The top 25: Francis Ho and Shankar Chandran, managing directors, Samsung Catalyst Fund
Francis Ho and Shankar Chandran are senior vice-presidents, managing directors and co-heads of Samsung Catalyst Fund (SCF), a $500m evergreen corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicle for electronics manufacturer Samsung.
Samsung also runs corporate venturing units Samsung Next under Gus Warren and now Brendon Kim in the US and Samsung Venture Investment Company in its home market of South Korea.
SCF backs new data economy and strategic areas on behalf of Samsung’s mobile, device solutions, and consumer electronics divisions. The technologies in question include artificial intelligence (AI), automated mobility, digital health, security, cloud infrastructure and more.
Young Sohn, Samsung Electronics’ corporate president and chief strategy officer whom Chandran and Ho report in to, and who is also chairman of Global Corporate Venturing Leadership Society’s advisory board, said: “Samsung Catalyst Fund has a bold mission: to accelerate innovation by engaging with disruptive startups and enabling them to expand their technologies using Samsung’s diverse platforms.”
Chandran also commented at this year’s startup competition Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) in March 2020: “The world is at a pivotal moment when advances in tech, data and AI could solve many of the world’s most pressing problems.”
SCF’s recent investments included digital insurance provider Wefox Group in December last year, quantum computing technology developer IonQ two months before, as well as smart driving technology developer Commsignia in August 2019.
Ho remarked at the time of IonQ’s investment in October 2019: “Samsung sees a unique opportunity to accelerate this exciting industry by leveraging its strengths in core technology and manufacturing, combined with our market leadership in semiconductors, display and battery technologies.”
In addition, SCF exited AI processor developer Habana Labs, whose acquisition by chipmaker Intel was announced in December 2019 for approximately $2bn.
SCF has also been pivotal to Samsung’s participation in the XTC, a startup competition for entrepreneurs addressing global challenges. Through this initiative, SCF supports the identification and elevation of global startups whose innovations address global issues in areas like health, education, among others.
Ho’s experience in venture capital, business development, strategy consulting, marketing and engineering is combined with his broad operating knowledge in various sectors including semiconductors, optics, networking and storage.
Before joining Samsung, Ho was vice-president of strategic marketing at semiconductor company Inphi Corporation and had stints at consulting firm McKinsey & Company, investment bank JP Morgan’s JP Morgan Partners subsidiary and telecommunications networking equipment developer Oni Systems.
Ho earned a PhD in physics from Stanford University, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellow, and a master of science in applied physics and a bachelor of science in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He holds seven US patents relating to semiconductor technologies.
Chandran, on the other hand, had been a technology investor for 15 years before Samsung. He began his VC journey as a founding partner at venture firm Panorama Capital, which was spun out of JP Morgan Partners.
Earlier in his career, Chandran held multiple engineering, business development and management roles at semiconductor manufacturing technology provider Applied Materials and received eight patents as the primary inventor.
Chandran also sits on the advisory board of Santa Clara University’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and has served as a director or observer on the boards of several SCF portfolio companies, including data centre computing technology developer Fungible, cloud computing and data management platform developer Datrium, as well as LVL Technologies, a wearable sensor technology startup.
Chandran holds an MBA from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, a master of science in materials science from Arizona State University and a bachelor of technology degree in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University) Varanasi.