Samsung Rising goes deep on corruption, chaebols, and corporate chaos

Patrick

Samsung Rising is a new book from journalist and author Geoffrey Cain, and it’s the best account of the colossal Korean conglomerate’s ascent to power I’ve read. Deeply researched and reported, Cain’s book details how Samsung turned from vegetable seller to global tech titan, with plenty of colorful anecdotes along the way.

If you’ve ever wondered how the infamous Galaxy S II “Dude, you’re a barista” campaign came about, or what went on behind the scenes during the Galaxy Note 7 fire crisis, or how Samsung’s leaders have managed to survive multiple fraud convictions, this is the book for you. Cain’s writing is appropriately damning of Samsung’s failures and admiring of its achievements, providing a comprehensive look at one of the most secretive and consequential companies in the world.

I caught up with Cain over Skype to discuss the book, Samsung’s influence, and where the chaebol goes next. Our conversation included topics like how Samsung responds to crises like the Galaxy Fold and Note 7, how it’s indirectly responsible for the success of Parasite, why reportedly incapacitated chairman Lee Kun-hee is still in charge of the company, and what the heir’s trip to North Korea says about the future of corporate culture in the South. “Samsung, in spite of its success, keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over,” Cain tells me.

The transcript has been condensed for length and clarity.

I’ve followed your work and known this book was coming for a while. How was the journey toward getting it published? Did you run into obstacles that got it delayed?

I did run into obstacles. Samsung didn’t actually try to meddle or mess with the publication of the book — they were pretty good about standing back and allowing me unofficially to run around and interview people and do my work. The main obstacles came from just the opaqueness of what it’s like to be a reporter in Korea. You might have seen this in Japan too. It can be hard to get access to people, and executives and leaders don’t really give interviews that often to foreign correspondents.

In the end it was just perseverance. I had to spend years and years and years doing the research because there was no Samsung narrative. It’s not like Apple where you can pick up a bunch of books and read the storyline beforehand. When it comes to a big Asian firm, even in the local language, a lot of it is public relations fluff and you’re not really getting the real story when you read a lot of books that have been published in Korean. So yeah, it was hard work and it was a long time in the making, and it was delayed a few times but I finally got it out. It was an intense editorial process — I think that my publisher did a really good job of elevating the prose and making it more readable and more accessible, and I think that’s what it needed in the end.

Were you able to get the book published in South Korea? The book goes into how difficult it is to get critical takes on Samsung published there.

Yeah, we actually have a Korean publisher called Just Books. I think it’s amazing that they decided to take this on, because it’s an indie publisher, it’s not a big publishing house, and I assumed that a lot of these publishers would not be interested. After we first signed the US deal, my agent went around Korea and was trying to sell it to big Korean publishers, and every single one rejected it. We got 14 rejections, and some of them just flat-out said Samsung was sensitive and they just can’t publish a book like this. And then my Korean publisher Kyung came along and saw promise in this and she’s really been a champion of it. I think she’s really happy with the potential in Korea that it could have. But there are also big risks, you know, because people get sued, there are libel lawsuits. You don’t want to be on the bad side of Samsung, I can assure you of that.

How did you settle on the name Samsung Rising? I saw a few early titles floating around before, like Republic of Samsung.

So actually, the title that I originally chose was Republic of Samsung and that was my proposal to the publisher. And then we changed the title a few times because we couldn’t really find a headline that captured the full momentum of what the book was supposed to be about. Republic of Samsung, I think it summarizes the Korean side of the story — how Korea is this republic of Samsung and Samsung has a hand in so many aspects of life back in Korea, and Koreans call their country the republic of Samsung. But then we thought that maybe that was a little too Korea-focused, and there are a lot of global elements to the book.

So another title that we went to was The Battle for Silicon Valley, and that’s a title that captures the Apple versus Samsung war. And that’s the kind of thing that I think would appeal to a lot of techies and nerds, you know, who are based out of San Francisco and want to know the story of this big smartphone battle. Everybody’s read about it somewhere or they’ve seen it on the news, and they use their iPhones or their Samsungs, but there’s never really been a full account written of how that war really unfolded from the inside. But then the problem with The Battle for Silicon Valley was that it didn’t really resonate with the fact that this is an Asian dynasty competing with these big global multinational companies. In the end we settled on Samsung Rising because, you know, it has Samsung in the title — so that’s the Asian corporate dynasty right there — but it captures the momentum of this small grocery store selling dried fish and vegetables in the 1930s that, through this very troubled history and very rough series of wars and corruption scandals and political battles, emerges to become the largest tech conglomerate in the world.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The book tracks Samsung from the days of its founding figures looking to Japanese companies as a model and then ultimately kind of rising up and vanquishing Sony. And it was striking to hear about the cultural reverence back then for Japanese companies. Do you think there’s anything of that in today’s Samsung or has the success made them more insular and focused on their own way of doing things?

