February 1, 2012, 4:39 pm
BMW Plants Seeds of Silicon Valley in the West VillageBy PHIL PATTON
Peter Morehand/BMW iVenturesAttendees at Tuesday’s panel discussion and opening party for the BMW iVentures incubator in Manhattan.
BMW iVentures, an investment arm begun in tandem with the automaker’s i subbrand, has established a start-up incubator on Morton Street in the West Village.
The space was inaugurated with a party and panel discussion on Tuesday. With the brand’s recent dalliances in smart-grid management in Mountain View, Calif., and the incubator opening party, the German automaker seems to be smitten with the Silicon Valley life.
At the party, panel speakers were expected to discuss “how digital technology can change, improve, disrupt, enhance and perhaps revolutionize mobility,” but their musings were mostly muted by the networking and snacking din.
The i subbrand is primarily oriented toward developing advanced-powertrain vehicles, like the i3 electric urban runabout, and more sustainable methods for producing them. BMW iVentures complements that image by nurturing or acquiring stakes in digital services related to efficient urban mobility.
The incubator, befitting an ascetically minded start-up, consists of an open floor space and a back room which, during the party, was filled with men working at computers and wearing expressions that suggested they didn’t intend to partake of the yellowtail sashimi.
MyCityWay is the only iVentures-backed business in the incubator, but ParkatmyHouse is expected to move in shortly, Kenn Sparks, a BMW spokesman, confirmed in an e-mail Tuesday. In the meantime, start-ups that have not been directly financed by iVentures may still be invited to work in the space. “Financial arrangements are decided on an individual basis, and the use of the incubator space can be included in an iVentures investment,” Mr. Sparks wrote.
The incubator is headed by the managing directors Ulrich Quay and Alexander Diehl. BMW iVentures also plans to work with the New York University‘s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, as well as the high-tech academic venture recently announced by Mayor Bloomberg, involving Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.