Toyota Motor Corp.'s first standalone, early-stage venture capital firm, Toyota AI Ventures, yesterday said it will change its name to Toyota Ventures and grow its total assets under management to more than $500 million. The addition of two $150 million early-stage funds—the Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund and the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund—reflect its commitment to partnering with entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as its support of environmental sustainability, said the company.
“Startups are tackling the world's challenges, and at Toyota Ventures we want to open even more paths to investing in them,” stated Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota Ventures. “Since we started our first fund four years ago, we've been on a journey with our portfolio companies to discover what's next for Toyota and for the world. Today, we're thrilled to be embarking on the next leg of that journey with the Frontier and the Climate Funds.”
Toyota AI Ventures invested in robotics
Los Altos, Calif.-based Toyota AI Ventures was founded in 2017 as a subsidiary of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) to invest in early-stage startups working on robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, cloud computing, data, and mobility. Its stated goal was to help them bring disruptive technologies and business models to market quickly.
“Toyota Ventures has been an invaluable partner for Boxbot since it invested in our seed round in 2018,” said Austin Oehlerking, co-founder and CEO of Boxbot Inc. “It has been instrumental in helping us to navigate complicated, existential challenges on our journey from concept to product/market fit. Jim [Adler] and the team really understand how corporate venture capital should function to successfully partner with startups.”
Oakland, Calilf.-based Boxbot provides automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) and proprietary software, and it has also worked on last-mile delivery systems.
“Four years ago, Jim came out and watched a flight test,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation. “He asked incredibly thoughtful questions and then acted decisively on investing in Joby Aviation. That was just the beginning of an incredible partnership with Toyota Ventures and with Toyota Motor Corp. It led to further financing and a strategic manufacturing partnership.”
Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Joby Aviation is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Toyota Ventures expands scope
Toyota Ventures said it will expand its scope to include smart cities, digital health, financial technologies, materials, and energy. The Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund will also continue to focus on AI, robotics, the cloud, and other technologies.
“The Toyota Ventures organization is the perfect example of an entrepreneur-centric, empathetic, thoroughly professional and success-driven team,” said RK Anand, co-founder and CEO of Recogni, a vision recognition provider in San Jose, Calif.
Meanwhile, the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund will focus on efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the benefit of society and the planet.
“At Toyota, we're taking a diverse, science-driven approach to addressing climate change and offering people many ways to lower their own carbon footprint,” said Gill Pratt, chief scientist of Toyota Motor Corp., CEO of TRI, and a board member of Toyota Ventures. “Part of our strategy includes partnering with talented entrepreneurs from around the world to help accelerate innovation in the startup community. We are tremendously excited about tapping into that talent through the Climate Fund.”
“Toyota Ventures has been an incredible partner to Revel from the beginning and has gone above and beyond to support our growth, even during challenging times,” said Frank Reig, co-founder and CEO of shared moped firm Revel. “It kept its commitments and funded us during the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown, which helped us get through the worst days of the pandemic and come out the other side. It also introduced us to internal teams it thought would help our core business and new ventures.”
Along with expanding investment categories, Toyota Ventures said it plans to grow its team and work with a new Advisor Network to continue delivering its “founder-first” support. From offering guidance on product and business development to supporting companies in their diversity and recruiting efforts, the automaker's investment unit said it focuses on delivering value and building long-term relationships to help startups succeed.
Toyota Ventures said it is accepting online pitches for early-stage funding at its Web site.
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