So I think that the big story of their successes the past decade is the smartphone. The Galaxy comprised a huge, massive slice of the revenues of the entire Samsung Group. I think that that was their goal for a long time. They knew that they were from this poor, backwards, dusty colony of Korea. and for a long time they knew that they were essentially borrowing Japanese corporate practices. I mean, Samsung for a long time was essentially like a Japanese company. In Japan, you have the zaibatsu from the war era, and Samsung was essentially modeled on that idea of this God-like corporate leader who has this top-down vision that he sends down to all the executives. And that’s what allowed them to make all this fast progress, that they did what they did without question. They did it for the glory of Korea.

Their idea was to turn Samsung from a third-rate manufacturer of components and semiconductors and microwaves that they would put the GE logo on into a maker of premium smartphones that could compete with Apple and compete with Sony. And that’s no easy task, but they did it because of their militaristic culture. But I think it’s very clear to a lot of people that there’s not really another smartphone-level success in the pipeline. It’s not really so much about being a consumer-facing brand anymore. I think that they’re going to be doing more components. They’ve announced a big push into these non-memory semiconductors, making chips for the future artificial intelligence systems that are going to need powerful chips. And also QLED, quantum LED — they stopped making LCDs recently. They’re moving into a phase where I think they’re innovating more on the component side and they’re going to be doing behind-the-scenes tech work, not so much out there in front of the public.

Which is also what happened to Sony.

Yeah, I think it is. It’s concerning because that’s what China does. China is rapidly catching up. And maybe the only saving grace right now is the fact that the world is having a trade war with China, or at least the West is. And therefore, Samsung is going to face a little less competition from them. But I think that Samsung had seen its high point with the marketing, with the software, trying to compete with Apple and make their own version of the iPhone. They’ve retrenched in this idea that “we are a manufacturing giant, we are a company of engineers. We’re not the cool kids in Silicon Valley.” But then how do you make yourself different from Huawei or another Chinese firm? I mean, in five years, if there’s no cataclysm that happens in the meantime, then Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, these firms are gonna have enormous leverage over a lot of the same industries that Samsung is now in.

The book covers how Samsung really did forge a technical advantage over Apple in certain ways, like having large OLED screens in the Galaxy phones and so on. But these days you hear about that more from Chinese companies. Like if you look at the new Galaxy S20, its key features are things that you could have gotten from Huawei or Oppo or Xiaomi last year. And this is affecting their market share in India and all over the place. Another thing you go into is the difficulties with software — like disputes with Google over TouchWiz and trying to make Milk Music a success. Is there any way for Samsung to tell that story as a consumer brand going forward?

I think there is some kind of promise, but the problem is that it’s not totally clear yet what that consumer brand is going to be. So in the past, it was Galaxy. You know, it was “The Next Big Thing,” that’s a marketing campaign that I covered in the book. It was Milk Music, it was the attempt to make Tizen OS. A lot of this stuff, Samsung was doing it and they were doing a good job at it for a while, and then they pulled back on it because the current headquarters didn’t really trust or enjoy the work that the overseas marketing offices and software offices were doing. They thought that they should have control over it, which was a serious mistake.

It speaks to the the Korean chaebol culture of not trusting outsiders at work, of trying to control pretty much everything you can from the headquarters itself. The problem with Samsung’s consumer brand doesn’t come from the products itself. The deeper problem is from the corporate culture — the reluctance to really do something big and new. I mean, I think that a lot of the innovations we’re seeing from Korean companies now are just incremental innovations. They essentially build what the leaders have been doing. They tinker with improvements here and there, you know, a new processor or a new OLED screen or new curved display. But they’re not really doing the big-shot product that’s going to change things like what the iPhone did in 2007.

