26 – 100 in alphabetical order by company: Hiroshi Saijou, vice-president of business development and strategy of Woven Planet Holdings (Woven Planet) and director of Woven Alpha, and George Kellerman, head of investments and acquisitions, Woven Capital, Jim Adler, founding managing director and board member, Toyota Ventures
In September 2020, Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development (TRI-AD), a subsidiary of Japan-based automotive manufacturer Toyota, added an $800m global growth-stage investment fund called Woven Capital. The firm already runs an early-stage, artificial intelligence (AI)-oriented corporate venturing unit, Toyota Ventures (formerly Toyota AI Ventures), which is led by founding managing director and board member Jim Adler.
Developed by Hiroshi Saijou, vice-president of business development and strategy of Woven Planet, and George Kellerman, head of investments and acquisitions of Woven Capital, which had both expanded from TRI-AD in in early 2021, Woven Capital will invest in innovative technologies and business models in areas such as autonomous mobility, automation, AI, machine learning, data and analytics, connectivity and smart cities.
TRI-AD was launched in 2018 to create world-class technology and build the safest car in the world by strengthening coordination with the research results of Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and research and advanced development within the Toyota Group. It was also responsible to oversee the formation of Toyota’s Woven City as an incubator for smart city design, connected mobility and robotics technology from Toyota and its partners. It began expanding and transitioning its operations into a holding company, Woven Planet Holdings, two operating companies – Woven Core and Woven Alpha – and Woven Capital itself, in January 2021.
Saijou also oversees Woven Alpha as director, where he is in charge of the overall business plan while delivering long-term strategic value through partnership development and investment.
In addition to sourcing early-stage deals from Toyota Ventures, Woven Capital will also make commitments to other VC funds.
Toyota Ventures targets developers of AI, robotics, autonomous mobility, data and cloud technology. It attempts to find ways for the carmaker to go “inwards” to find new technologies and business models that might impact its performance over time.
James Kuffner, CEO of TRI-AD at that time, said: “Woven Capital’s investments will enable us to weave together a global portfolio of partners and technologies that will deliver long-term value to our customers, stakeholders and society. Woven Capital will also enable us to make growth-stage investments in companies in the Toyota Ventures portfolio as they look to raise additional capital.”
Previously, Saijou focused on robotics software development at Yamaha Motor’s robotics business unit. For more than four years since 2015 as a founding member and chief executive, he helped form its corporate venturing unit Yamaha Motor Ventures and Laboratory Silicon Valley (YMVSV).
Kellerman, on the other hand, first held chief operating officer and general partner roles for four years from YMVSV’s inception until 2019 when he took up CEO and managing director positions. He was one of the first five employees who helped launched YMVSV.
Before becoming CEO, Kellerman led Yamaha’s robotics and automation strategy for the horticulture industry. He led the team that created Yamaha Motor Exploratory Fund, the firm’s $100m fund for areas such as agtech, medtech, aerotech, mobility and sustainability.
Adler had joined TRI in May 2016 from software provider Microsoft following its acquisition of Metanautix, where he had led products and marketing. Metanautix was a big data analytics startup funded by Sequoia Capital and Workday.