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. And his deals are starting to attract the right sort of attention to Magna.
In March, Magna International agreed to invest $200m in US-based ride hailing service Lyft as part of a multi-year strategic collaboration deal.
Founded in 2012, Lyft has established itself as the second largest on-demand ride platform in the US, behind Uber, and recently entered its first international market in Toronto, Canada. The Magna funding values the company at $11.7bn. according to the Financial Times.
The partnership will involve the companies making joint investments in the development and manufacturing of autonomous driving systems. Lyft is already working on and testing driverless car technology and has established a dedicated research centre in Silicon Valley.
Magna will bring its expertise on in-car systems, vehicular safety, driver assistance technology and manufacturing to the partnership while Lyft will contribute its existing technology and driver data. They have also agreed to share intellectual property.
The investment will bring Lyft’s total funding to about $3.8bn, with other shareholders including car makers General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover, which invested $500m and $25m respectively, and ride hailing service Didi Chuxing.
Swamy Kotagiri, chief technology officer of Magna, of the deal said: “There is a new mobility landscape emerging and partnerships like this put us at the forefront of this change.
“Lyft’s leadership in ride sharing and Magna’s automotive expertise makes this strategic partnership ideal to effect a positive change as a new transportation ecosystem unfolds.”
But Lyft is the outlier for Magna, with most of its deals being similar to its backing of Zubie, which is a device-agnostic platform that can collect data from anything and whose CEO presented at the Global Corporate Venturing and Innovation Summit in January.
For last year’s GCV Powerlist award, 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.”
While not a financial-only investor, Magna has already had positive exits. Israel-based connected automotive security software developer Argus Cyber Security, in November agreed to an acquisition by automotive components producer Continental.
Financial terms were not disclosed but local media reports last month suggested the deal would value Argus at approximately $400m having raised about $30m.
In April last year US-based automated car technology developer Peloton Technology raised $60m in its series B round including Magna and a host of other strategic and financial investors showing that while the portfolio company connects trucks, Magna led by Simmons in ventures for the past six years is often the connective tissue between investors.
Simmons had previously been at various roles at Magna Steyr North America in Troy, Michigan, since 2003 having joined the company after four years at Porsche.
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