Toyota AI Ventures Fund Provides $100M to Startups

Using a "call and response" model, the fund will operate differently than a traditional venture capital fund, identifying industry challenges and supporting new companies to address those pinpointed issues.

The Toyota Research Institute announced Tuesday it’s investing $100 million to create a new corporate venture capital subsidiary, Toyota AI Ventures, to assist upcoming startups around the globe. 

Three tech companies — Nauto, SLAMcore, and Intuition Robotics — are the first to receive funding from the subsidiary. This investment is an extension of TRI’s previous investment mandate, according to a release. TRI is a subsidiary of Plano-based Toyota Motor North America.

“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.” 

Gill Pratt

Providing support and mentorship, Toyota AI Ventures funds will focus on areas of artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous mobility, and data and cloud technology. 

“TRI is growing quickly, and we recognize the critical importance of expanding our collaboration with the world’s brightest entrepreneurial talent,” Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI, said in a release.

“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.”

The new venture will be operated by investment professionals and entrepreneurs who are not part of TRI’s research and development team. Using a “call and response” model, the fund will operate differently than a traditional venture capital fund, identifying industry challenges and supporting new companies to address those pinpointed issues.

Managing director of Toyota AI Ventures Jim Adler believes assisting startups translates to success for Toyota.

“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.” 

Jim Adler

“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,” Adler said. “One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is knowing if they’re building the right product for the right market.”

Nauto, based in Sillicon Valley, assists professional drivers and fleet managers with road safety and driver behavior. Great Britain-based SLAMcore develops and licenses algorithms to create maps of programmed surroundings for technology such as autonomous cars and drones. Israel’s Intuition Robotics focuses on social technology to help older people connect with loved ones and make technology more accessible.

The three initial companies fit with Toyota’s four research mandates of improving automobile safety, increasing vehicle access to those who cannot drive, transforming expertise for outdoor mobility products to indoor mobility products, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance scientific discovery.


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