But I think that, to be fair, it’s not just Samsung’s problem. I think that a lot of the industry is facing this issue because it’s been a really long time since we had that one big tech disruption. The iPhone, the smartphone, followed by social media and the expansion of Twitter and Facebook, those were really the big disruptions of the past decade that reshaped a lot of how we perceive the world and how we get our news and how we go about our lives and do business. But it’s been a while and it’s not totally clear now what the next big disruption is. You know, people are saying AI, facial recognition technologies, biotech. There are all these big tech movements coming up. So Samsung’s problem is that they’ve been heavily invested in a lot of these areas that are supposed to disrupt tech, but they haven’t made progress in developing them. Samsung was in biotech with a company called Samsung BioLogics. They decided to do incremental innovations in healthcare. And that company had fraudulent accounting problems, and its stock was just pummeled because of some of the fraudulent accounting that had happened in that firm. And there was destruction of evidence when the prosecutors tried to investigate.

The other problem is artificial intelligence. Samsung has been developing a software called Bixby that’s supposed to be like the Google Assistant. They want to have their own AI system that can power all their hardware, but they haven’t succeeded at turning that into something as big as what Google or Amazon are doing. AI is a front-facing technology — in the future it will lift the mental load off humans and AI systems will be handling a lot of what we do for us. That’ll change a lot of how we live our lives. But Samsung is behind in that. They’re heavily invested in AI-focused semiconductors, which is a good position to be in. But once again, that raises the problem of what about when China gets into this? China has its own industry. In the past decade, China has made enormous strides in AI especially in software, with WeChat. The data that they’re gathering on their citizens allows for AI to work well. And they’ve been making semiconductors, too. So basically, China can do what Korea can do, and that’s Korea’s problem now.

There is going to be a disruption, and then Samsung and other Korean companies are going to do what they’ve been doing in the past and they’re going to catch up. You know, they’re going to see the disruption. It might take them a little while to realize what’s happening. But once they see it, they’re going to go into execution mode and they’re going to follow and they’re going to imitate. They’ll do what they can to ensure that they can catch up to whoever the leader is in that field when the disruption comes.

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

One question I still have after reading the book is how exactly Samsung was able to recover from the Galaxy Note 7 fire crisis. You go into that story in great detail, but then later on you actually cite the Verge review of the Note 8 where Dan said it was even better than the 7, which was the critical consensus at the time. But I always thought if ever there were anything that would be certain to sink a brand in the mind of consumers it’d be that. Remember when there were anti-Galaxy Note warning signs at every check-in counter at every airport around the world and so on? What does it say about Samsung that they were able to get through that saga?

Yeah, great question. I think it shows that Samsung is just such a massive company and it’s so resilient. The Note 7 fires were devastating to them. But Samsung is a company that thrives in crisis. I mean, Samsung has been through corruption scandals and sex scandals and political crises and faulty products and their leaders have been in and out of court for all kinds of embezzlement, tax evasion accusations, and shady share sales and financial mismanagement and destruction of evidence. Samsung is a company that just has a track record of messing up, but then managing to survive it intact. It’s just what their system is. Their system is designed to sustain disasters and to hold back crises and to find ways to get out of it. And then to move on really quickly.

And I think that with the Note 7 fires, yeah, totally devastating. I mean, billions of dollars probably in losses because of that. And it was a major safety hazard to the public. But one of the amazing things about this company is how they can do that. Because they just had so many product lines, they make so many things. Yeah, it’s terrible if the Galaxy brand name starts to deflate. But then they’re going to make a lot of money from semiconductors in the future, or from displays. And they can invest those profits in another new promising area. They do have this ability to use different business lines to their advantage. And that’s why when the Note 7 fires happened and Jay Lee, their leader, was arrested, their profits hit record highs. It pushed the South Korean stock market to record highs, too.

The other factor here is that consumers forget quickly and they move on. There was a lot of brand damage at the time. But I think if you ask the average person about those Note 7 fires, I think they’ll kind of vaguely remember it and be like, “oh yeah, I remember when that happened, and that was Samsung, right?” But I don’t think they make decisions based on that any more. I haven’t met many people who actively think about those fires from a few years ago. Just to give a parallel, there’s the famous recall of Tylenol from the early 1980s when Tylenol poisoned and ended up killing a number of people [as a result of drug tampering]. That could’ve destroyed Tylenol, and that would have been the end of Tylenol as a brand. But people move on and eventually they just start to forget.

So even though I don’t think that Samsung ever truly got to the core problem, which is the management culture, I think they were able to patch it up and move on in a way that made everyone forget because they produced so many products, they produced so many things. They just have ways of bouncing back from this.

Well, the difference with Tylenol is, wasn’t that considered sort of a model of transparency and getting ahead of the problem with the response? Whereas Samsung was denying the problem existed and then saying it had been fixed and then the replacement units were catching fire as well. So I was just sort of surprised that people would forget. Maybe I’m too close to the whole situation.

