The Top 25: Young Sohn, Samsung Electronics

Young Sohn is corporate president and chief strategy officer at consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung Electronics and has been leading development and strategy for global innovation and new business creation since he joined mid-2012.

Based at Samsung’s Open Innovation Centre in Silicon Valley, Sohn is responsible for a $2bn investment fund funding innovative and emerging businesses and technologies worldwide. Samsung runs three corporate investment teams, Catalyst, Next, led by Brendon Kim, and Samsung Ventures, primarily operating out of South Korea under CEO Yongbae Jeon since the end of 2017, on behalf of its business units. Samsung Electronics alone invests about $200m per year in about 60 startups through these platforms.

Among his most salient achievements, Sohn initiated and led Samsung Electronics’ acquisition of audio equipment maker Harman International Industries for $8bn in November 2016.

Sohn, who joined Harman as chairman of the board as part of the deal, said upon completion of its acquisition four months later: “Today is a historic moment for us. The close of this transaction opens the door to create substantial growth opportunities and deliver greater benefits for customers worldwide.

“We see transformative opportunities in the car – and a future which seamlessly connects lifestyle across automotive, home, mobile and work. Samsung’s and Harman’s leadership in these spaces perfectly positions Samsung to be the preferred partner to our OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers.

“In addition, bringing together Harman’s iconic audio brands and capabilities paired with Samsung’s leading display technologies will deliver enhanced audio and video experiences to consumers and professional end markets. And most importantly, we are enthusiastic about our common vision, the similarities in our culture of innovation, and the added value we can create for customers. We look forward to working with all of Harman’s employees to execute on our vision.”

Soon after it became Samsung’s subsidiary, in December 2016, Harman entered a strategic partnership with US-based visual driving technology developer Navdy, supplying it with $15m.

Navdy created a control-based display for drivers to show information from their smartphone in the line of sight, which shows a new area Harman intends to uncover under Samsung’s ownership.

Before Samsung Electronics, Young had been president for two years at scientific diagnostics firm Agilent Technologies’ semiconductor group, now spun out as Avago, and chief executive of semiconductors, software and platform provider Oak Technologies for four years.

In addition, as CEO and board member, he led US-based circuits manufacturer PLX Technologies, US-based business process services provider Synnex Technologies and US-based semiconductor company Inphi to initial public offerings. He also held board seats at UK-based microprocessor designer Arm, which was sold to internet and telecoms conglomerate SoftBank, and silicon crystallisation tool supplier Cymer, which was sold to compact silicon microchip maker ASML.

He is also a board member of his alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Sloan School North America, a senior adviser to the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, a member of US-based chip design software manufacturer Cadence’s board of directors, a member of the Global Semiconductor Alliance board, and he serves as an adviser to University of California Innovation Council.

Young also was a senior adviser for the MIT Media Lab’s One Laptop per Child initiative.

He holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from University of Pennsylvania and a master of science degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management.