Toyota launches Toyota AI Ventures

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has invested an initial $100 million to launch Toyota AI Ventures, a new VC subsidiary that aims to provide early stage financing for what it calls ‘disruptive’ startup technology companies.

The VC funder will cultivate startups through offering them mentorship as well as support on site at TRI’s Silicon Valley HQ.

Investment by Toyota AI Ventures will focus on the areas of: Artificial Intelligence; Robotics; Autonomous Mobility; and Data and Cloud Technology.

The TRI launched the VC firm by announcing it has made initial investments in three tech firms: Nauto, which provides a monitoring system for professional drivers and fleet managers; SLAMcore, which creates advanced algorithms designed to help technology platforms like autonomous vehicles and drones build a map of their surroundings; and Intuition Robotics, a developer of social companion technology.

The new venture is to pursue a ‘call and response’ model that means it will “identify key research challenges and then support the creation of new companies offering to solve them”.

Jim Adler, TRI’s vice president of data and business development, commented, “A lot of disruptive technologies come from startups and we want to help them be successful.

“One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is knowing if they’re building the right product for the right market. We can help them navigate that uncertainty, and we’re committed to doing so in a founder-friendly way because their success is our success.”  
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