How Samsung’s C-Lab program drives innovation

The Saathi class is as simple as technology can be, but its impact can be far beyond its size. This clicker device from Taghive connects to the teacher’s smartphone and uses an app to give digital assessments to the whole class, providing a dashboard for school administration. Taghive was born out of C-Labs, Samsung’s internal incubation program that selected employee Pankaj Agarwal’s idea to take it to the next level.

Agarwal is not alone, however. Since its launch in 2012, this unique startup acceleration program has seen 1,507 Samsung employees participate in 365 C-Lab projects. About 128 of these projects were transferred to internal Samsung divisions, while 59 turned into standalone companies. The Korean tech giant has invested $26 million in C-Lab Inside’s 59 spin-off startups over six years — 30 of which have raised a total of more than $100 million in follow-on investments.

Mark Sohn, Creativity and Innovation Center, Samsung Electronics explains that the idea for C-Lab (Creativity Lab) was born out of the realization that constant innovation was the only thing that could help Samsung maintain its edge over the competition. . “How can Samsung maintain its own strength while spreading creative culture? C-Lab started with this question in mind,” Sohn recalls, adding that more than a decade ago, Samsung executives traveled to Silicon Valley to learn about startup culture. and came up with the idea of ​​creating a work environment that maximizes employee potential.

Mark John (left) and Pankaj Agarwal (right). (Image source: Samsung)

The C-Labs project has two components: C-Lab Inside for Samsung employees and C-Lab Outside for entrepreneurs and startups outside the company. The first was how C-Labs started in 2012, to discover new ideas and cultivate a creative corporate culture within the company. In 2018, the latter was launched to boost the start-up ecosystem in South Korea with financial assistance, mentorship, consultation, business cooperation and infrastructure.

The main goal of the C-Labs program, according to Sohn, was to “develop the creative culture within the company by discovering and implementing innovative ideas”. He adds, “Through the C Lab, we have tried to make the whole of Samsung creative and innovative with the aim of creating synergy between the traditional organization and the accelerator.”

Twice a year, C-Lab Inside selects ideas submitted by Samsung employees. After several selection processes, approximately 30-40 ideas that drive industry-wide innovation are shortlisted, regardless of industry. C-Lab Outside ideas, meanwhile, are selected through an annual open competition and culminated in a review at Samsung’s executive level. About 20 startups are eligible each year and end up getting funding of about 100 million Won (about $1.1 million).

Sohn explains that the basic criterion for the evaluation is the clarity of the adequacy of the solutions to the problems or PSF. “Ideas need to resonate with the public in terms of PSF and need to go through a prototyping and market verification process several times a year,” he explains. Projects closely related to Samsung’s business are transferred to an internal division for further development, he adds.

samsung, samsung lab c, samsung news, Twice a year, C-Lab Inside selects ideas submitted by Samsung employees. After several selection processes, approximately 30-40 ideas that drive industry-wide innovation are shortlisted, regardless of industry. (Image source: Samsung)

Over the years, the C-Labs indoor program has spawned innovative Samsung products such as its eco-friendly packaging, The Sero Lifestyle TV and even Samsung Pay. Among the spinoffs, the Linkflow 360-degree wearable cameras with varied uses in security and remote medical care is a notable success. Salted, one of the first companies to be created as a spin-off, has meanwhile become one of the top-ranked in Amazon’s golf training products category and has recently expanded into skincare. digital health.

Agarwal, an IIT-Kanpur alumnus who worked with Samsung, went through the entire C-Lab selection process before his idea was selected. “You know that getting started is a tough journey. But thanks to the support of Samsung, I think I was able to go this far,” says the founder of Taghive. Showcasing the success of his product in public schools, Agarwal says that in Madhya Pradesh, they found that within 30 days of using Class Saathi, learning outcomes increased by 8% in math and science and attendance increased by 10%.The product is now being used in 1,200 public schools across India and in about 200 schools in Korea, he adds.The clickers are now made in Korea, but Agarwal also plans to bring production to India.

Since 2013, the C-Lab program has also been active at Samsung R&D Institute Bangalore (SRI-B) with selected ideas/teams given the opportunity to work on their ideas for six months. Many of these ideas have already made their way into Samsung products. An interesting aspect of C-Labs is that if the startup fails, employees can always go back to what they were doing before, a luxury that most startup entrepreneurs don’t have.

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