Based in Silicon Valley, Toyota AI Ventures is Toyota’s first standalone early-stage venture capital fund. We invest in startups from around the world in the areas of artificial intelligence, autonomy, mobility, robotics, data and cloud.
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Who We Are
Technical Advisory Committee
Leveraging the deep technical expertise and global resources of Toyota, our mission is to help early-stage startups bring disruptive technologies and business models to market quickly. The entrepreneurs who partner with us receive much more than money. We believe their success is our success, and we support them every step of their journey while giving them the freedom and flexibility they need to experiment and grow their businesses.
Work With Us
We look for innovators who have the courage and tenacity to tackle important challenges we have yet to solve. It’s the same spirit of innovation that inspired Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda and his team to devote themselves to transforming Toyota from a loom maker to an automotive manufacturer in the 1930’s. And it is this same vision that continues to drive Toyota today.
Armed with an initial $100 million to invest, Toyota AI Ventures will seek companies that are taking on challenging research…”
The goal is to accelerate the pace of getting critical new technologies to market.”
Toyota is merging brilliance with a big budget by funding some new cutting-edge technology.”
Bob WolfeBoard Member
Bob Wolfe has more than 30 years of experience in investment banking, finance, and investment management. Since 2008, he has been the principal of Windy Point, LLC, a private investment and strategic consulting firm. He is currently chairman of Red Lion Hotels Corporation, and a board member of Symetra, Inc.
From 2002 to 2008, he was a partner at Northwest Venture Associates (NWVA), a venture capital fund that invested exclusively in companies based in the Pacific Northwest. Prior to his time at NWVA, Bob was president and chief operating officer of Toronto-based GT Group Telecom, which was Canada’s largest independent local exchange carrier.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Pacific Lutheran University.
Gill PrattBoard Member
Dr. Gill Pratt is the chief executive officer of Toyota Research Institute, a research and development enterprise designed to bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development. He also serves as the executive technical advisor to Toyota Motor Corporation.
Dr. Pratt joined Toyota from the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where he served as a program manager in the Defense Sciences Office. Prior to that, he was a professor and the associate dean of faculty affairs and research at Franklin W. Olin College.
He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was an associate professor and director of the Leg Lab.
Jim AdlerManaging Director and Board Member
Jim Adler is the founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, and an executive advisor at Toyota Research Institute (TRI). He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Toyota Financial Savings Bank and the Investment Committee of JetBlue Technology Ventures, and he is a former member of the Department of Homeland Security Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.
Jim joined Toyota AI Ventures from TRI, where he served as vice president of data and business development. Prior to that, Jim was vice president of products and marketing at Metanautix, a big data analytics startup funded by Sequoia Capital and Workday that was acquired by Microsoft.
Previously, Jim was the vice president of data systems and chief privacy officer at Intelius, which was acquired by H.I.G. Capital. In addition, he founded VoteHere, a pioneer in cryptographic secure and secret online voting for public elections that was funded by Cisco and HP, among others. Jim started his career as a rocket engineer for Lockheed Martin.
He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with high honors from the University of Florida, and a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, San Diego.
Kelly KayBoard Member
Kelly Kay is the chief finance officer at Toyota Research Institute (TRI), responsible for finance, human resources, IT, legal/compliance, facilities, and overall operations. Kelly joined TRI in February 2017 and formerly served as the chief operating officer.
Prior to TRI, Kelly served as the vice president of business operations at Lyft, Inc., where she built and led the teams responsible for regulatory compliance, audit & reporting, payments & fraud, and airport operations. She also served as the chief operating officer and president of YapStone, Inc. Prior to serving as an operational leader, she was an attorney for more than 19 years, working at companies such as MasterCard, eBay, PayPal and J.P. Morgan (previously Banc One).
She attended The Ohio State University and Capital University Law School where she graduated summa cum laude.
Natalie Fonseca LicciardiOperating Partner, VP of Platform & Marketing, and Head of Diversity & Inclusion
Natalie Fonseca Licciardi is an operating partner and vice president of platform and marketing at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, including portfolio management, diversity and inclusion initiatives, marketing and communications, and business management. She is a key member of the executive team, helping to define and refine the firm’s strategy.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Natalie consulted with the Toyota Research Institute on data policy and governance. She was also founder and CEO of SageScape, a boutique events and marketing agency specializing in the technology industry, and co-founder and executive producer of Tech Policy Summit and Privacy Identity Innovation. She has worked with several tech startups and media companies, including Vox Media where she served as head of conference development and marketing, and Recode where she led marketing and audience development.
