Bernhard Schambeck is head of the BMW Startup Garage, the company’s own venture client unit. In this blog post, he talks about why startups are so important for the BMW Group and what is unique about the BMW Startup Garage’s approach.
Startups have a tremendous capacity for innovation – as the facts confirm: In 2018, a total of 230 billion US dollars’ worth of risk capital was invested in startup companies worldwide. There are currently around 1.6 million tech start-ups around the globe. Of course, the BMW Group has always brought strong innovations to the road. But in these changing times for our industry, it would be frankly irresponsible to rely on our own innovative capabilities alone.
Since 2015, the BMW Startup Garage has forged a link between the BMW Group’s specialist divisions and startups. We seek out start-up innovations that deliver real benefits for our products, services, systems or processes, based on the “venture client” model. What does that mean exactly? In the early phase, startups often don’t have a marketable product. We purposely engage these young firms in this still very risky phase – hence the name “venture client”. In other words, the BMW Group becomes the startup’s customer. The startups then provide us with a functional prototype we can use to implement joint pilot projects.
The benefit for us lies in early access to innovations and customised adaptation of technology before it is ready to market. The startups gain insights into automotive processes and are able to build a network within the company. We help them refine their business plan, so they can break into the automotive industry more easily.
Through relevant startup conferences and our Technology Offices in Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and soon also Tel Aviv, we connect with the best start-ups worldwide. In this way, we establish contact with more than 1,500 young technology companies every year and evaluate their potential for use cases within our company. If there’s a good match, our programme kicks in and provides support for the start-ups in the four categories: Build, Sell, Network and Learn. More than 50 startups have already gone through our programme to date.
Our searches are guided by our technology trend-radar, which the Research, New Technologies, Innovations division compiles every year. Topics include sensor technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, battery technology, smart materials, natural user interfaces and smart logistics, among many others.
Working at the BMW Startup Garage is a lot of fun, especially with our young, motivated team. What a huge privilege it is to work every day with exciting innovations that could potentially take their specific area of technology to the next level or even revolutionise it! Many startup innovations in our pilot projects are so exciting and visionary, it is really hard not to reveal more about them. But I look forward to the day when more of these projects will find their way into our everyday lives.
Head of the BMW Startup Garage Bernhard Schambeck has worked at BMW for more than 20 years. After various roles in series development at BMW and MINI, he first got involved with technology scouting at the Palo Alto Technology Office (now Mountain View). He also tried his luck as an entrepreneur – with a craft-brewery he set up himself during a six-month sabbatical. The brewery is still going strong, but Schambeck is now focusing full-time on his job with BMW Startup Garage.