The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Ian Simmons, Magna International
With $32bn in revenues last year, Magna International, global automotive supplier, is probably the largest company you have never heard of – unless you are in the automotive industry. Its clients range from Aston Martin to Ford and just about everyone in between. Its product range is equally diverse, from electronics to chassis, drive trains and seating. The chances are that many, if not most, of the parts of the car you drive were made by Magna.
It manufactures at more than 312 sites globally, employing 155,000 people. Ian Simmons, who began his automotive career as a mechanical engineer with Ford in the UK nearly 40 years ago, is charged with running Magna’s “all-tech” venturing strategy, which is designed to keep it in the vanguard of automotive design and manufacturing.
Simmons said: “We are looking at early-stage technologies that could complement or enhance Magna’s current product portfolio. So we are a strategic partner not a financial investor. And bearing in mind that we have a very wide product range, our appetite for new technology is very broad. In addition, we look outside the automotive industry because innovations we may need are just as likely to be found in medical, aerospace and software. I want the venturing and innovation world to understand that Magna is an active player in the transformation of the vehicle and the automotive landscape in general.
“Many of the light-weighting composite technology and materials used by the automotive industry today came initially from aerospace. The biometric security technologies that we are increasingly exploring came initially from the medical industry. And as connectivity increases in transportation, the technology required for cybersecurity and the effective use of big data is coming from the software industry. We are now an all-tech industry and Magna has an all-tech venturing strategy.
“We manufacture all over the world so we have a global footprint which we have used to cultivate relationships with the best universities, venture funds, startup community and accelerators, and even with individual innovators. We have invested alongside other VCs and accelerators to increase dealflow. For example, we recently backed companies in Israel, Canada and the US.
“We also seek innovation internally, not just through traditional R&D, but by challenging our employees to generate new business and technology ideas. And we co-invest too of course. We are increasing our venturing efforts.
“There will be 50 billion items connected to the internet by 2020 and this creates big security challenges. A lot of personal information will be going through your car. We invested in Argus Cyber Security because car users will expect their vehicles to be protected from cyberattack just like their other smart devices. We believe that Argus is the world leader in this field. We also invested in Zubie because it is a pioneer in adding connectivity to the whole automotive supply chain, which is going to impact us very directly.
“Another investment is with Peloton, a company leading the way in introducing autonomy to transportation, starting with trucks and haulage. We do not manufacture extensively for trucks, but by investing in Peloton we can learn how autonomy is likely to be adopted in mobility overall.
“The venture firms we have backed extend our pipeline of potential investments and provide a window on innovation across several industries.”
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