Toyota’s early-stage venture capital firm, Toyota AI Ventures, has been rebranded as Toyota Ventures and increased the total assets under its management to over $500 million. The increase comes from the creation of two new early-stage funds, both with $150 million each, named the Toyota Ventures Frontier Fund and the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund.
Toyota AI Ventures fund was founded in 2017 as a subsidiary of Toyota Research Institute. To date, the fund has invested in a total of 38 companies in areas such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, data, robotics, cloud computing, and mobility. We reported on the funds investment into self-driving tech back in 2018. Toyota Ventures has indicated that it will continue to invest in the same areas as before, but will now add in digital health, financial technologies, smart cities, materials and energy as investment areas.
The new Climate Fund ties in with Toyota’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Of course, anything that helps to reduce carbon dioxide and its impact will have benefits for everyone and the planet.
Jim Adle, founding managing director of Toyota Ventures, explained the thinking behind the new funds in a statement. “Startups are tackling the world’s challenges, and at Toyota Ventures we want to open even more paths to investing in them,” he said. “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.”
Gill Pratt, chief scientist of Toyota Motor Corporation, CEO of Toyota Research Institute and board member of Toyota Ventures, reiterated the company’s commitment to reducing carbon. “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,” she explained. “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.”
There have been good reports from companies that Toyota Ventures has invested in so far. We reported on the latest investment Toyota made into eVTOL company Joby Aviation early last year, and JoeBen Bevrit, founder and CEO of Joby, was very positive about the outcome. “Four years ago, Jim [Adler] came out and watched a flight test. 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 Corporation. It led to further financing and a strategic manufacturing partnership.”
With the expansion of the kind of startups Toyota is looking to fund in the future, let’s hope there will be more good news stories like this in the future.