The top 25: Yong-bae Jeon, Samsung

In November, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation (SVIC), the corporate venturing unit of South Korea-based chaebol, appointed Yong-bae Jeon, senior vice-president of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Company, as its new head, a role he took up from April this year.

Jeon replaced Sungjong Lee, who had been in charge of SVIC as president since 2013, although there has been a distribution in investment oversight of the regions under his reign.

In the shift under Lee, people close to the firm said Samsung had put Young Sohn, US-based president and chief strategy officer (CSO) for Samsung Electronics, in charge of its US and European corporate venturing deals.

However, as one insider said: “President Young Sohn is also involved with investment through Catalyst fund, which is one of fund managed by Samsung Electronics. While Samsung Ventures [now under Jeon] represents and execute group wide CVC investments with strategic relationships, president Sohn has been promoting Samsung’s image and has made few key investments.”

Founded in 1999, SVIC bases most of its team in Korea, including its investment committee, but it is understood about 80% of its deals by value came from the US. In a keynote presentation at the Global Corporate Venturing and Innovation Summit in January, Young Sohn delivered a key message: “Data will drive opportunities for everyone.”

Comparing the explosion of data economy to the oil boom that drove much of the 20th century, Sohn said: “Data is the new oil”. The CSO said we were in the middle of “a big change”, with a lot of opportunities emerging in the data space. According to him, the top five data companies currently have a combined market value approaching $3 trillion compared to about $1 trillion for the top five oil majors.

He added: “All the things we do nowadays are happening with connected devices. One of my jobs has been to change Samsung from old to new, and to figure out how to embrace this change.”

Last year, Samsung Electronics had $223bn of annual sales, and employs 308,000 employees in 79 countries. The firm’s CVC unit focuses at once on extending the competitive edge of its current areas of activity, which includes device solutions, IT and mobile communications, and consumer electronics, as well as on creating new opportunities in line with the new data economy era.

“Data is going to be critical, and it is going to affect all of us,” Sohn added, forecasting that data activity would be at 160 zettabytes by 2025 compared to 20 last year with cars a big factor in the growth.

Having graduated from Seoul National University, majored in business administration, Jeon previously worked in Samsung Life Insurance, holding positions in various divisions from financial planning to future strategy.