How BMW’s corporate venture capital strategy is changing

Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner with Ulrich Quay, Managing Partner of BMW i Ventures, at Innovation Leader’s New York Field Study.

Last November, five years after starting a corporate venture capital group, carmaker BMW announced that it was quintupling its financial commitment, and expanding its field of interest. BMW said it will invest up to 500 million Euros over the next decade, across a broad swath of the tech landscape, from 3D printing to on-demand transportation to smart logistics. BMW also moved its US office from New York to Silicon Valley, and accelerated the decision-making process for making new investments. “You have lots of competitors for the best startups,” explains Ulrich Quay, Managing Director of BMW i Ventures. “You can’t wait for two or three months to get into those deals.”

We spoke to Quay earlier this month about the thinking behind all of the changes.

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• Expanded scope. “When we were in New York, we had a very limited investment mandate — only mobility services. We’re now able to invest in anything that’s automotive/transportation-related. Mobility services is one out of eight sectors we’re looking at right now. We can invest in the hot topics – autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, stuff like that.” (See the list below.)

“All of the changes in the automotive world are being triggered by software becoming increasingly important. Most automakers have a hardware history, and limited software expertise. They will all put a stronger focus on software – that means hiring internally – but also figuring out how it affects your business models… BMW wants to be on the front lines of all these new developments.”

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