Samsung's venture capital arm announced Wednesday it is expanding into Europe to invest in the continent's start-up scene.
Samsung NEXT will use a $150 million global fund raised in January to target early stage start-ups in Europe for investment or acquisition, focusing on tech companies working on artificial intelligence, the internet of things, augmented reality and virtual reality. This comes as venture capital in the continent reaches a multi-year high.
The investment arm was founded in 2013 to discover, build and scale new enterprises by providing them with investment capital, expertise and other resources. Since launch, it has invested in more than 60 companies and made 15 acquisitions, and is now expanding into Europe starting with a headquarters in Berlin and plans to open other locations throughout the continent within the next year.
Felix Petersen, managing director of Samsung NEXT in Europe, says it is looking for companies building products that will transform how consumers connect with the world.
"I'm excited to lead our expansion into Europe. The combination of deep tech talent and cultural diversity makes this market very attractive," he said in a press release.
"It also gives us a great opportunity to become the place for European entrepreneurs looking to build and grow their start-ups and turn them into revolutionary companies."
Nick McQuire, vice president of enterprise research at CCS Insight, said this was a good move by Samsung, as it allowed the company to gain new capabilities and expertise from the start-ups.
"It wants to be at the forefront of tech discoveries," he told CNBC during a phone interview. "Setting up a fund allows them to buy into strategic products and develop skills."
This news comes as venture capital investment in Europe reaches its highest level since 2007, according to a new report from Invest Europe released Tuesday. Fundraising in the continent reached 6.4 billion euros ($7.35 billion) in 2016, 10 percent of which came from North American investors.
"Global investors are recognising that European venture capital offers a rich A-to-Z of investment opportunities: trailblazing tech innovation born in cities from Amsterdam to Zurich," said Nenad Marovac, Invest Europe vice-chair and founder and managing partner of venture capital firm DN Capital, in a press release.
"Anyone who has ever played 'Angry Birds' or searched for flights via Skyscanner is benefiting from Europe's highly talented entrepreneurs."
The announcement follows news from France-based investment firm Partech Ventures that is has raised 400 million euros to invest in U.S. and European start-ups. Over the past 18 months, Partech has raised nearly 1 billion euros to invest. The company said this will provide key support to Europe's start-up scene.
"With this strong growth in investments, made possible by several generations of extraordinary entrepreneurs, dozens of tech and digital champions are emerging in Europe. The promising new tech companies are financed by venture funds which now have both the critical size and the means to support these entrepreneurs on a very operational level," the firm said in a press release.
This Samsung NEXT announcement takes place as the South Korean company increases its acquisition rate. It acquired eight companies in 2016, more than in previous years. These were mostly companies in Canada and the U.S., including car electronics company Harman in a deal worth $8 billion. So far this year it has acquired four companies, including Swedish headphone manufacturer Melaud and Greek text-to-speech start-up Innoetics.
Europe is an important market for Samsung's products. Around 19 percent of Samsung's revenue is generated in the continent, according to data from Statista.
However, Samsung's share of the global smartphone market is slipping. It remains the largest mobile phone maker in the world, but its market share slipped to 20.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from 23.3 percent the year before. Samsung smartphone shipments also dipped to 78.67 million during the quarter from around 81 million the year before.