Autotech Ventures Sees Itself as Talent Scout for Auto Startups

AutoTech Ventures LLC wants to be the talent scout for startups reinventing ground transportation. The venture capital firm, based in Palo Alto, California, has raised about $75 million to bankroll early-stage technologies enabling autonomous driving, improved cybersecurity in cars, entertainment systems and other automotive next big things.

Auto-parts makers and component suppliers, including Denso Corp., Mahle GmbH. and Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd., were among the investors in the firm, founded last year. As limited partners, they’ll get a share of AutoTech Ventures’ returns. “We aren’t in it for financial return — it’s all strategic,” said Tony Cannestra, director of corporate venture at Japan-based automotive components company Denso. He said the number of tech startups in transportation has more than doubled since he began investing in such companies almost five years ago, making it harder to hone in on the potential winners.

Energy Startup Series: Autotech Ventures

breaking-energy-logo-1367347674 This is the latest installment in our Energy Startup Series that gives executives at cutting-edge energy firms an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the energy industry, their careers and their companies. The garages of Palo Alto are famous birthplaces for some of the most impactful high-tech companies in history. But for Quin Garcia, a managing director of the Palo Alto venture capital firm AutoTech Ventures, garages represent not only the birthplace of high-tech startups, but also the key to solving major transportation energy and safety challenges.

With a team of venture capitalists, transportation executives, and entrepreneurs, AutoTech’s goal is to bridge the gap between innovative startup companies and large corporations to deploy new road transportation technologies. Energy and transportation are inextricably linked; this Q&A gives insight into how the transport sector is looking at the energy puzzle.

Hold the wheel and drive

VCJ_Rss_Logo When that first driverless car hits the dealer showroom, the event will represent the culmination of a slow evolution, not an overnight revolution in auto transportation technologies. “Fully autonomous vehicles aren’t going to be ready for at least the next 10 years,” said Quin Garcia, managing director at Palo Alto, California based venture firm AutoTech Ventures. “It’s going to take a series of steps to get there.” But once those cars do arrive, they’ll grow into a huge market, as much as $42 billion by 2025, according to the Boston Consulting Group. To tap that potential, Garcia expects to soon announce the close of his first fund. AutoTech Ventures is raising an initial fund of an undisclosed amount to invest in early-stage transportation-related startups. AutoTech calls itself an associate fund of Harris & Harris Group in New York, which is providing operational support to Garcia and the team, but AutoTech is raising the fund from outside LPs.

The firm will invest in up to 15 companies, with an expected average investment of $2 million. “We’re looking for technologies that can be enablers of the full autonomous vehicle in the long term but in the short term have commercialization potential,” he said…