A Look at How We Work with Startups: It’s a Relationship, Not a Transaction

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” — Michael Jordan

By design, startups must move quickly to bring their ideas to market — often much faster than established brands. It is their first competitive advantage. At Toyota AI Ventures, we’ve tailor-made ourselves to support the speed of our portfolio companies.

As Toyota’s first standalone venture capital (VC) fund, we decided that the most effective way to identify groundbreaking innovations in autonomous mobility and robotics was to ensure that we’re founder-friendly and supportive of the startup community. That means treating every company that we work with as a valued customer, and partnering with founders who share our values and appreciate the importance of talent, grit, tenacity, integrity, and flexibility in building a successful company.

At this year’s CES conference in January, we sat down with the Toyota Untold podcast team to discuss our approach to investing. We spotlighted Intuition Robotics, a portfolio company that embodies these values. The following video excerpt is a deeper dive into why we prioritize mutually-beneficial partnerships with all our portfolio companies, and how our customer-centric approach gives founders the freedom they need to innovate.

Intuition Robotics was one of our first investments. When we first met Intuition Robotics co-founder and CEO Dor Skuler, we were impressed with his team’s understanding of the robotics market and how humble they were about their mission — to create new types of interactive relationships between humans and machines. They were laser-focused on understanding the user experience, and not just developing a general solution for every type of robotics use-case. Here is an excerpt of how our relationship with Intuition Robotics started:

When Toyota AI Ventures first engaged with Intuition Robotics, their team was focused on refining their robotics companion for older adults, named ElliQ. Since then, it became clear that the company’s cognitive AI agent technology could also be used to create more meaningful connections in other places — such as between a driver and a vehicle. In the following video, Dor describes the evolution of his company and how it’s bringing hardware to life in new and exciting ways.

The startup journey is challenging, and it’s important to have trusted partners. At Toyota AI Ventures, we do our best to offer support, while respecting that our portfolio companies need to operate on their timeline.

We’ve been fortunate to partner with Dor and his team, and are excited about their recently announced collaboration with the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) to help develop an engaging in-car experience. We’re looking forward to their first batch of ElliQ robots reaching homes this summer (pre-order is available now), and to their ongoing work on improving the way humans interact with machines.

If you’re interested in joining Intuition Robotics on their journey, you can see their current openings on the Toyota AI Ventures careers page and join our growing Talent Network.