We analyze Toyota's private market activity as the automaker readies a $100M AI fund.
Toyota has become the latest OEM to carve out a dedicated venture unit, joining longer-tenured corporate VC (CVC) programs like GM Ventures and BMW i Ventures as well as newer units like JLR’s InMotion and Scania Growth Capital. Dubbed Toyota AI Ventures, the new arm will slot in under Toyota Research Institute (TRI), hewing closely to its parent’s research focus areas of AI, cloud & data, robotics, and AVs.
However, the company and its research arm has already been actively ramping up private markets investment. We used our social graph tool to break down Toyota’s startup bets to date (7/13/2017).
Click the image to enlarge. Each green line signifies one financing round, while a red line indicates an acquisition.
We also used our database to extract a few insights from Toyota’s deals:
- Electrification gap: The maker of the world’s best-selling hybrid has shied away from external investments in EV startups. This mirrors its internal strategy that was originally more bullish on fuel-cell tech than full vehicle electrification, and has recently reversed course. Toyota’s lone EV bet since 2012 was its stake in Chargepoint‘s Series D in May 2012 (not pictured here is Toyota’s $50M Tesla investment in 2010).
- Accelerating pace: Excluding Chargepoint, all of the other disclosed deals pictured have taken place since December 2015, as Toyota has dived headlong into private markets like other OEMs.
- AI spotlight: Given the new venture arm’s focuses (and name), it’s not surprising that Toyota/TRI has been an active investor in AI and AV startups, including Preferred Networks, Nauto, Slamcore, and others. As an expansion of TRI’s investment mandate, the CVC will assume its parent’s positions in three of these startups, boxed in red above.
- Robotics focus: Robotics and AI applications in the field (both within and outside of auto) have long been of interest for TRI and Toyota generally. This emphasis has also extended to the private markets, with deals like Toyota’s Jaybridge acqui-hire and Intuition Robotics stake.
- Mobility services: Like most OEMs, Toyota is exploring new sharing and mobility models, including its bets in Getaround, MaaS Global, and its minority stake in Uber.
- Global scope: The balance of Toyota’s deals have been to US-based companies, but the company has shown a willingness to invest internationally. Toyota’s portfolio includes startups hailing from Israel, the UK, Finland, and its home base of Japan.
- Flying cars: For more on Toyota’s Cartivator project, check out our flying car research.
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