Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to George Kellerman, Managing Director at Woven Capital.
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
Woven Capital is the $800 million corporate venture capital arm of Woven Planet, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Toyota Motor Corporation committed to developing the safest mobility on the planet. Woven Planet plays a leading role in accelerating Toyota’s transition from a global automobile manufacturer to a global mobility company, and Woven Capital aims to broaden Woven Planet’s global reach and accelerate innovation through partnerships with exceptional growth-stage ventures.
We define “mobility” broadly. It’s not only the movement of goods and people. It’s also the movement of information that’s required for the social and economic ecosystems that help anyone navigate their daily lives safely and securely. We consider a range of mobility-adjacent areas, from food delivery and robotics to logistics and smart cities. Sometimes a company’s greatest advantage is how it masters the intersection of related industries and technologies.
Woven Capital and Woven Planet share a goal: discovering and developing groundbreaking technologies that will help people all over the world lead happier, healthier, richer lives. And we do that by helping the brightest minds in technology — the entrepreneurs and innovators — bring their visions to life.
What inspired the name of the firm?
The inspiration for “Woven” comes from the earliest days of the company that is now Toyota. In the late 19th century, the prolific inventor and company founder, Sakichi Toyoda, developed an automated loom for weaving fabrics. Now we’re aiming to weave technologies into a better world for everyone.
What defines your portfolio?
When we think about the future of mobility, we know that Toyota produces world-class hardware that has earned trust the world over: primarily cars. Building on that, Woven Planet and Woven Capital are focused on developing software at the center of mobility. We’re acquiring the digital technologies that either fill gaps in our technology stack or that will provide skills and capabilities we don’t currently possess and that might take too long to develop in-house. We want to invest in companies capable of collaborating with us from Day 1. Two ready examples are Nuro and Ridecell.
Both examples illustrate our investment philosophy. When we back a startup, we don’t simply write a check and step away. We’re supporting our portfolio companies so they can access the full power of Woven Planet — from our technologists to business experts.
How has your firm evolved from its founding to today?
Our technology search criteria also continue to evolve. Given Woven Planet’s emphasis on the future of mobility, it might be easy to limit our horizons to technologies aimed specifically at moving people or goods from Point A to Point B. But mobility involves entire ecosystems of participants — manufacturers, logistics operators, payment systems and so on. And Woven Planet’s view of the future includes Woven City, a prototype for the cities of tomorrow, which involves social and economic structures much broader than what might typically come to mind when you say “mobility.”
There’s a sector grid diagram I like to use when I’m discussing our mission. It shows 12 separate sectors that we consider part of our purview, and mobility is only one of them. Others include energy, agriculture, education, smart homes, healthcare, payments and finance, and safety and security. It’s safe to say that as Woven Capital looks to bridge the hardware and software gaps in our company’s capabilities, we’ll be on the lookout for innovative technologies in any or all of those sectors — and more.
Why is your firm an NVCA member?
Venture capital drives the future of innovation. And the United States is the leader in VC investing — not only in innovating new ways to invest, but in creating a legal, regulatory and tax environment and ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs and investors. We support the NVCA’s mission of ensuring that the U.S. VC environment and ecosystem continues to thrive and meet the needs of investors and entrepreneurs.
We also value the great training, forums and networking opportunities the NVCA provides. Just as important, we actively encourage and support NVCA’s Venture Forward initiative for creating more diversity and inclusion in the VC industry.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
We believe that our investments should reflect the rich diversity of the global populations we aim to serve, so we are happy to invest wherever we can find the entrepreneurs and innovators whose vision of the future aligns with ours.
What’s ahead for your firm for the rest of the year?
We are still building our team, and we are looking for other professionals around the world to join our all-star team. (If you’re reading this and have the interest and experience, we’d love to hear from you!) And of course, Woven Capital will continue to be on the lookout for visionary entrepreneurs and innovators, wherever they are, who can partner with us and gain access to our open ecosystem and unsurpassed resources.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.
Create new value for society.