Tom LaSorda, former chief executive officer of Fisker Automotive Inc. and of the predecessor of Chrysler Group LLC, is starting a venture capital fund with racing mogul Roger Penske to invest in technology companies.
IncWell LP will provide seed capital of $50,000 to $250,000 to companies with a consumer and industrial focus, according to a statement today. The Birmingham, Michigan-based fund plans to target startups with new technology for clean energy, medical, health-care, transportation and information applications.
LaSorda, 58, was replaced as Fisker’s CEO in August 2012 by Tony Posawatz, a former head of General Motors Co.’s Volt plug-in hybrid program. Fisker is now seeking a buyer, after the Anaheim, California-based company in April fired most of its staff and missed its first federal loan payment. Fisker stopped making $103,000 plug-in Karma sedans last year.
“I’m not sure I would get into the electric-car space, unless I can get a good deal with Tesla” Motors Inc., LaSorda told reporters today on a conference call. “We’re betting on great people and great ideas. We would assume that nine out of 10 won’t make any money.”
IncWell will consider funding startups with breakthrough technologies that don’t yet have large cash needs, LaSorda said. Such requests will come from entrepreneurs who say they have developed technologies “in my garage, I’ve done them at this university, this thing works, now I need money to advance it to the next level,” he said.
“We’re a startup, a seed, an angel-kind of investing,” LaSorda said. “We’re not into the stage two or stage three levels where companies are coming in needing $1 million, $2 million to help launch a technology.”
LaSorda served as Fisker’s chief for less than six months. He is a manufacturing specialist who was a Chrysler executive from 2000 to 2009, when it went through a U.S.-government-sponsored bankruptcy and was taken over by Turin, Italy-based Fiat SpA. Before that, LaSorda was an executive at GM.
He said IncWell would not invest in another company founded by Henrik Fisker, who started his eponymous maker of luxury hybrid plug-in cars in 2007 and resigned from it in March because of disagreements with other company executives.
LaSorda said that if Fisker Automotive can avoid bankruptcy, finding a buyer “would be the smartest strategy.”
“It sounds like they’ve got interested parties and I’m glad they did because I want to get my money back out of that investment,” LaSorda said. “Knowing some of the guys that are the big investors, private-equity funds that are involved in Fisker are very, very good and very sharp, I think that would be the No. 1 strategy for them.”