She received a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Masa YamatoSenior Advisor
A member of the senior management team in Toyota Motor Corporation’s (TMC) New Business Planning division, Masa Yamato serves as a senior advisor to Toyota AI Ventures. His primary responsibilities include supporting the managing director on coordination with TMC, and working with the platform team to assist portfolio companies as they engage with TMC and other Toyota group companies.
Masa is also a senior advisor at Toyota Research Institute. He has 20 years of experience working at Toyota in a variety of areas, including corporate strategy, M&A and strategic partnerships, production planning and human resources/organization management. He originally joined TMC to work on the research and development of novel, cutting-edge materials for automotive applications.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree from Osaka University, a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg School of Management, and a master’s of engineering management degree from McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Northwestern University.
Chris AbshireSenior Associate
Chris Abshire is a senior associate at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for sourcing startups, evaluating opportunities, negotiating, and closing investments.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Chris was on the investment team at Fenox Venture Capital, where he led the U.S. due diligence process and market research activities. He also was executive director of the firm’s Startup World Cup event, a platform that created innovation opportunities for startup ecosystems around the world.
He received a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Kansas, where he received the CPE Outstanding Academic Achievement Award for graduating at the top of his class.
Darren SmithSenior Finance Manager
Darren is the senior finance manager at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for management of funds, portfolio valuation, and other business operations.
Darren joins Toyota AI Ventures from a finance and accounting consulting role at The Siegfried Group, where he assisted clients with financial due diligence for a variety of acquisitions. He also led merger and acquisition integration work and provided divestiture support, reporting to the management team. Previously, he held roles in Deloitte’s M&A Transaction Services group, and PwC’s Audit and Assurance group.
He received a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Alberta and holds his Chartered Accountant and Chartered Professional Accountant designations.
Marilyn ConlanExecutive Assistant
Marilyn Conlan is executive assistant to Jim Adler, and is responsible for managing scheduling and ensuring that Toyota AI Ventures runs smoothly on a daily basis.
Previously, Marilyn worked at a private equity firm in San Francisco, and at a hedge fund and asset management fund in New York City. Prior to working in finance, she held several roles in the non-profit sector, including as an executive director with Habitat for Humanity and a community organizer with Catholic Charities. Several of the programs she helped to establish and fund are still serving communities in New York and Washington.
She received a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University, and a master’s degree in communication from Washington State University.
Abraham AnapolskyManager, Accelerated Materials Design and Discovery
Abraham Anapolsky serves as manager for Accelerated Materials Design and Discovery (AMDD) at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), where he is leading an effort to address the 21st century challenge of increasingly complex technical materials using active learning and machine intelligence.
Abraham has been active in industrial research and development for 15 years, starting as a materials analyst at Applied Materials. His focus has been on materials for energy technologies, in PV manufacturing, Li-ion and solid state batteries, low-E coatings, and permanent magnet development.
He received his bachelor’s degree in physics at San Francisco State University, and a master’s degree and doctorate in materials science and mineral engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
Max BajracharyaVP, Robotics
Max Bajracharya is vice president of robotics at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), where he leads TRI’s robotics effort to develop fundamentally new robotics capabilities to enable robots to empower, amplify, and improve the quality of life of people in an increasingly aging society. Previously, he was a director of robotics at TRI, leading the mobile manipulation technology team.
Prior to joining TRI, Max worked at Google Robotics, where he was the autonomy technical team lead for a confidential robotics project at X, Alphabet’s “moonshot factory.” He was also the software technical team lead and system architect for a confidential mobile manipulation consumer robot project, and the perception lead for Boston Dynamics’ quadruped and humanoid robots, while part of Google.
Prior to joining Google, Max was a member of technical staff and group leader of the computer vision group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech. His initial focus was on developing advanced autonomous technology for the Mars rovers, which were used on the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover and 2011 Mars Science Laboratory missions.
