Large Automaker Success Story
Finding Startups To Fuel A Large Automaker’s Future Success
An Investment Director at a Large Auto Manufacturer
In today’s competitive business environment, you have to be agile and move quickly when an opportunity presents itself. That can be a challenge when you’re a massive company with a global presence. While size can be an asset, it can also slow a large automaker like ours down, especially when startups and tech companies are disrupting and transforming the automotive and transportation industries every day. We have to find a way to drive innovation and growth in new and creative ways.
I’ve worked across various departments at a large automaker for over 25 years, most recently joining the company’s venture capital group as Investment Director in 2016. In this role, I identify and drive partnerships with innovative companies to enable new business models and opportunities.
To do this, we need these companies to flourish, which means we have to be particular when we choose partners. Each company has to be aligned with our vision, while still pushing the envelope in their respective spaces.
Shifting Our Focus to New Technologies and Services
Our company is best known as a manufacturer of cars, trucks and farm equipment. But in recent years, we shifted some of our focus to new technologies like batteries and fuel cells. Now we’re making another move and starting to look at ourselves as a hybrid product and services company with logistical solutions that complement vehicle purchases. The idea is to eventually have 50% of our revenues coming from services.
Despite our size, we can’t build these products and services ourselves. This is why we have started to invest in and partner with companies that design and market the solutions we want to offer our customers.
These days, the biggest innovators are startups, but finding the right one to invest in can be time-consuming and overwhelming. We’re not alone — despite vast amounts of data available, many investors are still choosing their partners based on gut instinct or mutual connections. For us, we’re inundated with companies approaching us directly, but we need to be able to filter out the noise and use data to evaluate whether the company has the business model and strategy that complements our own.
Fortunately, our venture capital group found a tool that simplified the discovery and evaluation process: CB Insights.
Finding Startups to Invest In
CB Insights is a tech intelligence platform that provides companies with comprehensive data, expert insights, and work management tools to drive growth and improve operations with technology. We use the platform to source and evaluate nearly all of our investments, including two recent partnerships with a global supply chain visibility platform and an EV charging and energy management solution. Instead of searching across multiple resources, my team benefits from a one-stop solution and single source of truth.
Rather than spending hours trying to sift through company websites, Google, LinkedIn and other research platforms, CB Insights compiles everything I need in a simple search. For example, I can easily research companies working on productivity solutions in mining. I can see when all of the startups that meet my criteria were founded, their funding, their investors and their recent partnerships or clients.
Then we use the CB Insights Collections feature to compile a list of target companies and monitor their progress. I can track them all using real-time data, including latest funding rounds, revenue, valuation and more. CB Insights gives me the flexibility of a CRM and the simplicity of a spreadsheet.
I also share my Collections with the entire venture capital group and our executive team, which goes a long way to making sure we’re all on the same page when it comes time to discuss the viability of potential partners. We look at business forecasts but pay special attention to specific teams. Who are the founders? What is their track record? What have they done in the past?
Insight and Impact
CB Insights acts as a filter. We pass on 90% of the startups we look at, and then we select very carefully from the remaining 10% whose activities are most relevant to us. We can easily save weeks by knowing at an early stage if a company is right for us or not, using CB Insights data.
CB Insights has made my job easier and has simplified the work of the venture capital team. We spend less time and energy finding information, and more time sharing actionable data with colleagues and other investors. This leads to faster insights and we can hone in on the startups representing the most promising investments that will help us reach our goal of generating 50% of our revenues from services.
Our company’s size is an asset, but we know it can make us less agile. With CB Insights, we can move faster and with more confidence than we could before. As we continue to acquire and partner with innovative startups, we’re in a better position to adapt to our changing world.
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