Goodyear Ventures is a $100 million fund whose goal is to advance the future of mobility with a focus on partnering with and investing in startup companies. We spoke with Abhijit Ganguly, the managing director of Goodyear Ventures, about the fund.
What falls under your umbrella of “mobility”?
Ganguly: We touch every aspect of mobility. We are interested in autonomous vehicles, which are shaping the future of how people move around. We are also interested in learning about electric vehicles, as they are becoming increasingly a trend for several EOMs as well as new emerging automotive manufacturers.
We are interested in sustainability as it relates to how we build our products. All of those things become deeply relevant for our venture fund. So when we talk about mobility, it’s multi-dimensional in terms of the businesses that we target, the geographies in which we operate, and our areas of interest.
What is your geographic focus?
Ganguly: When this fund started last year, we began with the U.S. as the first area of focus. We aim to become a fairly global player with respect to our fund’s overall footprint.
How did the fund begin?
Ganguly: The fund began with the notion that mobility is moving at a breathtaking pace and we need to make sure that we are learning quickly about the latest advances. Goodyear had already established a strong connection with the startup ecosystems through work we’ve done with them. We added the fund as an additional capability for all of our existing innovation efforts.
Can you talk about specific companies or technology you’re seeing?
Ganguly: As a tire company, it is very interesting for us to see all of the innovation that is happening around us in autonomous vehicles. With that in mind, our investment in that space in TuSimple, self-driving technologies specifically designed to meet the unique demands of heavy-duty trucks. We invested in TuSimple to learn about the tires’ role in the autonomous driving space and how the tire can make the autonomous vehicle drive more efficiently and more safely.
We invested in Starship, a global company that builds robots that move goods in the last mile. Over the last year or so, contactless deliveries of food and groceries have become a very important space. We are supporting Starship on tire development and the types of tires that these robots require.
Additionally, we made an investment with an on-demand shared electric vehicle (EV) fleet called Envoy. They provide community-based EVs in high-occupancy areas where you can unlock and drive an EV through your smart phone. Envoy was the investment that allowed us to learn how we manage fleets of electric vehicles, which is very different from managing a fleet of traditionally built internal combustion vehicles. Envoy didn’t have to replicate some of the services and infrastructure that we already have, so they were able to leverage that infrastructure and stimulate their growth and keep their focus on owning, operating, and managing fleets.
How do you find the companies? Do you do research and reach out to them or do they come to you?
Ganguly: It’s a little bit of both. We have a lot of inbound interest in ventures from startups from a variety of sources. There are also Goodyear team members always on the look-out for the brightest minds in the mobility ecosystem. Those initiatives also result in us being able to uniquely connect and be able to form those relationships with startups early on and try to understand who might be a great fit for us.
We also do a lot of outbound work where we search for and connect with some of the more emerging minds in the mobility ecosystem.
Your location in Akron is key to what you do. What are the advantages of being there?
Ganguly: Our location in Akron connects us to our roots and our history. We are really proud about that. We continue to be headquartered in and located here. It allows us to stay connected to Goodyear’s four business units and “the mother ship” as we call it.
We have a long-standing relationship with the city of Akron as Goodyear which allows us to do that and connect with a fairly broad set of companies.
Also, our location allows us, with respect to initiatives going on in the state of Ohio, to be able to connect and allow the portfolio companies of Goodyear Ventures to connect to some of the state initiatives that are going on.
We find all of those to be very compelling reasons for us to be here.