He received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Tiffany ChenManager, Human Machine Interaction Research
Tiffany Chen currently manages the Toyota Research Institute’s (TRI) Human Machine Interaction Research (HMIR) group, which is comprised of designers, researchers, and engineers. HMIR seeks to understand how multi-modal interactions with drivers can enhance the performance of TRI’s Chauffeur and Guardian driving systems.
Prior to joining TRI, Tiffany worked for Toyota North America and served as the human-robot interaction research lead to develop a wearable computer vision device to help enhance the situation awareness of blind people while navigating.
She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University, where she specialized in computer-integrated surgery. She received her doctoral degree in robotics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she specialized in haptics and manipulation in the context of assisting older adults and people with severe motor impairments.
Adrien GaidonSenior Research Scientist
Adrien Gaidon is a senior research scientist and the manager of the machine learning team at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), working on open problems in world-scale learning for autonomous driving.
Adrien has over a decade of experience in academic and industrial computer vision, and his work has appeared in more than 27 publications. He was also a guest editor for the International Journal of Computer Vision. In addition, he has received recognition for top entries in international computer vision competitions, as well as multiple best reviewer awards.
He received his doctoral degree from Microsoft Research - Inria Paris in 2012.
Alex GreenSenior Engineer, Sensor Evaluation
Alex Green serves as senior engineer, sensor evaluation at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). He brings 15 years of practical experience in robotics, software, and electrical engineering to TRI, having completed successful projects for international commercial, government and military clients.
His previous experience includes development of the P25 interface to the CISCO IPIX gateway, improving production at an electronics manufacturing plant, and code auditing for a hedge fund. He also held operational roles at two startups, and has served as an expert witness in three telecommunications crime cases.
Alex’s doctoral work focused on automation of heavy vehicles over off-road terrain and, during his candidature, he designed the control circuitry for the autonomous platform.
Sharin ShinHead of Automated Driving Field Operations
Sharin Shin is the head of the automated driving field operations team at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) where she is responsible for the team’s organizational growth, vehicle testing processes and procedures, testing policies, and driver training.
Before joining TRI, Sharin was a part of the operations team at the Google X Self Driving Car Project, now known as Waymo. Previously, she worked as a financial and marketing manager in the private sector before getting involved in the future of mobility. She has a passion for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as various social problems related to poverty.
She received a bachelor’s degree in integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Nikos MichalakisVP, Software Platform
Nikos Michalakis is the Vice President of Software Platform at Woven Planet Holdings, responsible for the company’s software infrastructure and tools, including cloud, big data, machine learning infrastructure, simulation and vehicle operating system.
Nikos joined the Toyota family in 2016, and served as director of the cloud and big data platform team at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). Prior to Toyota, he worked on Netflix’s cloud platform and developer tools team to help scale the productivity of Netflix engineers. Previously, Nikos helped develop software and teams at a series of startups, including a big data startup that was acquired by Microsoft, and an education tech startup that grew from 60 to 200 employees.
He holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in electrical engineering & computer science and mathematics from MIT.
Anton MolodetskiyCommunications Manager
Anton Molodetskiy is the communications manager for Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for developing content and driving brand awareness and media outreach for the firm.
Anton joins Toyota AI Ventures with eight years of experience in the public relations industry, having worked for several high tech PR agencies in Silicon Valley. He has crafted communications programs for technology companies of all sizes, helping them tell their stories in relevant and interesting ways.
Most recently, he was a senior account supervisor at Lumina Communications, working with companies in the virtual reality (VR), intent-based networking, and martech industries. Prior to that, he was an account manager at Bhava Communications, where he supported VR, augmented reality, and open-source startups. Anton also helped create PR plans for software, telecommunications, and semiconductor clients while at LEWIS PR San Francisco and the Hoffman Agency.
He received a bachelor’s degree in public relations from San Jose State University.
Erin Keller is an associate at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for sourcing startups, evaluating opportunities, and working with portfolio companies post-investment.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Erin was on the investment team at Yamaha Motor Ventures, where she led diligence efforts in the urban mobility, medtech, and agtech sectors. She also spent four years in the startup space before transitioning into venture capital.
Erin received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology with a minor in engineering and management.
Teruyuki ItoProgram Manager
Teruyuki Ito serves as a program manager at Toyota AI Ventures, where he focuses on facilitating strategic relationships with Toyota and automotive suppliers, and providing ongoing support to portfolio companies.
