The world's oldest automaker turns to startups as it hopes to stay abreast of rapid auto tech and mobility developments.

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Earlier this week, Daimler announced a partnership with Uber to deploy Mercedes self-driving vehicles on the latter’s ride-sharing network. The move capped a flurry of recent tech startup investments, acquisitions, and partnerships from the German auto giant, and well as efforts to move further upstream into early-stage startups with accelerator efforts.

Using CB Insights data, we mapped out Daimler’s startup and accelerator activity since 2013 to visualize the quickening pace of its moves over the past year. Daimler sells both passenger cars and vans under the Mercedes brand, and manufactures trucks and buses under a wide range of other marques. We also included the activity of moovel, its mobility services unit.

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1-daimler-startup-activity-timelineDigging into the data, we can see that Daimler bought a pair of Germany battery companies in 2014 as the automaker sought to beef up its electric vehicle competencies (Daimler was also an investor in Tesla back in 2008 and 2009). That same year, Daimler also acquired transit routing app RideScout and ride-hailing app myTaxi for its moovel subsidiary.

The absence of a formal corporate VC arm (along the lines of GM Ventures or BMW’s i Ventures) has not prevented Daimler from making a rapid series of moves in startup world as auto tech has shot to the forefront. Mobility and ride-hailing services were a key focus, as Daimler (along with other automakers) warily eye the encroachment of transportation network companies like Uber and its competitors.

Its mobility strategy has proven quite diverse, with Blacklane (Series C), Hailo (corporate majority), FlightCar (asset sale), and Taxibeat (acquisition) all augmenting moovel’s car-sharing and ride-sharing services. moovel’s RideScout also merged with transit ticketing and payments app GlobeSherpa in April 2016 to form moovel North America.

Daimler’s recent Uber tie-up can be seen as yet another hedge in this multifaceted strategy, although the company has not yet disclosed any moves involving ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) or autonomous driving startups, preferring to rely on its own engineering efforts for the time being.

Beyond mobility, Daimler has taken a particular interest in autonomous delivery robots, investing in both aerial drone startup Matternet and ground-based robot maker Starship Technologies in the closing months of 2016. The automaker has shown off electric delivery van “mothership” concepts for both startups’ drones.

On the accelerator front, the company has also been active, establishing Startup Autobahn in Stuttgart (its headquarters city) together with Plug and Play in May 2016. Later in September, Daimler also opened a Startup Autobahn branch dedicated to Singapore and Southeast Asia.


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