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Multinationals Venture into Startup Investing


Bosch
Fund: Robert Bosch Venture Capital
Established: 2007, Stuttgart
 
The conglomerate backs startups in industries ranging from miniature projection systems to health care and new materials. Last March it led an investment in Pittsburgh mobile-robotics developer Aethon.
 
Citigroup
Citi Ventures
Moved to Palo Alto, Calif., 2010
 
Its sweet spot is location-based mobile technology, data and analytics tools, and alternative lenders. Citi invested in shopping app maker Shopkick last year and is testing the technology in bank branches in the Palo Alto area.
 
General Mills
General Mills Ventures
2010, Minneapolis
 
Focused on investing in ingredient technology, emerging food brands, and digital media. The group’s manager, Meredith Schwarz, says the company started soliciting proposals for technologies as prosaic as pouch packaging and pumps on its website last year.
 
Best Buy
Best Buy Capital
2007, Minneapolis
 
In June it participated in a $12.3 million funding round for Zeo, a developer of sleep-tracking technology. The electronics retailer is also testing demand for electric vehicle charging stations and home energy management systems by stocking them in select stores.
 
Adidas
Hydra Ventures
2011, Amsterdam
 
Focused on seed investments in apparel brands. Its website touts “financing terms that seek to minimize the adversarial negotiation element.”
 
BMW
BMW IVentures
2011, New York
 
Rather than limit investments to vehicles, it’s betting on technologies that individuals can use to navigate cities. Its first investment, the MyCityWay smartphone app, is designed for individuals on foot or using public transportation.

Nick-leiber_75x75
Leiber is Small Business editor for Businessweek.com, Entrepreneurs editor for Bloomberg.com, and covers small business for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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