The Toyota Research Institute plans to invest $100 million to launch Toyota AI Ventures, a new subsidiary designed to provide early-stage financing to startup technology companies.
Toyota AI Ventures will offer TRI the opportunity to collaborate with talented entrepreneurs who prefer to work in a venture business environment.
“Toyota has a history of disruptive innovation in the service of mankind, moving from textile machinery to automobiles in the late ’30s, to the broad electrification of the automobile with Prius in the ’90s, to autonomous mobility and human assist robots,” said Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI.
“TRI is growing quickly, and we recognize the critical importance of expanding our collaboration with the world’s brightest entrepreneurial talent. This venture is a major step towards our mission to empower talented entrepreneurs who share Toyota’s commitment to enhancing the quality of human life.”
(To see more about the role that Toyota’s new Texas-based HQ will play globally, Click Here.)
Toyota AI venture will also cultivate select start-ups in the areas of Artificial Intelligence Robotics Autonomous Mobility and Data and Cloud Technology.
Three technology companies targeted for investment include Nauto, Great Britain’s SLAMcore and Israel’s Intuition Robotics.
Early-stage start-up investment is inherently high risk, with the potential for high reward, so the new venture will feature quick decision-making by a dedicated management team of investment professionals and entrepreneurs, operating separately from TRI’s R&D operation.
Importantly, unlike venture capital funds that exclusively identify investment targets by considering unsolicited pitches by entrepreneurs, this new venture will also pursue a “call and response” model, identifying key research challenges and then supporting the creation of new companies offering to solve them.
Jim Adler, TRI’s vice president of data and business development, will assume the role of managing director of Toyota AI Ventures.
(Click Here for the details about Toyota putting its old California HQ up for sale.)
“We realize that we don’t have all of the answers. A lot of disruptive technologies come from startups and we want to help them be successful,” said Adler.
“One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is knowing if they’re building the right product for the right market. We can help them navigate that uncertainty, and we’re committed to doing so in a founder-friendly way because their success is our success.”
Based in Silicon Valley, Nauto provides a technology system, designed for professional drivers and fleet managers, that monitors drivers and the road environment to prevent collisions, improve driver behavior, and learn from the diverse data shared across its smart cloud network.
SLAMcore, based in Britain, develops advanced algorithms designed to help technology platforms like autonomous cars, drones and AR/VR systems to simultaneously build a map of their surroundings and position themselves within it.
Critically, SLAMcore approaches this challenge with a core focus on power efficiency, a crucial factor for autonomous mobility applications given the need to maximize the power available for locomotion. TRI participated in SLAMcore’s seed financing in March 2017.
(Toyota has no plans to build a new plant in the U.S. Find out more, Click Here.)
Israel-based Intuition Robotics is a leader in the development of social companion technology, including its ElliQ active-aging robotic companion. The company’s technology is designed to positively impact the lives of millions of older adults by connecting them seamlessly with family and friends and promoting an active lifestyle. TRI also participated in Intuition Robotics’ $14 million Series A financing in May 2017.