Bosch increases investment in startups

Peter De Troch >

Robert Bosch Venture Capital launches Fund IV with 200 million euros

  • Artificial intelligence: RBVC has a stake in three of the most promising AI startups worldwide
  • Bosch CEO Denner: “We aim to foster technologies in areas of future relevance and boost our innovative strength”
  • Bosch collaborates with startups on open innovation projects
Start-ups Bosch

Stuttgart – Investments in startups are on the rise. In 2017, institutional investors and companies invested 147 billion euros in these enterprises – nearly three times as much as in 2012. Bosch, too, is increasing its investment in external startups, providing Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC) with 200 million euros for a fourth fund. “Shaping the future also means recognizing good ideas early on and helping them achieve a breakthrough. As a leading IoT company, we want to drive forward select technologies in areas of future relevance, such as artificial intelligence,” explains Dr. Volkmar Denner, CEO of Robert Bosch GmbH. RBVC currently has a stake in three of the most promising artificial intelligence (AI) startups worldwide: DeepMap, Graphcore, and Syntiant. “We not only invest in startups, we also collaborate with them on open innovation projects. This is one way in which we boost our innovative strength.” Open innovation is a concept that brings together customers, researchers, suppliers, and partners and integrates them into a company’s innovation activities. RBVC, one of Europe’s largest corporate investors, specializes in innovative technology startups. Its portfolio includes more than 35 companies active in autonomous driving, AI, the internet of things (IoT), and even distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain.

Open innovation: exploiting technology trends at an early stage

Each year, experts from RBVC examine over 2,000 startups, but only around a hundred of these make it to the shortlist. “We invest in six to ten carefully selected companies each year. In addition to capital, we also offer know-how and operational support. We also connect startups with Bosch operating units,” says RBVC managing director Philipp Rose. These alliances benefit the fledgling companies as well as Bosch itself. Startups get the opportunity to become a supplier, technology partner, or even customer of Bosch. Bosch, in turn, receives early access to the latest technologies and can incorporate them into its own innovations. “Open innovation is a win-win for startups and Bosch alike,” Rose says. “It also lets us ensure that the startup’s expertise stays in the startup.” Bosch currently collaborates with more than one hundred companies on open innovation projects.

Portfolio: unicorns and successful exits

Sunnyvale (U.S.), Frankfurt and Stuttgart (Germany), Tel Aviv (Israel), and Shanghai (China): RBVC maintains a presence in technology hotspots around the world through its own locations and contact persons. “We are a global investor that is active at the local level,” says Dr. Ingo Ramesohl, managing director and executive vice president of technology at RBVC. “We are directly involved on the ground, and we know the markets. At the same time, we offer the startups a global network, since we invest only in companies relevant to Bosch’s business.”

RBVC’s portfolio comprises thriving companies operating in areas such as machine learning, semiconductor development, and the IoT. One example is British processor company Graphcore, which produces AI components designed to accelerate machine learning. In 2018, the company closed the largest venture capital funding round in Europe and is currently valued at 1.7 billion dollars. “We have been supporting Graphcore since its initial financing round, not only financially, but also with our network and expertise,” Ramesohl says. Another recipient of early-stage RBVC investment was Sensoro, which today is the leading supplier of urban IoT solutions in China. A third example is the U.S. company DeepMap, which produces highly accurate maps for autonomous vehicles.

Like every other institutional venture capitalist, RBVC ultimately aims to sell its stake in a startup at a profit. For instance, Intel acquired Movidius, a manufacturer of processor chips for computer vision, and cybersecurity expert SecurityMatters is now part of ForeScout Technologies, a provider of network security.

Tags: startup

About Bosch

Bosch has been present in the Netherlands since 1903. The Bosch Group employs approximately 3,700 associates in the Netherlands. Major manufacturing facilities are located in Tilburg, Boxtel & Deventer.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 403,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2019). According to preliminary figures, the company generated sales of 77.9 billion euros in 2019. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT company, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, smart cities, connected mobility, and connected manufacturing. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiary and regional companies in 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At 125 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 72,000 associates in research and development.

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861–1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

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