A fund executive said, “Toyota Motor Corp’s first venture capital fund is investing in start-ups that help the Japanese automaker clarify everyday processes by bringing keen supply-chain management and robotics to the factory floor.
The Silicon Valley-based Toyota AI Ventures fund, with $200 million under management, has so far invested in 36 early-stage start-ups, including self-driving car software firm Nauto, factory video analytics company Drishti and air mobility firm Joby Aviation.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker by vehicle sales, and many car companies such as Volkswagen AG are pouring money into start-ups to help achieve a margin in artificial intelligence as investor interest shifts to self-driving cars.
Adler, a former Lockheed Martin rocket engineer, and a serial entrepreneur said that while the fund and the automaker work closely together, the fund had a good degree of independence from Toyota because taking every investment opportunity to the carmaker’s management would be too much process. He also said, “We are at the edge of this Toyota ecosystem,”.
“The inner and outer world of Toyota, we are this sort of semi-permeable membrane that brings outside influence into the company.”
Jim Adler, the founding managing director of the fund said, for instance, Toyota, which has dozens of factories around the world, wants to be able to quickly share the lessons learned at one plant across other plants so that efficiencies are maximized. The automaker this year started Woven Capital, an US$800 million venture capital fund to make growth-stage investments in companies including those in the Toyota AI Ventures portfolio.