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Samsung Opens Berlin Venture Fund Office to Scout European Deals

  • The South Korean company’s Next fund expands on the Continent
  • Managing director says seeking investments in ’deep tech’

Samsung Electronics Co. is opening an office in Berlin that will serve as a hub for scouting startup investments and acquisitions in Europe.

Samsung NEXT, the South Korean tech giant’s $150 million venture capital fund, has two investors on the ground in Berlin and is scouting office space for next year, part of a push to invest in and acquire fledgling companies in areas such as connected appliances, AI and augmented reality, said managing director Felix Petersen, an entrepreneur and VC who joined Samsung in April. 

"In Europe it’s very hard for an entrepreneur to do a $40 million, $60 million, $80 million exit. In the U.S. you can do it as an acqui-hire," Petersen said. “These smaller, deep-tech exits which in Silicon Valley are super-common because the teams already have the relationships with Google and Facebook are harder here. We want to position Samsung as an exit channel here for deep tech."

Samsung, which vies with Apple Inc. as the world’s top mobile phone maker, has previously acquired startups including LoopPay, which became the smartphone payment service Samsung Pay, and home automation startup SmartThings.

Corporate VCs, which typically fund investments from their own treasury instead of seeking outside partners, invested $83.2 billion in startups globally last year, up from $76.5 billion in 2015, according to Global Corporate Venturing Analytics. More than a third of deals between $10 million and $99 million the past three years have been corporate-backed.

SAP’s Sapphire Ventures last year committed $1 billion to investments in business technology startups. Google Inc., Salesforce.com Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. are also active in technology investments.

For now, Petersen and Samsung investment manager Nick Nigam are operating out of a co-working space in Berlin while looking for a permanent office. Before joining Samsung this spring, Petersen had spent two years with Faber Ventures in Lisbon.

Samsung NEXT, which launched in January, is based in Mountain View, California, and has teams in San Francisco, New York, South Korea and Tel Aviv. It’s aiming for early-stage to Series B round investments, Petersen said, and has put money into startups including drone aircraft company Converge Industries and cloud video game company Liquid Sky.

"We have more resources than a normal fund that lives off 1 or 2 percent management fees," he said.

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