Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Jaguar Land Rover Places Latest Automaker Bet on Israel Car Tech

  • Parts maker Valeo also a limited partner in $40 million fund
  • Maniv Mobility to invest in autonomy, connected-car startups

Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar Land Rover is putting money into an Israeli venture capital fund exclusively targeting mobility startups, the latest in a parade of automakers shopping in the country for new technology to ward off disruption.

Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate venture arm, InMotion Ventures, was one of five strategic investors to put money into a $40 million fund raised by Maniv Mobility LP, a Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm focused on auto technology. French car-parts supplier Valeo SA also invested, as did OurCrowd Ltd., an online crowd-funding platform that invests mostly in Israeli startups.

Known for its cybersecurity and chipmaking prowess, Israel is now teeming with automakers and suppliers in search of innovations to help the car industry keep up with Silicon Valley. Daimler AG opened a global R&D center in Tel Aviv in November, and Honda Motor Co. and Volvo Car Group partnered on a “mobility incubator” there in February. Intel Corp.’s $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye NV announced in March raised the profile of Israeli tech in the auto industry, as did Alphabet Inc.’s $1.1 billion purchase of mapping application Waze in 2013, said Mike Granoff, founder of Maniv Mobility.

“The biggest surprise for me was the interest from strategic investors,” said Granoff, who doubled the initial amount he planned to raise a year ago because of interest from the auto industry and investors. “At the beginning, the idea of investing in an Israel-based mobility fund sounded obscure, and by the end, it sounded clichéd.”

Israeli auto-tech companies raised a record $586 million last year, triple the previous year, though that increase was mostly driven by a single large investment in ride-hailing startup Gett Inc., according to IVC Research Center, which tracks the market. Without the Gett deal, investment would have jumped 48 percent from the prior year.

Jaguar’s InMotion Ventures, which started in London last April, has done 12 deals in the last six months, said Sebastian Peck, managing director of the fund. Maniv will be JLR’s on-the-ground presence in Israel to get early access to startups and create an option for acquisitions down the road, he said.

The Maniv fund will focus on startups working on autonomous driving, connected cars and vehicle data, Granoff said. Its existing portfolio companies include Otonomo, which is backed by Delphi Automotive Plc, and Cognata Ltd., which helps speed development of self-driving technology by allowing automakers to simulate driving using artificial intelligence.

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