10 VC Firms Investing in the Mobility of the Future | Auto Finance News

10 VC Firms Investing in the Mobility of the Future

Behind every startup funding round there’s an eager venture capital firm waiting for its investment to mature. By some accounts, the mobility industry will be worth $3 trillion dollars across the various connected, shared, autonomous vehicle space as it continues to evolve and grow.

With that in mind, Auto Finance News rounded up the top VCs in the mobility space, some big and some small, some under-the-radar and others making headlines.

Here are 10 VC firms investing in mobility:

1. Tandem Capital

Tandem Capital is a seed-stage venture capital firm backing disruptive startups with game-changing products and innovative go-to-market approaches. The company has invested in mobility startups like Outdoorsy, a fully insured market network for recreational vehicles; May Mobility, which focuses on short rides on public roads with autonomous vehicles; and, XStream Trucking, an engineering company building connected hardware to for the $700 billion trucking industry.

“We invest in startups hailing from just about anywhere as long as they have a meaningful connection to our home, the Bay Area,” the company website states. Overall the VC has made 50 Investments in 43 Companies, with nine of those companies exiting through acquisition.

2. Fontinalis Capital Partners

Fontinalis is one the few VC firms devoted solely to investing in entrepreneurs and companies that have the ability to improve mobility around the world. Launched in 2009, Fontinalis includes William C. Ford Jr. (Bill Ford), as a founder and partner, who is also executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. The firm has gone on to invest in Lyft, Turo, nuTonomy, and other companies of all stages — from seed stage to late stage and across all modes of transportation (e.g., road, rail, air, maritime, etc.). In July 2016, Fontinalis raised $100 million for a second fund, bringing its total committed capital to $165 million.

3. Toyota AI Ventures

Born out of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), Toyota AI Ventures launched in July 2017 with an initial investment of $100 million from TRI. Five investments have been made to date, three of which are public: Nauto, a company developing driverless car technology; Slamcore, a startup building visual tracking and mapping algorithms; and Intuition Robots, which creates robot companions for older adults.

“We are focused on deeply connecting Toyota to the startups that are developing these disruptive technologies and new business models to market,” a Toyota AI Ventures spokesperson told AFN. “That means autonomous vehicles, yes, but also robotics and the foundational technologies in artificial intelligence, sensors, data, and cloud.”

Toyota AI Ventures will be announcing several additional investments “soon,” the spokesperson added.

4. SoftBank Vision Fund 

The SoftBank Vision Fund has garnered a great deal of attention for it $93 billion capital, which dwarfs other funds like Apollo Fund VII ($18.4 billion) and Goldman Sachs VI Fund ($20.3 billion). While the firm does not exclusively invest in mobility startups, it has invested in Ola in October 2014, Grab in December 2014, Kuaidi Dache (which later merged into Didi) in January 2015, and invested in Brazi’s 99 rideshare this May, Matthew Nicholson, spokesman for SoftBank, told Auto Finance News.  “The Fund will seek to acquire minority and majority interests in both private and public companies, from emerging technology businesses to established, multi-billion dollar companies requiring substantial growth funding,” the company website says.

5. Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund 

Perhaps the newest VC on the block — the Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund — was announced in mid-September, with a $300 million dollar fund to focus exclusively on the automotive market.

“Investments will be made in all areas related to our goal to enable next-generation mobility solutions: including smart sensors, machine vision, artificial intelligence, high-performance computation, connectivity solutions, automotive-grade safety solutions, security, and privacy,” Daniel Yoo, spokesman for Samsung, told AFN.

Samsung has already made more than 14 investments in auto-related companies with Samsung’s existing investment funds, such as Samsung Catalyst Fund, Yoo added.

6. BMW i Ventures

Formed in February 2011, BMW i Ventures has made 30 investments in 25 companies including Ridecell, Fair, Nauto, and Shift Technologies Inc. with the help of its $530 million dollar fund. Initially headquartered in New York City, the VC moved those headquarters to Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley (although, it still maintains a New York City office) in 2016.

7. AutoTech Ventures

AutoTech Ventures, based in Palo Alto, Calif., specializes in early stage and startup investments in the transportation sector. The firm considers an average investment of $2 million, according to a published report.

The company’s first investment was in Lyft in 2016, and has since made seven more investments in other startups; it plans to invest in 10 to 15  more companies out of its current $120 million fund, Quin Garcia, managing director of AutoTech Venture, told AFN.

“The mobility space is huge and there are many great opportunities within each area,” Garcia said. “Overall we estimate a $3 trillion dollar industry across cars (connected, electric, and autonomous), as well as future developments in shared-vehicle ownership, dealerships, auto repair, insurance, etc.”

AutoTech focuses primarily on market size, scalability, differentiation, and team when looking at potential investments. The firm is actively looking at several companies across the ground transportation spectrum, with plans to announce a couple investments by yearend, Garcia said. 

8. GM Ventures

GM Ventures is the VC arm of General Motors Co. and invests solely in growth-stage companies to enhance GM’s ability to innovate and ensure its customers have access to the best technology. Formed in June 2010, GM Ventures has made 15 investments in 10 companies, with two of those companies reaching an acquisition exit.

The latest investment from GM Ventures was in July 2017, in AI-powered autonomous vehicle technology company Nauto’s Series B funding round. Other than autonomous vehicle technology, GM Ventures also invests in automotive cleantech, infotainment, advanced materials, and alternatives to the traditional automotive business model.

Nauto, an AI autonomous vehicle startup has received funding from SoftBank Group Corp., BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Maniv Mobility and more.

9. Maniv Mobility

Launched out of Israel in 2016, Maniv Mobility — an offshoot of an existing family investment firm — is Israel’s first VC fund dedicated exclusively to the new mobility.

Maniv Mobility sees the most exciting investment opportunities in the convergence of autonomy, new vehicle architectures (especially electric vehicles), business model disruptions that change the way vehicles are used, and rapid digitization that has made data a key currency, Olaf Sakkers, partner at Maniv, told AFN.

So far, the company has made 20 investments in 13 companies, including Turo, Nauto, and Cognata. “We have a lot happening in terms of new investments right now,” Sakkers said. “… We’ve made quite a few other investments since then, but it’s too early to talk about them.”

In addition to this, Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate venture arm, InMotion Ventures, was one of five strategic investors to put money into a $40 million fund in July 2017.

10. Jaguar InMotion Ventures

InMotion Ventures is the brainchild of Jaguar Land Rover and focuses on mobility as a service (MaaS); travel, navigation, and data; last-mile services (delivery, parking); car- and ride-sharing; autonomous vehicle fleets and services; and, financial services like leasing and insurance. Created in April 2016, InMotion Ventures invests in companies from pre-seed to Series B.

In addition, InMotion Ventures has a London-based seed program that offers pre-seed investment and hands-on support to up to 10 early-stage startups every year. Currently, there are several companies that are in the VC’s pipeline, Sam Clifton, an InMotion Venture’s investment associate, told AFN.

There are so many factors to consider when evaluating new investment opportunities — the team, product, market and more, he said. But one specific question InMotion Ventures likes to ask is: “How is the business affected by the significant changes that we’ll see in the mobility space over the next five or even 10 years?” InMotion Ventures has previously invested in Split, Lyft, and By Miles among others.

For more content like this, check out the 17th annual Auto Finance Summit, which will take place on Oct. 25-27 at the Wynn Las Vegas. To learn more about this year’s event — or to register — visit the Summit’s homepage here.

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