Yeah. When I was writing the book, I didn’t forget it and it was fresh in my mind the whole time. Samsung was even attacking me during that time. They didn’t want me writing about this, they were unhappy with what I was saying about them. I remember just sitting there when these attacks came against me, thinking “isn’t this company worried about its reputation?” I mean, they had these exploding phones and they’re busy writing me letters, trying to discredit a journalist who’s covering them. Don’t they have more important things to worry about? I’m just one little guy here on my smartphone writing emails to people, and they’re trying to shut me down and shut me up as if I’m some major threat to their brand. You know, it’s the phones that are the threat. It’s obviously your exploding phones that you should care about.

I was also surprised that people moved on quickly. But you’re right about Tylenol, that was a good example of success, whereas Samsung kind of made it worse in the process. But regardless of the success or failure, you know, I just think that people tend to forget. And that’s what I saw over time. I mean, the Galaxy that they released right after that didn’t do so well, but it still opened to good reviews.

Do you think that bodes well for future folding phones from Samsung given what happened with the Galaxy Fold?

Yeah, that was a pretty disastrous rollout, that first one. DJ Koh, who was the CEO at the time, did go on the record and say that he rushed it to market. This is similar to what happened with the Galaxy Note 7. The difference with the Note 7 is that, you know, they rushed it to the full market, whereas the Galaxy Fold just went to reviewers, luckily. That would have been a disaster if it went out to everybody. I think that if the Note 7 fires never happened then these reports might come in and they might send out the Fold anyway in denial, because that’s what happened with the Note 7. A lot of executives were in denial that this could happen and they told their employees not to talk about it. “Don’t deal with this, we’re gonna suffocate this information.”

I had a lot of sources at Samsung who told me about the rush job that was done on the first [Galaxy Fold]. They had been planning it for almost a decade, which is incredible. They knew about this technology a long time in advance, and they had done a lot of very careful work, but the pressure was coming on because the smartphone market was maturing and Samsung thought it needed to have some kind of cool new thing or a minor disruption in the way phones are designed. And so finally, they said, look, we’ve been working on this for 10 years. We’ve gone through so many designs and patents, and none of them have really worked yet, but we just have to get this out. They rushed it out, it didn’t work, and it was a disaster because they had to recall it.

I think with the newer phones, I’m sure that by now they’ve corrected the hardware problems. I personally have not tried the newer Galaxy foldable phones but I think the problem is that this is still an incremental hardware innovation. I think internally the Samsung executives know that this only has a few years before it fades into just another thing and before it can be made by everybody for a pretty cheap price. I don’t think that these are going to have much of a life ahead of them.

If you look at the history of phones, there was a day before smartphones when you could buy the foldable phone or you could buy the candybar phone or you could buy the snap-up phone. There were all these different designs back in the day that were super cheap and super easy to use. And I think that’s what’s happening with smartphones. I think the technology has gotten so good and it’s matured so well that eventually it’s just going to be like, you can get the foldable or get the snap-up or get the regular display. And it’s all going to be kind of cheap eventually. I don’t think that hardware is going to be the future of what defines a smartphone.

Another thing you write about in the book is Korea’s cultural power, and obviously that’s hit a peak recently with Parasite. I wondered if you’d have had anything to say about that, if there’d been time to get it into the book when it happened? Miky Lee of CJ Group was on stage to receive that Oscar and she’s a central character in a couple of chapters. Do you think you can draw a line from Samsung’s success to things like Parasite and the growing prominence of Korean pop culture around the world?

Yeah, actually I wrote an article about this a few months ago in Foreign Policy, and I used a lot of material from the Samsung book in it. You could draw a line, yes. So Miky Lee, who is the producer of Parasite, she was an heiress to the Samsung founding family. She’s an American citizen, and she was always a bit of a film fanatic and a cultural fanatic. She taught Korean at Harvard when she was a graduate student. And she lamented the fact that, you know, Korea was just seen as such an insignificant place that why would anyone want to bother with this? And she actually made it her goal to turn Korea into this cultural powerhouse. She had a big hand in the Korean wave and getting Korean cinema, Korean culture, K-pop music, all of that out there in the public eye.

