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Top mobility VCs on the risks and rewards in partnering with giants like Amazon – TechCrunch

At our current PJDM Mobility occasion, we spoke with Amy Gu, the founder and managing accomplice of Hemi Ventures, Olaf Sakkers, a founding accomplice at Maniv Mobility and Reilly Brennan, the founding normal accomplice at Vans VC. We mentioned a variety of issues, from frayed U.S.-China relations, to the mobility trade’s keen embrace of SPACs as a technique to get capital-intensive companies into the general public market.

We additionally talked partnerships. Particularly, we needed to know the way one determines whether or not a company leviathan that asks for info from a younger startup — and possibly even invests in it — can be a buddy or foe.

Our sense from the VCs is that mobility startups not have a selection however to accomplice with larger and deeper-pocketed firms.

For instance, Brennan wrote one of many first checks to autonomous shuttle firm May Mobility and have become its first board member. He recommended that the corporate, which has confronted quite a few engineering and operational challenges, had ambitions of going it alone when it was based in 2017. On the time, different firms had been working on the planet with obvious plans to stay impartial, together with self-driving software program startups Cruise Automation and NuTonomy.

Right now, Cruise is now a subsidiary of GM, and NuTonomy sold to automotive provider Delphi 4 years after it launched. “Should you had been to [launch] a structured robo-taxi service at the moment, it’s actually laborious to do with no massive manufacturing accomplice,” mentioned Brennan. Certainly, he went on to notice that final December, Toyota Motor Corp. led a $50 million Collection B spherical in Could Mobility (advising attendees to “keep tuned” for the fruits of that partnership).

Gu mentioned the “accomplice construction” is the trail ahead for startups and in the course of the occasion cited quite a few the reason why, together with the truth that lots of the bigger firms within the automotive area have continued work almost apace in the course of the pandemic. She pointed to one in all Hemi’s portfolio firms, Ample, a startup engaged on a battery-swapping know-how which just lately introduced a partnership with Uber (which has dedicated to changing into a zero-emission platform by 2040).

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Connie Loizos