BMW’s Aggressive Tech Strategy Embraces Startups

BMW’s Aggressive Tech Strategy Embraces Startups

Perhaps no industry has been impacted by the new world technology economy than the auto industry. Automakers face two looming competitive threats from the technology sector; ride-sharing startups and Silicon Valley companies including Google, Apple, and Tesla, developing their own high-tech vehicles.


The Startup Garage


BMW’s strategy to remain competitive technologically is to mentor and partner with startups creating innovative technology for transportation. This idea is embodied in a program the German automaker launched last year, the BMW Startup Garage.

Located in Munich, the Startup Garage solicits later-stage startups. Many come from accelerators such as YCombinator.

The program pairs startups with BMW internal contacts. The four-month program requires that the startup builds a functional prototype of its product. Selected startups can exclusively target the automotive industry or have a product that benefits the industry.

Matthias Meyer, one of the founders and heads of the BMW Startup Garage emphasizes that the program is not looking to invest in startups. He says the effort is a Venture Client approach, “not Venture Capital.”

“We approach startups as we do suppliers,” says Meyer. BMW does not hold equity in these startups.


Who can Apply? 


Startups from all over the world are invited to apply to the program. The program takes place in Munich, however. Munich is home to BMW’s global headquarters and is also where the luxury automaker’s R&D center is located.

After a startup completes the program, the goal is for BMW to become a long-term client. According to Meyer, entry into the program is not a guarantee that BMW will use the startup’s product in its auto line. Startups are also connected with BMW’s suppliers if they want to develop, manufacture, and/or sell their technology through an established supplier.

We’re looking for good startups and not good inventors,” explains Meyer in a BMW blog post. “Anyone thinking of applying needs to bring along not just a great idea but a great team as well. After all, only a top-flight team can make ideas work successfully.”