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Daimler: One Quiet Big VC

Daimler CEO Ola Källenius

image: Daimler

Daimler is well-known around the globe for its automobiles. It's the German multi-national behind the Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Freightliner Trucks [among several other] brands. Just how big is it?...well, €112.5 billion in 2018 revenue should count as really big. Daimler although best known for its automobiles has been a major investor in startups. The company [not surprisingly] focuses its investments in the automobile and transportation sectors and has put huge amounts into several startups.

Below, we examine some of Daimler's investments in automotive and transportation startups.

Sila Nano: Daimler led a $170 million Series E for Sila Nano earlier this year. Sila Nano is an Alameda, California-based company working on electric car batteries. The company was founded in 2011 by Silicon Valley battery engineers and a Georgia Tech Professor of Materials Science. Sila Nano has raised $295 million in total funding.

Via: Daimler led a $250 million Series D for Via in 2017. Via is a New York-based on-demand rideshare company focused on the carpooling market. The company was founded in 2012 by Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, two entrepreneurs who previously led engineering projects for the Israeli Air Force. Via has offices in New York, Chicago and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Via CEO Daniel Ramot

Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Quanergy: Daimler is an investor in Quanergy Systems, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that makes lidars, the sensors used in most self-driving vehicles. Daimler is not only an investor but has partnered with the company for joint work on lidar sensors. Quanergy was valued at more than $2 billion from a Series C round October last year.

Quanergy co-founder and CEO Louay Eldada

Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Collision / Sportsfile

Bolt (formerly Taxify): Daimler led a $175 million round for Bolt last year. That round valued the company at more than $1 billion. Bolt is an Estonian ride-hailing company that competes with other ride-hailing companies like Uber in several markets.

Bolt CEO Markus Villig

image: Bolt

Careem: Careem prior to its $3.1 billion acquisition by Uber earlier this year was often described as the Uber of the Middle East. That description was cemented when Uber acquired the company in March. Careem just like Bolt is a ride-hailing company but with its core operations in the Middle East. The Dubai-based company raised nearly $800 million in funding [Crunchbase data] prior to being acquired.

Starship: Daimler is an investor in Starship Technologies, a startup that makes delivery robots. Daimler participated in a $17.2 million round for the startup in 2013. Starship is notable for its co-founder, Janus Friis. Friis also co-founded Skype, the popular video-calling company first acquired by eBay for $2.6 billion in 2005 and later for $8.5 billion by Microsoft in 2011.

Starship delivery robots

image: Starship Technologies

Momenta: Momenta is a Chinese self-driving company valued at more than $1 billion. Momenta hit unicorn status just two years after its founding. The Beijing-based company -- which has raised more than $200 million -- builds software to help cars drive autonomously.

ChargePoint: ChargePoint is a Campbell, California-based company known for its electric car charging stations. The company has raised more than $500 million in funding, including $240 million raised November last year. German automaker BMW is also an investor in ChargePoint.

A GM electric vehicle gets charged at a ChargePoint station

image: General Motors/ChargePoint

SoundHound: Santa Clara-based SoundHound builds voice recognition technologies for use in cars, TVs, smartphones, music speakers and more. The company raised $100 million in funding last year at a more than $1 billion valuation. Participants in that round included Daimler, Hyundai, Tencent and Orange S.A. Other SoundHound investors include Nvidia, HTC, Naver and Line.

Proterra: Daimler co-led a $155 million round for Proterra last year. Proterra is a Burlingame, California-based manufacturer of electric buses valued at $855 million according to Pitchbook data. The company might be on its way to an IPO, having been reported to have hired investments banks for that.

Turo: Daimler led a $92 million Series D for Turo in 2017. Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace with more than 350,000 listed vehicles. Turo operates in the US, Canada, the UK, and Germany.

Turo CEO Andre Haddad
Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Collision via Sportsfile

Matternet: Matternet is a Menlo Park, California-based startup that develops delivery drones. Daimler has not only backed Matternet but has also collaborated with the startup for work on delivery drones.

Other Daimler investments include SK Gaming, Soul Machines, ThinCI, StoreDot, Volocopter, TruckPad, what3words, Zonar, Rally, Immuta, Hubject and more. Daimler's investment team operates out of offices in Stuttgart [Germany], San Francisco [the US], Peking [China] and Tokyo [Japan].

The German automaker's investment prowess isn't matched by many. Although other carmakers have regularly backed startups, Daimler's reach in the startup scene is definitely one to write about.


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