BMW Group Creates € 500 million VC Fund, Relocates BMW i Ventures HQ to Silicon Valley
Investments in start-ups have proven extremely promising, both from a strategic and an economic perspective, and create sustainable value for the BMW Group. The BMW i Ventures unit, formed as part of BMW i, underlines BMW i’s role as a spearhead of innovation within the BMW Group and secures the company’s standing as a technology pioneer. With the expansion of BMW i Ventures, the BMW Group is now taking the next logical step in implementation of its Strategy Number ONE > NEXT.
“These days, more and more innovations come from the start-up scene. Venturing allows us to tap into this potential at an early stage. To achieve this, we are now giving BMW i Ventures a much broader footing and will expand our involvement in Europe and Asia, as well as at our new location in Silicon Valley,” explained Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for MINI, BMW Motorrad, Rolls-Royce and Aftersales. “The atmosphere of radical openness and idea-driven exchange that characterises the start-up scene is particularly fruitful for an innovation leader like BMW,” he added.
The BMW Group’s venturing approach is based on exchange in both directions:
Outside-in: Minority holdings by BMW i Ventures in the best, most innovative start-ups provide the BMW Group with external access to innovations and secure the company’s role as a technology pioneer.
Inside-out: BMW i Ventures not only provides financial support for start-ups, but also contributes internal non-monetary resources or “smart capital”, such as technical expertise and access to the network of an established global player.
“The mobility of the future and our industry is being defined by the increasingly rapid pace of technological change. Anyone who wants to succeed must shape this change and have access to the best ideas,” according to Klaus Fröhlich, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development. “BMW i Ventures keeps us close to trendsetters from all different fields and their innovations. The benefit for our partners is in access to the experience that comes from 100 years of car-building and managing complex topics and processes. Together, we can speed up the pace of change and development,” Fröhlich continued.
Going forward, BMW i Ventures will operate independently and globally under the leadership of two managing partners – Ulrich Quay and Uwe Higgen – and will report on its activities to a BMW Group Steering Board, comprising three Board of Management members and the head of Corporate Planning and Product Strategy. This will give BMW i Ventures considerable autonomy and allow it to make investment decisions quickly, as necessitated by the industry.
“We are dealing with a constantly growing range of topics that extend far beyond automotive manufacturing. We have to be willing to explore new directions and invest in promising innovation drivers,” said Dr. Friedrich Eichiner, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Finance.
BMW i Ventures’ previous focus on mobility services and electro-mobility will be expanded to cover the BMW Group’s full innovation spectrum in all areas of Strategy Number ONE > NEXT, even those outside of the traditional automotive value chain. Future topics for exploration will focus on “Enabling Technology and Digital Vehicle Technology”, “Mobility and Digital Services”, “Customer Experience” and “Advanced Production Technology”.
BMW i Ventures was founded in New York City in 2011 under the BMW i sub-brand, alongside mobility services, as part of the strategic realignment of the BMW Group. Since its formation, BMW i Ventures has completed more than 15 successful investments in various mobility-related start-ups.
Since 2014, for example, BMW i Ventures has held a minority interest in San Francisco-based technology start-up RideCell. Since April of this year, as the systems partner of ReachNow, the BMW Group’s premium car-sharing service in the United States, RideCell has been responsible for the IT platform and all customer interfaces used for reservations and billing.
Another example is Chargepoint, headquartered in Campbell, California, which is another of BMW i Ventures’ portfolio companies. Chargepoint, with its more than 31,000 charging points, successfully cooperates with ChargeNow, the BMW Group service that provides easy access to a steadily growing network of public charging stations. In a joint project with BMW and another manufacturer, Chargepoint has also installed 95 rapid charging stations on the East and West coast of the US.
BMW i Ventures’ most recent investment, in Silicon Valley-based company Carbon3D,already reflects the venture capital unit’s expanded focus. It provides the BMW Group with the opportunity to extend its existing competence in the field of additive manufacturing technologies.
Source: BMW Group