It really began in the 1990s, after the death of the Samsung founder. There was this inheritance process and each child inherited one of five arms of this Samsung empire. And her line of the family happened to inherit Cheil Jedang, CJ, which was a food supplier at the time, just cheap confectioneries and all that. She knew that she wanted to get into film and culture, and her uncle, who is the Samsung chairman [Lee Kun-hee], was in negotiations with DreamWorks to get a full stake. He wanted to buy DreamWorks and make it a part of Samsung. And his goal, as I understood it from what Samsung executives told me, was that he wanted to basically put Steven Spielberg under his control as a director. Of course, in Hollywood that’s a ludicrous idea. No respectable director is going to let a semiconductor company like Samsung take over and tell you how to make your movies.

So Spielberg rejected the Samsung chairman, but the woman who brokered that was his niece Miky Lee, who was the vice chairwoman of CJ. And Spielberg and his team were really impressed with her. They already knew her. And they decided to go back and offer her a $300 million stake, which, yes, she would be a smaller investor, she got about a 10 percent stake, but she used her alliance with DreamWorks to transform CJ from this inconsequential food confectionery supplier to an actual cinematic powerhouse. It didn’t happen right away, but that partnership gave her access to the talent. You know, her filmmakers could learn from DreamWorks. She had distribution rights in Asia. And it was using this connection and these Hollywood networks that allowed her to promote Korea and to bring films like Parasite to the fore. And before Parasite there was Oldboy and Joint Security Area and Snowpiercer. There’s a whole long line of very well-received Korean films up to this moment that were produced by Miky Lee and produced by CJ.

So, yeah, I think that goes to show just how influential the Samsung founding family is. In the world of Korea and spreading Korean culture, I think it’s incredible how they touch every facet of this nation. And they’re so responsible for bringing it out into the world, whether it’s a smartphone or whether it’s Parasite or some other thing. Samsung touches everything when it comes to Korea going around the world.

What’s your sense of how this chaebol culture is going to look in the future? It always seemed in the past to be this sort of immovable object, but the consequences for Jay Y. Lee and particularly [former president] Park Geun-hye have been serious and now [current president] Moon Jae-in wants to be seen as a reformer. How do you think this shakes out in the future, and how might it affect Samsung?

Yeah, I’ve actually been thinking a lot about that. So my take on this is that when I was writing the book, I always got the feeling that the chaebol culture and the Samsung culture is on the verge of change. I felt like I was writing about a pregnant woman who was about to pop out the baby and you know, life is gonna be different for them. But as I got deeper and deeper, especially into the history, I realized just how entrenched the pattern is and how history keeps repeating itself and how Samsung, in spite of its success, keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over.

Every leader of Samsung has been in and out of the court so far. They have been either accused or convicted or jailed for either a tax evasion or bribery or embezzlement or perjury. I mean, these are serious crimes and serious accusations against Samsung’s top brass, who are the most powerful people in Korea and some of the most powerful people in tech despite not being so well known. Now, Jay Lee, he’s awaiting his final trial. He spent one year in prison and he was let out on a suspended sentence. The judge upheld part of his bribery charge but lessened the amount of bribes that he was accused of getting. And his verdict is due soon. But the more I look at this, the more I’m starting to get cynical and think that he might actually be let off in some way. Maybe he’ll be sent back to prison or maybe he’ll get a suspended sentence. But I feel that things are lining up so that it’s going to go easy on him and he’s going to be back serving his company and also serving his country — that’s essentially how the government sees it.

And the reason I say things are lining up in that way is because the current Korean president [Moon] came in and said that he was going to reform the chaebol groups after a number of very serious corruption scandals that led to the downfall and 33-year imprisonment of President Park Geun-hye and the arrest of Jay Lee, who’s the Samsung heir. We’re three years in of a five year term. And he appointed somebody named Kim Sang-jo, who is the head of the Korean FTC, which he said is going to go in hard against the chaebol. But in the end I think that we’re just seeing more of the same, because even when Jay Lee was let out of jail, he was still a convicted criminal. But the first thing that Moon did was he brought Jay Lee to North Korea for this summit with Kim Jong-un, which is incredible.

I can’t think of any other country where you’re the president and you’re going on a diplomatic summit somewhere, supposedly a historic one, and the guy by your side is a convicted criminal. I guess I could see Donald Trump pulling something like this. But it’s as if President Trump were to go to Japan for a major summit with Shinzo Abe and he decides to bring Bernie Madoff as the symbol of American goodwill toward Japan. I think most people in Japan and America would look at that and be like — I mean, I don’t even need to say it, it would just be totally and utterly ridiculous. And I think that the fact that Moon Jae-in would even think about doing that shows that the government is still complacent and they’re not all that interested in reforming the criminal aspects of the chaebol groups.

