What BMW i Ventures Wants: Mobility


“BMW is a mobile company, and everything we’ve done and do is about mobility,” Edward Robinson, president of BMW’s recently launched $100 million venture fund i Ventures, told me in an interview recently. At first blush, the description seems more fitting for Nokia (s NOK) or even Facebook but, yeah, OK, in the strictest sense of the word, car companies are about people on the move.

Robinson tells me BMW will be focusing its entire fund — the first one launched by BMW — on mobile apps and mobile technology. That’s a different approach to what GM is looking to do with its newly-launched, $100 million venture fund GM Ventures. GM Ventures is investing in overall car and electric vehicle technology from the battery to in-car wireless technology to biofuels.

Robinson tells me BMW is interested in mobile technology including the convergence of media and devices in cars, helping BMW customers navigate traffic and find parking spots in urban areas, enable BMW customers to save time while on the go, and ultimately use mobile to strengthen BMW’s brand. It’s fitting then that BMW’s first $5 million investment is into mobile app developer MyCityWay.

MyCityWay is a mobile location-based app that bundles individual applications together and enables users to find destinations around the city like the closest Wi-Fi cafe and purchase local goods and services like tickets to a play (download the app for iPhone here). Robinson tells me BMW found MyCityWay attractive because the company built a way to bring micro apps together to deliver a series of services for users and the app is customizable for each user.

Car companies are increasingly turning to mobile apps as a way to extend their brands outside the cars themselves, as a way to connect drivers to the coming wave of electric cars that need to be charged up at charging stations, and as a way to link consumers in cars to their digital media (music, web, etc). To learn more about the intersection between cell phones and EVs (and connected cars) come to GreenNet 2011 on April 21 in San Francisco.

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