GM Drives Into the VC Industry

Shannon Beeman
April 21, 2011

General Motors made its foray into the VC arena with the launch of General Motors Ventures, LLC in June 2010. Focused in five key areas – automotive cleantech, infotainment, smart materials, value chain/alternative business models, and other automotive technologies – the automaker’s VC arm looks to invest $3-5 million dollars into early-stage startups. It currently has two Michigan-based companies in its portfolio. Ann Arbor-based Sakti3, a University of Michigan spin-out, develops solid-state battery technology and attracted a $3.2 million investment by GM Ventures because of its potential contribution to electric vehicles such as the Chevy Volt. A $5 million investment into Commerce Township-based Powermat was announced in January; that company develops technology for electric devices to be charged wirelessly. “Our goal is to invest in products that can provide innovative technologies, future technologies for our vehicles and our customers,” said Managing Director Sherwin Prior. “We continue to try to be a driver of moving the Michigan economy forward, and helping GM design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles.”

This year will be GM Ventures’ first at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, and Prior is excited that the firm will offer a unique perspective at the event. “GM has always supported the University of Michigan and other state universities,” he said. “We’re interested in participating this year because there’s going to be a discussion on electric vehicles. GM Ventures President Jon Lauckner was very much a part of the Volt coming to market, so we thought it would be great for people to get a perspective from GM, especially as an expert in that area. We’re excited about participating.”

Prior said he is looking to foster relationships at the Symposium. “We’re actively seeking to foster strong relationships, especially with the venture capital community, as well as university tech transfer offices,” he said. “We’re looking to form strong partnerships, and we hope the Symposium really helps to foster those.”