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BMW Group expands BMW i Ventures role with new €500M fund; widened scope of investment, greater independence

The BMW Group is expanding the remit of its BMW i Ventures venture capital unit and creating a new fund of up to €500 million (US$531 million) over ten years to support it. The new fund will allow BMW i Ventures to make investments in a wider range of areas, such as autonomous driving and digitalization, and to secure continued access to the technologies of the future.

BMW i Ventures’ previous focus on mobility services and electro-mobility will be expanded to cover the BMW Group’s full innovation spectrum in all areas of Strategy Number ONE > NEXT, even those outside of the traditional automotive value chain. Future topics for exploration will focus on “Enabling Technology and Digital Vehicle Technology”, “Mobility and Digital Services”, “Customer Experience” and “Advanced Production Technology”.

BMW i Ventures, which was founded in New York in 2011 with an initial venture capital of US$100 million (€94 million), is relocating its headquarters to Silicon Valley. With a high level of autonomy, the venture capital unit will be able to make swift investment decisions and win successful and promising start-ups worldwide as partners.

The mobility of the future and our industry is being defined by the increasingly rapid pace of technological change. Anyone who wants to succeed must shape this change and have access to the best ideas,” according to Klaus Fröhlich, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development. “BMW i Ventures keeps us close to trendsetters from all different fields and their innovations. The benefit for our partners is in access to the experience that comes from 100 years of car-building and managing complex topics and processes. Together, we can speed up the pace of change and development.

—Klaus Fröhlich, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Development

Going forward, BMW i Ventures will operate independently and globally under the leadership of two managing partners—Ulrich Quay and Uwe Higgen—and will report on its activities to a BMW Group Steering Board, comprising three Board of Management members and the head of Corporate Planning and Product Strategy. This will give BMW i Ventures considerable autonomy and allow it to make investment decisions quickly, as necessitated by the industry.

BMW i Ventures was founded in New York City in 2011 under the BMW i sub-brand, alongside mobility services, as part of the strategic realignment of the BMW Group. Since its formation, BMW i Ventures has completed more than 15 successful investments in various mobility-related start-ups.

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Since 2014, for example, BMW i Ventures has held a minority interest in San Francisco-based technology start-up RideCell. Since April of this year, as the systems partner of ReachNow, the BMW Group’s premium car-sharing service in the United States, RideCell has been responsible for the IT platform and all customer interfaces used for reservations and billing.

Another example is Chargepoint, headquartered in Campbell, California, which is another of BMW i Ventures’ portfolio companies. Chargepoint, with its more than 31,000 charging points, successfully cooperates with ChargeNow, the BMW Group service that provides easy access to a steadily growing network of public charging stations. In a joint project with BMW and another manufacturer, Chargepoint has also installed 95 rapid charging stations on the East and West coast of the US.

BMW i Ventures’ most recent investment, in Silicon Valley-based company Carbon3D, already reflects the venture capital unit’s expanded focus. It provides the BMW Group with the opportunity to extend its existing competence in the field of additive manufacturing technologies.

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