George Kellerman, Founding Managing Director of Toyota's Woven Capital, on the VatorNews podcast

Steven Loeb · May 28, 2024 · Short URL:

Woven Capital is Toyota’s $800M dollar growth fund seeking to invest in the future of mobility

On the VatorNews Innovation podcast, Bambi Francisco Roizen speaks with George Kellerman, Founding Managing Director of Woven Capital, Toyota’s $800 million dollar growth fund seeking to invest in the future of mobility - that’s everything from cars, to the energy that fuels them to the communications and smart devices inside of them, to basically anything that has to do with mobility, including redesigning the flow and structure of cities to well… there’s a lot more.

Highlights from the call below:  

5:17  Kellerman describes his broad background from being a firefighter to a business development executive, to an M&A attorney to consumer investor to now heading up Toyota’s growth fund focused on industrial manufacturing.

6:30 - Investments made. Kellerman joined in May 2020 right in the middle of Covid. The first investment was in February 2021. Woven, which is a fund of funds as well, has also invested in 9 funds including Ballistic Ventures, which focuses on cybersecurity as well as 2150, which invests in startups reinventing urban cities. Other investments include Nuro, which makes autonomous delivery cars as well as Ridecell, a fleet management software platform.  

8:00 - Woven's mission. Kellerman talks about Woven’s mission as a strategic growth-stage fund writing checks for $15 million to $50 million. The startups need to have the maturity to work with a division inside of Toyota or have a roadmap to partner within a few years. There is no commercial agreement required though some companies already have them. The investments are specifically to bring external capabilities to Toyota. The ideal startup has already proven its commercial viability. The ideal investment has to be a company that can expand Toyota into different markets or significantly enhance Toyota's own capabilities. 

10:20 - What does mobility mean? Mobility is Toyota’s big focus as it transforms from an automaker to a mobility company. As Kellerman explains it, mobility isn’t just about the hardware that transports goods and people. When we think of mobility, it’s the mobility of people, goods, data and information and energy. Think about an autonomous robo-taxi: it’s moving a person, but it’s also connecting information of its surroundings. It’s also using energy and the charging station may also be autonomous. “We don’t want to just be a hardware manufacturer, but an entire ecosystem.”

12:46 - What is Kellerman's passion? Kellerman’s particularly passionate about the mobility of data and information. “When we think about technology and how we can make that more efficient, it comes down to data and information. If you think of Uber Eats, a delivery person may be using a bike, but they’re using a phone that’s giving them a route getting to a place quicker. It can notify them of the next pickup, and this is driven by software. So how can we take this software and bring new capabilities to the hardware? In many cases, it’s about sophisticated software unlocking new capabilities, like autonomous vehicles.” 

16:00 – AI isn't so scary when you think about is as an idea generator. Kellerman talks about artificial intelligence and how it’s used to create ideas but not execute on ideas. 

19:23 - Electrification focus. One of Toyota’s pillars is electrification in all its forms. Toyota has a significant presence in hybrid cars as well as hydrogen energy. By looking at electrification, Woven considers all aspects of the electricity value chain from the batteries to the virtual power plants that help cars recharge.   

22:04 - Ridecell investment. Kellerman talks about Woven's investment in Ridecell, which is actively working with a number of different divisions inside Toyota.  

25:00 - Intuition Robotics - another Woven Capital investment. This investment was initially an investment made by Toyota Ventures, the carmaker’s early-stage arm. The one reason for the growth investment was because the robotic company is designed to aid seniors in mobility. Intuition Robotics has a robot called ElliQ, similar to Siri or Alexa. But ElliQ is proactively asking the seniors how their day is going and what their needs are. For instance, ElliQ can ask their owner whether they took their medications or they can book a doctor’s appointment for them or order an Uber car or order food from DoorDash.

40:00 - Kellerman discusses Corvus Energy, a Norwegian company that was originally started as an installer of batteries inside small-to-mid sized ships. But now that Europe has put restrictions on diesel engines, Corvus has worked with Toyota Motor Europe’s hydrogen team to make hydrogen fuel cells. It’s now also working with shipbuilders. Toyota has been making hydrogen-run autos called the Mirai, hydrogen-fueled.

45:30 – What does Toyota look like 5-10 yrs from now? Tune in! 

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