The future is about the thoughtful integration of hardware and software. And that means startups”, said David Eun, the EVP of the Global Innovation Center.


The New SmartThings Hub and Sensors (released on September 3, 2015) transforms your smartphone into a remote to control and monitor lights, locks, electronics and more.


For Samsung to evolve its software and service presence, and continue building compelling consumer experiences, GIC is cultivating deep relationships with startup ecosystems in Silicon Valley, New York City and around the globe. GIC builds these relationships through four vehicles: investments, partnerships, acquisitions and its Accelerator program in San Francisco and New York City. By working with startups at any stage of development, GIC engages with entrepreneurs in a variety of ways, offering them more opportunities than investments would alone.


GIC has used these vehicles to attract cutting-edge startups to Samsung. Earlier this year, GIC drove a series of investments on behalf of Samsung that included Unikey, a keyless entry platform that can integrate into any lock, turning any smartphone into a universal key. More recently, GIC brokered Samsung’s investment in Vinli, a connected-car platform that turns your car into a tech hub with a small sensor that connects your car to all of your devices. One of GIC’s Accelerator companies, Perch, is vigorously plugging away on their live home monitoring system in the New York Accelerator office. With a product lineup of everything from refrigerators, to televisions and washing machines, focusing on the Internet of Things market makes perfect business sense for Samsung and GIC. Yet, being one of the largest mobile phone manufacturers on the planet, Samsung GIC has other software interests as well. GIC also collaborates with virtual reality, big data, digital health and security startups. “We’re primarily looking across a range of areas where we can leverage Samsung’s hardware expertise to either bolster our core business or create new software businesses”, said GIC Chief Operating Officer Marc Shedroff.


The New York Accelerator Office in Chelsea


To-date, one of GIC’s biggest milestones was its August 2014 acquisition of SmartThings. Since the acquisition, SmartThings has worked tirelessly as an independent business within Samsung on products that will bring new meaning to the term “Connected Life.” With hundreds of different connected devices, including door locks, light switches and water sensors, SmartThings enables an open platform on which everyone can build their own Smart Home.


Ensuring 90 percent of Samsung’s devices connect to the web by 2017 is ambitious, but GIC is eager to help Samsung tackle the challenge. It’s through acquisitions of groundbreaking companies like SmartThings, strategic investments, and the incubation of dozens of early-stage startups that GIC will help develop the company’s vision into a reality. With the moto, ‘you build the product, we’ll do the rest’ GIC combines the innovate ideas of brilliant entrepreneurs and couples it with Samsung’s vast resources and global distribution. “We have relationships with developers and leading startups all over Silicon Valley to bring these startups onto our platforms.” Through these relationships, GIC is actively recruiting startups into the Samsung community and constantly determining new ways to connect all of Samsung’s product lines with these startups’ technologies.


Keep an eye out on GIC on social media to stay up to date on what’s next for GIC and which startups are joining the Samsung family. You can follow GIC on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. GIC has an open door policy and is always interested in meeting with startups. You can contact us at

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