David Eun works as a connector, bridging the gap between Silicon Valley startups and Samsung, one of the largest multinational corporations on the planet. A veteran media exec of both AOL and Google, Eun is responsible for everything from running an incubator to facilitating partnerships to spearheading acquisitions, giving entrepreneurs access to Samsung’s vast resources in order to build the best products they can. In return, Samsung gets something valuable: a finger on the pulse of innovation.
Fast Company: Once you’ve brought a company into the Global Innovation Center, what happens?
DE: You have to give the right kind of people the right environment. For example, people [who aren’t entrepreneurs] are shocked to find out that founding CEOs at startups spend so much time on things that aren’t related to product development–the thing they’re passionate about! We always say: Instead of focusing on building a company, build the product. We’ll help you build the company.
What are some of the companies you’ve worked with?
We’ve done two historic acquisitions: one of a company called SmartThings, in the connected-home space, and more recently, we announced an acquisition of a company called LoopPay [now called Samsung Pay], which is in the mobile commerce space. We thought: We can certainly build those things in-house, but there are also really smart people outside the company doing interesting things. [We] surround them with the right kinds of tools, resources, and other people who can help them realize the goals that they have.
Two years ago, you were a passenger on a plane that crashed. You said the accident taught you how to differentiate between what’s important and what’s merely urgent. . . .
Oh man, I’ve only ever spoken on it one time, and it was totally unplanned.
I thought what you said was kind of profound!
Dude, I wish I were that profound. I think it really comes down to having an honest discussion with yourself. If you know what’s important, you have a real understanding of what true north is for you.
So what’s true north for you now?
I want to have an impact from a business perspective, and I want to have a positive impact on people while I do it. While our devices and the displays and the electronics are fantastic, at the heart of what makes Samsung successful are people.
Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?
I’m interested in a wide variety of topics, and I try not to get so busy that I don’t read or keep up with the things that I enjoy. Being on a plane a lot could be the worst part of my life, and what I’ve decided to do is, rather than letting it be a negative thing, why don’t I turn it into a rare refuge where I can control my time? I give myself time to think about what’s important.
What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?
My good friend Jason Hirschhorn, who runs Media Redefined. It’s for anyone in media and technology, the curated stories that he puts together. It’s one of my daily reads.
What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?
I carve out some time for me, read about things I enjoy–listening to music, watching movies, reading on topics. I’m a father of two. I think a lot about my two sons. They’re both into sports. I read about the sports they’re into, like basketball. We enjoy connecting on that.