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BMW's Startup Portfolio

BMW CEO Harald Krüger

image: BMW

This week, The Techie has examined the various startup investments made by Daimler and Toyota, two globally leading automakers. The two companies have made bets on various startups in the automotive sector and complementing fields like AI, self-driving tech, robotics and more. Today, we're examining the investments of another automaker, BMW, which funnels money into startups via BMW i Ventures, its VC arm with offices in the U.S. and Germany.

Below are some of BMW i Ventures' investments;

Graphcore: BMW i Ventures made a strategic investment in Graphcore December last year. Graphcore is a U.K. startup that's working on AI chips. Just roughly three years in existence, Graphcore has raised more than $300 million in funding, last valued at $1.7 billion. Graphcore has offices in the U.K., Norway, China and the U.S.

Desktop Metal: BMW i Ventures is an investor in Desktop Metal, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based startup that makes 3D printers for manufacturers. BMW is not just an investor but also a customer, along with the likes of Ford, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, tire manufacturer Goodyear and more. Desktop Metal has raised some $438 million since its founding in 2015, last valued at roughly $1.5 billion.

Other investors in Desktop Metal include GV (formerly Google Ventures), Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), Ford, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Lowe's and more.

Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop (right) and Materials Research Scientist Uwe Bauer

image: Desktop Metal

A Desktop Metal 3D printing system

image: Desktop Metal

Carbon: BMW i Ventures is investor in Carbon, another startup that makes 3D printing systems just like Desktop Metal. Both companies have much in common. They're in the same industry, they share common investors (BMW, GE Ventures and GV (formerly Google Ventures), common customers [BMW and Ford], and high valuations [Carbon recently raised $260 million at a $2.4 billion valuation].

Carbon has regularly hit headlines with 3D printing partnerships with apparel makers like Adidas and Riddell. Carbon has 3D printed shoes for popular sneaker brand Adidas. Adidas is also an investor in the Redwood City, California-based startup.

Although Carbon and Desktop Metal are in many ways similar, one distinction between them lies in their customer base. Desktop Metal's customers are mostly into core manufacturing while Carbon although with many customers in the manufacturing industry, has spread its wings into areas like fashion and dentistry.

Carbon co-founder and CEO Joseph DeSimone

image: Carbon

Lime: BMW i Ventures has backed Lime, a company popularly known for its shared bikes and e-scooters. San Mateo, California-based Lime has rose from its debut in June 2017 to become a company worth $2.4 billion. Lime has raised $765 million in total funding according to Crunchbase data.

Other investors in the company include GGV Capital, Basketball star Kevin Durant, Andreessen Horowitz, AME Cloud Ventures, Section 32, Bain Capital Ventures, IVP, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Coatue Management, Fidelity Investments and more.

Lime scooters
image: Lime

Zūm: BMW i Ventures led a $40 million Series C for Zūm earlier this year. Zūm is a ride-hailing app for kids. The Redwood City, California-based startup has partnered with several school districts in the state of California to solve young students' transportation needs [with vetted and certified drivers]. Zūm operates in more than 400 cities and towns in the U.S. Zūm has raised $67 million in total funding and has hired executives from companies like Uber, Google and Amazon.

Other investors in Zūm include Swede automaker Volvo [via the Volvo Cars Tech Fund], Sequoia Capital, Spark Capital, Draper Nexus, Clearvision and more.

Zūm founder and CEO Ritu Narayan (right) and Volvo Cars Tech Fund CEO Zaki Fasihuddin
image: Volvo/Zūm

Fair: BMW led a strategic round for Santa Monica-based Fair in 2017. Fair offers a platform for persons to flexibly own vehicles. In clear terms; using Fair, one can put down certain payments for vehicles, ride them for a certain time and return them when they're done.

Fair is led by Scott Painter [an entrepreneur who founded and previously led TrueCar] and George Bauer, who previously held executive positions at Tesla, BMW and Daimler. The company raised a $385 million Series B led by Softbank last year. Since its founding in 2016, Fair has raised more than $500 million in equity funding.

Fair co-founder and CEO Scott Painter
Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile

May Mobility: BMW i Ventures along with Japanese automaker Toyota co-led $11.5 million in seed funding for May Mobility last year. The two automakers further participated in a $22 million Series A for the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based startup earlier this year.

May Mobility develops self-driving shuttles that have made more than 35,000 rides in the cities of Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. The startup has a strong team with experience from the DARPA Urban Challenge, MIT, the University of Michigan’s APRIL lab, Ford, GM and Toyota.

Other investors in May Mobility include YCombinator, SV Angel, Maven Ventures, LG Technology Ventures and Trucks Ventures.

May Mobility co-founder and CEO Edwin Olson

image: May Mobility

Life360: Life360 is distinct for being the only startup from BMW's portfolio that has gone public. The San Francisco-based company recently completed an IPO on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), raising 112.7 million Australian dollars ($78.1 million) in new capital. Existing shareholders also sold 32.8 million Australian dollars ($22.7 million) worth of shares during the IPO.

Life360 is a location-based service that lets friends or family members share their location and keep track of each other. The company raised $109 million in funding prior to going public.

Other BMW investments include Bright Machines, Blackmore, JustPark, Nauto, Proterra, Ridecell, Chargemaster [acquired by BP] and more. BMW and the two other automakers [Daimler and Toyota] whose investments we earlier profiled share some common investments. To name some; Daimler and BMW are both investors in electric bus manufacturer Proterra, Toyota and BMW are both investors in Nauto and lidar startup Blackmore.

Out of the three, Daimler has invested the highest amount in startups. The German automotive multinational has led investments of hundreds of millions of dollars into several startups. Toyota on the other hand invests out of two funds totaling $200 million, while BMW i Ventures makes its bets from a single 500 million Euros ($560 million) fund.

BMW i Ventures has offices in Silicon Valley [HQ], San Francisco and Munich, Germany.


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