The top 50: Kent Helfrich, president, GM Ventures

Kent Helfrich was named vice-president and chief technology officer at General Motors (GM) as well as president of its corporate venturing subsidiary, GM Ventures, in August 2021.

Helfrich replaced Matthew Tsien, who retired after his 45-year career at GM. At the time of his appointment, GM president Mark Reuss said: “With Kent’s background and experience, he is uniquely positioned to help bring innovation and technology solutions into our vehicles, manufacturing facilities and operations.”

Prior to taking on his current role, Helfrich was GM’s executive director of global electrification and battery systems, responsible for electrified vehicle hardware development and overall electric vehicle propulsion calibration and driving performance.

As the president of GM Ventures, Helfrich leads a team responsible for identifying strategic investments in start-up companies that share GM’s vision of a world of zero emissions, zero crashes and zero congestion. As a strategic investor, GM Ventures helps portfolio companies bring innovative technologies to market while helping them achieve scale.

Formed in 2010, GM Ventures has made over 50 investments including 22 exits. Today, the unit has more than 20 active portfolio companies from around the world. GM Ventures has a global presence with offices across the US in Detroit, Michigan, Silicon Valley and California as well as in Canada and Israel.

Its recent deals include participation in the $11m series A round for Soelect, a developer of fast-charging lithium-metal battery components for electric vehicles, and as well as Oculii, a company that specialises in virtual aperture imaging, which has since been acquired by Ambarella.