Navigating Uncertainty and Investing for the Future

News Dec 15, 2020 Shankar Chandran

Pilots have a rule to always “stay ahead of the plane.” In theory, it’s simple enough: think ahead, always plan out your next steps. In reality, it means considering hundreds of possibilities — what if the engines quit or where would we land if there’s an emergency on board? — so that by the time an action is needed, the decision has been made without doubt. In clear skies, it’s necessary. In dangerous ones, it’s lifesaving—knowing what could become a makeshift runway before a system fails can be the difference between landing and crashing.

In fact, many flight disasters are often attributed to the opposite: “he got behind his plane.”

To call this age of pandemic “turbulence” is a dire understatement. We face historic job loss. Industries are being reshaped. Many corporations with CVC efforts are focused on the immediate situation—minimizing losses this quarter or this year, cutting budgets, and playing it safe. In this environment, the wisdom of corporate venturing may seem like a cost that companies simply can’t afford.

Yet, this approach leaves us all behind the plane.

Looking back on past crises—the tech bubble burst, the Great Recession—we see that the companies that fared best weren’t merely surviving. Out of adversity, new norms were born, and small disrupters became industry giants. They did this not by cutting back or focusing on the challenge at hand, but by investing in areas of growth. They read the tailwinds and planned for the future.

Even as COVID-19 has hurt businesses across our economy, it has revealed incredible opportunities for sound investments and the chance to meet critical societal needs. Almost overnight, we have had a mass adoption of new technologies—like video conferencing and telehealth—that might have taken years to become mainstream otherwise. My mother, who is in her 70s, is now shopping for groceries online. Our homes have suddenly become our offices, retail stores, schools, theaters, banks and more.

Though we’ve seen some organizations tap into this change, the infrastructure we want and need is still in its infancy. Samsung sees this moment as a chance to lead. Rather than slowing down, we are investing in foundational areas that makes advances viable like, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud infrastructure and applications that matter, like tele-health, digital banking.

And because we have years of experience in the cloud, semiconductors, mobile, and AI, many of the technologies that are leading us into the future, we can offer growing startups much more than just capital.
For example, we recently funded the fintech company Solarisbank, Europe’s leading Banking-as-a-Service platform with a full banking license. With Samsung’s reach and network, Solarisbank is expanding its modular banking services throughout Europe, in a time when traditional banking and ATMs are becoming obsolete.

Another example is Preventice Solutions, a digital healthcare company that provides cardiac monitoring services powered by AI. With Samsung’s wearables and software, Preventice is designing ground-breaking mobile and cloud-based solutions. While the health care takes a giant leap forward into the digital world, Preventice is poised to become an industry leader.

For startups navigating the most tumultuous economic moment in modern history—while recognizing the vast potential for new technologies—having an established thought partner like Samsung brings far more value than what is reflected on a bottom line. We can be an advocate and seasoned strategist to accelerate growth, even through chaotic markets.

These partnerships are critical to fostering great innovation in a time when we need it most. That’s why Samsung continues to look for world-changing start-up ideas by being the anchor supporter of Extreme Tech Challenge. In collaboration with other leading organizations including the United Nations, Microsoft, and Ford, XTC gives entrepreneurs a global stage to demonstrate their best innovations, inspired by the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This year, we helped host a bootcamp for participating startups, so they could hear from the leading investors and corporate executives about what it takes to build and scale-up a world changing startup. We put in this effort because we know that no matter what happens this year or next, these ideas will shape our future.

Those of us in the CVC community are not just investors. We are not just looking for great returns on our deployed capital. We are the pilots of innovation. More than ever, we need to be ahead of the plane, discerning what our changing society will require as the pandemic progresses, as we move beyond it, and when we reach the other side. That forethought is the only way to get us through this storm. But more than that, it’s the only way to reach our true destination: a better future for all of us.

This article was originally posted on GCV December 2020 Magazine.