The Top 10: #3 Jonathan Charles, investment director, Samsung Catalyst Fund

Jonathan ‘JC’ Charles has been an investment director at Samsung Catalyst Fund (SCF), a $500m evergreen corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicle for South Korea-based consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung, since June 2013.

SCF is headquartered in Menlo Park, with additional offices in New York, Tel Aviv, Paris and Seoul. Its markets of focus include healthcare, financial and insurance technologies, mobility, business-to-business enterprise, as well as deep tech areas such as sensors, semiconductors and other device components.

While seeking data and AI investment opportunities across a broad set of markets, including healthcare, fintech, insurtech, mobility and B2B enterprise, the fund also invests in deep tech areas such as sensors, semiconductors and other device components.

Shankar Chandran, managing director and head of SCF, said in his nomination: “Jonathan Charles has emerged as a leader at the Samsung Catalyst Fund with a strong track record to build deep trust among varied partners, whether it is entrepreneurs, chief executives of startups, VC colleagues or key stakeholders inside of Samsung’s business units.”

Charles said: “I was an early hire for the SCF team close to seven years ago. While I did not have prior roles in CVC, I did work during and shortly after business school in both a small VC firm and a private equity firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“CVC presents an amazing opportunity to work more closely with startups on the nature of their product. During the investment due diligence process, we always look to better understand how each startup’s product might be complementary to our corporate products and platforms. Put another way, CVC appeals to me because of the heavy exposure to startup and corporate products, which I estimate is at least two-times greater than with private fund investing.”

Chandran added: “Investments led by Jonathan early in his career are maturing and beginning to return capital,” among them, edge computing technology developer Pixeom, which in October 2019 exited through an industrial technology and appliance producer Siemens acquisition.

Other portfolio companies have also exited – smart security technology provider Ring, which was acquired by e-commerce firm Amazon in February 2018 for more than $1bn, and connected automotive security software developer Argus Cyber Security, which automotive components producer Continental bought for an undisclosed sum in November 2017.

Charles said: “These exits are great, but it is important to note that we are a strategically focused fund…We have had various co-marketing successes that were supported through our CVC investments.

“For example, there were ecosystem development activities with [cloud computing and data management platform developer] Datrium. We also had important co-marketing activities around integration into a high-end Samsung product, done in conjunction with Ring.”

Before Samsung, Charles worked for VC firm Apjohn Ventures and private equity firm Amherst Fund, having started as a life sciences major to study medicine before becoming involved in tech and pursuing relevant degrees.

Charles said: “I think being an eclectic CVC has great advantages, enabling me to rapidly shift between technologies and business models. It also gives me a very broad perspective on how others think and approach things from their diverse set of experiences.”

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.