Well, let’s wrap up with the biggest question. What do you think is going on with [chairman] Lee Kun-hee, or how many people do you think actually do know what is going on with him?

So this was not in the book, but actually, I did speak to somebody who was involved, not somebody who actually treated him, but who was involved and was familiar with the treatment that was given. The word he sends me is that Lee Kun-hee is “on ice,” that was the exact phrase. He is rumored to be incapacitated. Samsung hasn’t been totally clear over what the status of his health is. But I’m hearing from a lot of people who are familiar with this at Samsung that he is essentially seen as a corpse. I should just clarify that I haven’t been in the hospital room and I can’t personally confirm his state.

But if they’re saying this about their own chairman, then I would assume that, you know, he’s basically incapacitated and as close as he can be to dead, but Samsung is keeping him alive for the reasons of finishing this inheritance process, which is another thing that I find quite unusual and eccentric about Samsung’s corporate culture. Could you imagine Mark Zuckerberg going into a coma and six years later, he’s still on life support and he’s still the president of Facebook? And Facebook won’t really tell you what’s going on with him, but he’s preparing to pass Facebook to his son? It really is an unusual way of doing things, and I find it so fascinating.

Jay Lee’s role is not strictly executive in the sense of a CEO. But do you think the situation in some ways is limiting Samsung’s power to operate or to make changes?

So that’s the argument that a lot of Samsung supporters use to support the presence of a founding family. I think that the founding family, instead of calling them the chairman, I try to think of them as the chief visionary officer. They laid down the vision and they might help make a big decision whether to make a multi-billion dollar investment in a semiconductor or display. But outside of that, the day-to-day business is run on its own. The Samsung executives can pretty much do what they want without the founding family directing them or meddling in their affairs. And that’s actually really similar to the Japanese zaibatsu model from the prewar times, which I find really interesting.

But you know, I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of very talented Samsung executives and whether they’re young or old, these are people who are highly educated, highly competent. They know what they’re doing. They know both, say, the guts of a smartphone in addition to what business decisions need to be made to improve their company. And I’ve always gotten the impression that they can run the show themselves, that there’s really not much of a need this far into their corporate history for a founding family to oversee them.

Samsung Group Heir Lee Delivered Ruling Over Bribery Scandal Involving Former President Park

Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee arriving at Seoul Central District Court to hear the bribery scandal verdict in August 2017.
Photo by Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

One of the problems with Jay Lee, and I don’t know if you sense this from the book, is the story around his life is so opaque. We really have no idea. Samsung has kept him on such a lockdown that really so many people just have no idea what he’s capable of — what major decisions he’s made, what successes he can post. Has he actually made a decision that has improved the actual balance sheets of Samsung? I think that a lot of the information that Samsung puts out on him is vague, and that’s not a good sign for an heir who’s about to take over one of the biggest technology companies in the world. And if the shareholders can’t vet and can’t say they have questions about this guy, then I would be very worried for the future of the company leadership.

I don’t even know if he’ll be totally capable in the position. I’m sure he’s smart. He’s been prepared for this all his life. But the only actual instance of him leading a business venture in Samsung was eSamsung, which is in the book. And that was a disaster. It was a dot-com bubble era online services firm, and within a year it was insolvent. It went bankrupt. And then Samsung bought up his shares and saved him from a financial loss.

It’s okay to fail in a business. And especially in technology, if you look at every big entrepreneur, they failed over and over and over again before finally making it. We tend to think of these garage success stories where the young kids just make the computer and then everything’s great. But when you look deeper at the story, it’s one of hard times or failure. And I’m sure that happened with Jay Lee, too. But then the problem is that he was saved by his family’s company, by his father’s protection that saved him from any kind of financial loss. If you fail, you have to take some kind of loss, and if you’re supported by VC then the VC will be the one taking the loss. But we can’t really have a system set up in which an heir like Jay Lee is given a ticket to become the heir but then he doesn’t have to show what he’s really capable of. It is worrisome.

I think that’s a good place to leave it: uncertainty and doubt. I really appreciate your time, and congratulations on the launch. You must be relieved to get it out.

Yeah. Thank you, I appreciate that. It’s been a long time.

Samsung Rising is out now through Random House.



Source link

Next Post

Disney’s CGI-remake-mania continues with a live-action fox as Robin Hood

Enlarge / Disney has yet to formally announce a remake of 1973’s Robin Hood, but THR has confirmed it’s being made. In the meantime, we’ve come up with our own guess of how the reported film, a “hybrid” of live-action footage and CGI characters, will look in action. Getty / […]

Subscribe US Now