Prior to his current role, Teruyuki worked for the purchasing group in Toyota Motor Corporation for over 10 years, starting as a buyer for electrical components. Most recently, he spent three years focused on autonomous driving components. During that time, he was responsible for strategy planning, communication with emerging players in the autonomous vehicle field, and supplier selection.
He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Joan LeeDirector of Marketing & Events
Joan Lee is director of marketing and events at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for managing campaigns, content development, and events.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Joan was the head of partnerships marketing for tech entrepreneurs at Indiegogo. She has also held marketing roles at a variety of media and publishing companies, including the Walt Disney Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Penguin.
Joan received a bachelor’s degree in English and mass communications at the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School.
Sahil SegalDirector of Portfolio Engagement
Sahil Segal is the director of portfolio engagement at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for developing and implementing programs that add value to the startups in TAIV’s portfolio.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Sahil led startup scouting for Deloitte Consulting’s mobility practice. He has held roles at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and served on an advisory committee of the World Economic Forum, focusing on the role of cybersecurity within startups. Sahil also co-founded TrekConnect, a platform that connected travelers to locals for hyper-customized vacations.
Sahil received a dual degree in finance and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in business administration from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Nihal Maunder is an analyst on the investment team, responsible for sourcing startups, evaluating opportunities, and working on internal technical projects.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Nihal worked at Johnson Controls’ innovation lab alongside the artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning team, where he built full-stack AI solutions. He also co-founded an AI startup in the talent acquisition space and participated in the FreeVentures and SkyDeck startup accelerator programs at the University of California, Berkeley.
Nihal received a bachelor’s degree in data science from UC Berkeley.
Carlo CruzPortfolio Engagement Manager
Carlo Cruz is a portfolio engagement manager at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for supporting startups and assisting with the development of programs that add value to the TAIV portfolio.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Carlo led the Future Factory team at Toyota Motor North America’s (TMNA) TILT Lab, an internal makerspace that identifies key strategic problems and evaluates emerging technologies in manufacturing. He originally joined TMNA production engineering in 2012 as a paint shop engineer working across various manufacturing centers. Carlo’s responsibilities included construction project management and multiple collaborations with early-stage startups and large enterprises to advance the development of future factories.
Carlo received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Cincinnati, where he was also a Darwin T. Turner diversity scholar.
Carlena NeelyIntern, Platform and Marketing Team
Carlena Neely is an intern on the platform and marketing team at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for helping develop diversity and inclusion initiatives. Carlena previously worked at Microsoft Corporation as an intern in the artificial intelligence labs and with the Xbox gaming team, where she shaped marketing strategy and implemented the infrastructure to execute lifecycle marketing within the organization. She also served as a data and analytics intern at Toyota Motor Corporation.
Carlena is currently a senior studying information systems at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Si Ian XieFund Accountant
Si Ian is the fund accountant at Toyota AI Ventures, responsible for supporting the finance group with the management of funds, portfolio valuation, and other business operations.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, she was a fund accountant at HC Global Fund Services, LLC. Before that, she was a staff accountant at Navolio & Tallman, LLP.
Si Ian received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Boston University and a master’s degree in accountancy from Golden Gate University.
Aarushi GuptaMarketing Intern
Aarushi Gupta is an intern on the marketing team, responsible for providing support for campaigns, content, and events.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Aarushi interned at two startups affiliated with Startup UCLA and UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator, developing digital strategy guidelines and streamlining the measurement of key performance indicators. She also worked at Perchwell, a real estate technology company, as an intern on the data analytics team, helping implement data review interfaces to upgrade algorithmic task automation.
Aarushi is currently a sophomore studying business economics and statistics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Hidehiko BanshoyaSenior Coordinator
Hidehiko Banshoya serves as a senior coordinator at Toyota AI Ventures. His responsibilities include facilitating strategic relationships between our portfolio companies and Toyota, as well as providing ongoing support to portfolio companies.
Prior to joining Toyota AI Ventures, Hidehiko worked as a powertrain design engineer at Toyota Motor Corporation, where he was responsible for the design and development of industry-leading hybrid transmissions, automatic transmissions, and turbocharged engines. In addition to planning and designing state-of-the-art powertrains, he has held key roles supporting North American suppliers in developing localized components, as well as providing engineering support for racing applications.
Hidehiko has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in science, both from the University of Tokyo.