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Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Launches Corporate Venture Capital Fund

January 11, 2018 0 Comments

The world’s largest automaker recently launched a $1 billion corporate ventures capital fund investing in “new mobility” (i.e., electrification, autonomous systems, network connectivity, and artificial intelligence).
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Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi’s Alliance Venture has already made its first investment: taking an equity stake of an undisclosed amount in Ionic Materials, a Bill Joy-backed battery technology developer.

The fund intends to invest up to $200 million in start-ups and “open innovation partnerships” this year, with plans to invest around the same amount of money over the next five years.

A strategic investor, the fund is looking to bring technology developed by its portfolio companies in-house for “use across the three-brand alliance that comprises the group.” There are also plans to “incubate” entrepreneurs, and to make investments across the start-up’s entire life-cycle.

Alliance Venture’s first deal with Ionic Materials shows the fund’s emphasis on the electrification in the coming years. The battery tech developer, when first going public with its technology, was hailed by some as the “Jesus battery” for its solid-state, cobalt-free battery materials.

The roughly $1 billion commitment puts Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in a “pole position” in regards to automakers who have committed to corporate venturing. While BMW iVenture and GM Ventures have more extensive venture capital histories, they also have smaller funds.

Volkswagen, the world’s second largest automaker, is one of the few that seems willing to throw around as much capital in the tech industry on a similar scale. However, VW tends to make direct investments or set up joint ventures with other automakers rather than use a dedicated venture investment group.

Alliance Ventures is lead by François Dossa, previously the chief executive officer of Nissan Brazil.

Nissan isn’t new to this game; the automaker was an early partner with electric vehicle startup Better Place. The partnership raised $850 million before collapsing in 2014. The experience might have left Renault reeling, but the company recovered: it plans to launch 12 pure EVs by 2022 and bring 40 autonomous vehicles to market.

Alliance Venture’s first offices will go up in Silicon Valley, Paris, Yokohama, and Beijing. Renault and Nissan are planning to put up 40 percent of capital for the new fund, with Mitsubishi financing the rest.

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