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Prime mobility VCs on the dangers and rewards in partnering with giants like Amazon – TechCrunch

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At our latest TechCrunch Mobility occasion, we spoke with Amy Gu, the founder and managing associate of Hemi Ventures, Olaf Sakkers, a founding associate at Maniv Mobility and Reilly Brennan, the founding normal associate at Vehicles VC. We mentioned a variety of issues, from frayed U.S.-China relations, to the mobility business’s keen embrace of SPACs as a solution 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 pal or foe.

Our sense from the VCs is that mobility startups not have a alternative however to associate with greater 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 prompt 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 have been working on this planet with obvious plans to stay unbiased, together with self-driving software program startups Cruise Automation and NuTonomy.

As we speak, Cruise is now a subsidiary of GM, and NuTonomy sold to automotive provider Delphi 4 years after it launched. “In case you have been to [launch] a structured robo-taxi service immediately, it’s actually exhausting to do with no large manufacturing associate,” mentioned Brennan. Certainly, he went on to notice that final December, Toyota Motor Corp. led a $50 million Collection B spherical in Might Mobility, advising attendees to “keep tuned” for the fruits of that partnership.

Gu agrees the “associate construction” is the trail ahead for startups and throughout the occasion cited quite a few explanation why, together with the truth that most of the bigger firms within the automotive house have continued work practically apace throughout the pandemic. She pointed to one in every of Hemi’s portfolio firms, Ample, a startup engaged on a battery-swapping expertise that not too long ago introduced a partnership with Uber (which has dedicated to changing into a zero-emission platform by 2040).