Image for post
Image for post

Having held a variety of roles throughout my career, from engineering avionics systems for rockets to leading hardware startups to now investing in them, I’ve seen firsthand how thermal management can disrupt and delay the best-laid product plans. It’s a vexing artifact of our universe’s physics — electronic devices generate excess heat. This heat must be dissipated to avoid degrading safety, performance, and reliability. Heat dissipation is the bane of electrical design engineers. However, the solutions fall to thermal engineers — a perennially underserved group.

The good news is that there’s plenty of room for innovation, making it a potentially ripe area for disruption. That’s why I’m excited to announce our latest investment in Carbice Corporation, which produces Carbice® Carbon, a product that dissipates heat away from product packaging, lowering device temperatures, lengthening product lifetimes, and improving safety and reliability. …


Image for post
Image for post

Speed is a startup’s only true superpower. It is critical to a startup’s survival. Speed fuels the startup’s ability to react to competitors, novel challenges, and pivot as necessary. It’s that power to quickly trim their sails that enables them to catch that fortunate tailwind.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce our investment in SummerBio, an automation-based diagnostics company. SummerBio has not only demonstrated speed in its formation, but speed in its technological solution — COVID-19 testing that is rapid, affordable, and high-volume. We are proud to participate in SummerBio’s $7.3 …


Image for post
Image for post

These days, mobility options need to be safer than ever. Meeting traditional standards for safety is a must, but that’s in addition to maintaining a reduced risk of infection. For many, personally operated modes of transportation are the preferred choice. Cars, bikes, and scooters are all gaining in popularity, with one survey noting that interest in car ownership increased by 32% since the pandemic began. But ownership can be challenging for some and out of reach for others.

That’s why I’m excited to announce our investment in Bipi, a European car-as-a-service marketplace offering customers a flexible monthly subscription for high-quality new and used cars. Based in Madrid, Spain, CEO Hans Christ and COO Alejandro Vigaray founded Bipi in 2017. With 80 employees (and counting), the company is currently the car subscription leader in Spain, and the team is expanding into new European markets, including France. …


Image for post
Image for post

In January 2020, we launched the second Toyota AI Ventures “call for innovation,” in partnership with Toyota Research Institute — Advanced Development (TRI-AD) and Toyota Research Institute (TRI). Our goal was to connect with smart cities startups offering solutions in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomy, cloud, data, or mobility that could potentially transform how we live, work, and move. Cities are epicenters for disruption — more than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, a number that is expected to grow to 68% by 2050. …


Image for post
Image for post

Dear Q*** and P*****,

As we wade through month nine of the COVID pandemic, more than 215 thousand Americans are dead (earning us a top five worldwide ranking), more than 12 million are unemployed, centuries of social injustice are ripping us apart, global climate change is ravaging local weather, and the country is hurtling toward a constitutional election crisis. It’s time we had a little talk.

Your mother and I would never presume to pick your friends for you. We trust your judgment and, frankly, it’s none of our business. That said, we will always have an opinion on how you treat your friends. Like everyone in your life, we expect you to treat them kindly, respectfully, honestly, reciprocally, and responsibly. These are the values we instilled when you were young and will continue to nag you about until we’re gone. …


Image for post
Image for post

Since Toyota AI Ventures was founded in July 2017, I’ve received a flurry of questions from startup founders, institutional venture capital investors, other corporate venture capital investors, and the press. They want to know how the fund is structured, how (and how fast) we make decisions, the role of our corporate business units, whether we are truly founder-friendly, and, to address Paul Graham’s point below, what being “strategic” really means for our startup portfolio companies and our big corporate limited partner.

“All other things being equal, [startups should] avoid ‘strategic’ investors. What that word ‘strategic’ means is that they have ulterior motives that are unlikely to be aligned with yours.” …


Image for post
Image for post

At Toyota AI Ventures, we believe that robotic technologies can transform our lives for the better, whether through mobility, consumer robots, or industrial automation. That’s why we’re excited to announce our investment in Third Wave’s Series A round. Based in Union City, California, Third Wave uses computer vision, robotics, and machine learning technology to make forklifts autonomous — transforming material handling in warehouses. When forklifts can be operated more efficiently, warehouse operations are safer, resulting in higher throughput. Third Wave is emerging from stealth mode, and we look forward to seeing its growth.

We know the founding team better than most because the CEO, Arshan Poursohi, and the chief robotics officer, Mac Mason, previously worked at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). They contributed to TRI’s efforts in cloud robotics and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). In 2018, they left TRI and joined forces with CTO James Davidson, who used to work with them at Google. They’ve put together an impressively experienced team that also shares their passion for impactful engineering. …


Image for post
Image for post

At Toyota AI Ventures, we envision a world where technology amplifies the human experience. That’s why I’m excited to announce our investment in Drishti Technologies. Drishti tackles the well-known operational challenges of assembly line manufacturing, with a combination of AI, data, and analytics that empowers humans on the manufacturing floor to work more efficiently with machines.

Synergy between technology and people is renewed on the manufacturing floor, as the data Drishti provides enables everyone in the factory to find opportunities to improve performance. …


Image for post
Image for post

Our mission at Toyota AI Ventures is to explore what’s next. And notwithstanding the enormous challenges we’re all facing today due to COVID-19, we remain optimistic about the future and bullish on how technology will amplify the human experience. Our portfolio companies have been helping people make the most of their living spaces and move within cities in new ways. We continue to look for entrepreneurs that can bring their creative vision to life and execute on it, even when times are tough.

That’s why I’m proud to announce that Toyota AI Ventures is investing in Ziva Dynamics, a startup based in Vancouver, Canada that is developing advanced character simulation software to create lifelike digital experiences for film, games, and other applications. …


“Pain + Reflection = Progress” — Ray Dalio

Image for post
Image for post

If we’re paying attention to the pain of adversity, it encourages us to look for new solutions to old problems. Entrepreneurs, in particular, learn this lesson early when searching for product-market fit.

The CEO and co-founder of Bumblebee Spaces, Sankarshan Murthy, ran into his pain point in his own living room. Residing in a dense urban area, Sankarshan found himself struggling to make room as his family grew. Even after decluttering, when relatives visited from abroad, there was simply not enough space for everyone. Something had to change. Tapping into his product design background, Sankarshan envisioned an intelligent “space and stuff” solution to apartment living that used robotics to optimize the space and artificial intelligence (AI) to keep track of stored objects — the stuff. …

About

Jim Adler

entrepreneur · investor · executive · data geek · privacy thinker · former rocket engineer · on twitter @jim_adler

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store