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The BlackBerry IVY Innovation Fund One Year On. Where Are We Now?

AUTOMOTIVE / 05.02.22 / Anooj Shah

It’s been just over a year since we announced the creation of the BlackBerry IVY™ Innovation Fund to help data-driven automotive ecosystem providers turbocharge their innovation and bring new products and applications to market using BlackBerry IVY™. With the recent marking of the Fund’s one year anniversary, we’d like to review the progress made, the milestones achieved, and the road ahead.

Wallet on Wheels and Alleviating Range Anxiety with Car IQ and Electra Vehicles

In our first year, we closed investments with two disruptive start-ups looking to tap into the BlackBerry IVY platform to accelerate their growth. Electra Vehicles is an innovative early-stage company whose flagship product, EVE-AI™, includes an artificial intelligence (AI) based software management solution for electric vehicle (EV) batteries to alleviate Range Anxiety. And Car IQ is a financial technology solution provider with an ingenious digital fingerprint offering and payment platform for vehicles, allowing them to securely connect to global payment networks and autonomously pay for frequently used services such as fuel, tolls, parking, insurance, maintenance, and other wallet capabilities. Car IQ is disrupting the commercial fleet payments market, unlocking new monetization opportunities for automakers.

Success at CES 2022 and Doubling Down on Recruitment

Committed to finding opportunities to highlight the success of our partners, Car IQ and Electra featured heavily in the EV Range Expert demo we showcased at CES. This was the first time BlackBerry IVY had been publicly shown on physical hardware and we illustrated how the platform can enhance experiences for drivers, passengers, and OEMs. Car IQ’s in-vehicle payment and Electra’s AI-driven battery management application were so well received by OEMs that we’ve had multiple requests to begin proof-of-concepts (POCs), the first of which will be with PATEO, a leading Chinese Tier 1 supplier.

Reflecting on the uncanny speed – it took only six months from investment to product integration and demonstration, to securing OEM interest and multiple POCs. These achievements were realized in an industry where it often takes over a year for start-ups and established players just to decide how to work together and is affirmation for the value proposition of BlackBerry IVY. It’s an exciting time at BlackBerry. Given the industry reception we received at CES, we’ve created new roles to grow the BlackBerry IVY team, hunting for the world’s best and brightest to join our mission to simplify automotive software development and enable transformative automotive solutions that will literally drive our future.

What Start-Ups See in BlackBerry IVY

We’re pleased with the Fund’s momentum and the early successes. Our close ties with the automotive ecosystem opens many doors and the BlackBerry IVY platform allows start-ups’ lean R&D teams to focus on driving product roadmaps and not bespoke, time-consuming vehicle integration work.

The start-up community has been receptive to the Fund’s creation and IVY™ in general, with the volume of pitches exceeding our expectations. Start-ups are unanimous in their praise for the BlackBerry IVY platform’s unique ability to access and surface harmonized data across multiple vehicle makes and models. Many have remarked that IVY is the silver bullet that they need to win over OEMs. Additionally, the entire automotive investment community has been very welcoming, we’ve forged relationships with the venture arms of OEMs and institutional investors focused on the smart mobility space.

The common refrain from start-ups is that putting software into vehicles is much harder than anticipated. The lack of consistency in accessing sensor data due to multiple vehicle platforms, differences in signal formats, and inertia from complex internal processes continues to validate the value proposition of BlackBerry IVY.

Emerging Trends in the Automotive Industry

Based on discussions with leading players in the space, we see four emerging trends:

  1. Electric Vehicles – EV shipments doubled from 2020 to 2021, representing nearly 10 per cent of total passenger car sales in 2021. All major automakers have or will be releasing EVs for mass-market use and emerging trends are tied to new market opportunities from large-scale adoption of EVs. Opportunities such as dynamic residuals for leased EVs based on the health of battery packs, optimized charging at private chargers for commercial vehicle depots, and dynamic routing for optimizing range, are just a few areas with great potential.
  2. Autonomy – With full autonomy years away, automakers are realigning focus to improving the quality of increasingly prevalent L3 driving systems. Government regulations like NHTSA’s crash reporting mandate require automakers to provide data-driven insights on vehicle systems’ behavior leading up to a crash, making it important for OEMs to parse data to identify and remediate corner cases in their ADAS systems to work toward a Vision Zero future.
  3. In-Vehicle Experiences – An implication of EVs is the impact to the character of the car. Whereas the roar of a classic V8 engine could define a vehicle, automakers need to find new ways to imbue “soul” into EVs. While interior and exterior design play a role, in-vehicle experience is now software driven via in-cabin sensors that predict occupants’ preferences. These applications can be used in personal vehicles, for shared mobility and fleet use cases.
  4. Continuous Customer Engagement – Until recently OEM customer engagement efforts focused on initial vehicle sale and then moved quickly on to the next customer. As connected vehicles become more prevalent, this dynamic is changing. Automakers are looking to create continuous value for customers and share in post sales revenues. Some of the first applications for continued customer engagement include predictive maintenance and warranties, insights into customer experience for product improvement, and targeted services to encourage brand loyalty.

How Start-Ups Can Rise Above the Noise

We believe the industry is at a significant inflection point and we’ll probably see more change and innovation over the next ten years than we’ve seen in the previous hundred. BlackBerry IVY has the potential to play a pivotal role in enabling a rich ecosystem of solutions that improve and enhance driver and passenger experiences to ultimately revolutionize the way we get from A to B.

Driven to find the right companies to help, the BlackBerry IVY team and our partners are poised to capitalize on this growth. The ideal company will create new opportunities for automakers and partners with data-driven insights, has at least early validation of product and market fit, and a strong vision for their role in the broader automotive ecosystem.

We plan on naming another BlackBerry IVY Innovation Fund recipient joining our stable soon and have room for early-stage start-ups focused on developing data-driven solutions that can benefit from the BlackBerry IVY platform’s vehicle insights. If you share our desire to help drive advancements across the entire transportation industry, now’s the time reach out.

To learn more about Car IQ, Electra Vehicles, and other exciting automotive innovators working with BlackBerry IVY, check out the "Get In: The Connected Vehicle Podcast from BlackBerry" series.

Anooj Shah

About Anooj Shah

Anooj Shah is Senior Director, Investments & Strategy at BlackBerry