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Daimler is enthusiastic about Estonian startups: they show ambition but have their feet on the ground

Despite strong competition in the world for giant investors, Estonia has received investments in two startups from one of the world's largest car manufacturers, Daimler AG. Björn Avemark and Steven Kasih from Daimler AG, explain, what are the main reasons for Daimler to invest in Estonian startups such as Bolt and Starship.

According to Estonian newspaper Postimees, Daimler is particularly renowned as the manufacturer of luxury cars, such as Mercedes-Benz, however, as a global car company they also want to keep up with all the new trends in the transport and logistics sector. The transport and logistic sectors are in the process of the change. That is why the German car manufacturer has invested in Bolt and in Starship.

Björn Avemark and Steven Kasih from Daimler visited Estonia in the beginning of October. Björn Avemark is helping Daimler Mobility AG to find startup companies that could become big in the future. Steven Kasih is currently working on new mobility solutions for Mercedes-Benz Vans and he also recommended investing in Starship.

Björn Avemark and Steven Kasih explained to EIA at the Estonian Enterpreneurship Awards 2019 gala, why Daimler is enthusiastic about investing in Estonian startups.

Investing in Bolt has complemented Daimler’s mobility portfolio

“Bolt is complementing our current mobility portfolio very nicely,” said Björn Avemark, Head of Business Development and Portfolio Management at Daimler Mobility AG. “There was a focus on Central and Eastern Europe and Africa at that point in time. It was a perfect fit to the strong position that we have in Western Europe and  in Latin America. Secondly, the management team, their vision, clear focus on execution and the track record in delivering results  have made us very confident so far that this is the right startup to invest in. Up to now we are very happy, and we concluded a second follow-up investment in 2019,” Björn Avemark added.

 

Avemark told Postimees that he is impressed how Bolt can make very bold and quick decisions. “Let us take a look at the scooter business, for example. They scaled a new business line quickly and at the same time, they still have their feet on the ground. It’s finding the right balance between growth and costs which is often not the case with other start-ups. Given how quickly and successfully Bolt has entered new markets, their cost base has been kept relatively small,” Avemark pointed out.

As a strategic investor, Daimler has a representative on the management board of Bolt who helps the company to achieve their goals. Daimler is more than just a financial investor who provides funds. „At the same time, we certainly do not interfere with the company on a daily basis. The Villig brothers are very capable and cope well in managing the company,” remarked Avemark.

One pilot project currently discussed is, for example, whether Daimler could offer Mercedes-Benz cars to Bolt at attractive conditions. On the one hand, Mercedes cars could help to attract new drivers to Bolt, and on the other hand, it will help Daimler support their core business, which is car manufacturing. That would be a win-win situation for both companies.

Investing in Starship has provided Daimler with innovative last mile technology and new business opportunities

“We believe that robotic delivery has a bright future,” said Steven Kasih, Head of Shared People Mobility at Future Transportation at Mercedes-Benz Vans. “This is a market that will grow rapidly. In this context we identified Starship Technologies as the best-in-class player and invested. Also because we were deeply impressed by the team of Starship: the talent, the technology  which they have developed, and the true startup spirit with the ambition to make something big,” Steven Kasih explained.

 

“Starship is currently the global leader in the business of self-driving delivery robots,” Steven Kasih said in the interview to Postimees. “On the one hand, they have a very capable team and impressive technology. On the other hand, we are also amazed at how successfully they have been able to influence national governments. The United States of America has amended its laws state by state to allow the robots of Starship to autonomously move on sidewalks and cross public roads. This shows that not only are their technologies fascinating, but they are also moving towards a viable and sustainable business model.”

Estonia is undoubtedly a market where a great deal of innovation can be found

Avemark has said to Postimees, that Estonia is undoubtedly a market where a great deal of innovation can be found. “We invest to gain new knowledge,” noted Avemark.

Kasih added that he has visited Estonia several times and he can say that there are many remarkable start-ups. “I think that Estonia has created a very good ecosystem where business ideas grow into start-ups, which in turn grow into viable companies.” “It is even amazing, I would like to say,” affirmed Avemark.

Raido Lember, Director of Estonian Investment Agency of Enterprise Estonia, is proud of effective cooperation with Daimler and their investments in Estonia.

„There is huge competition in the world for Daimler-like investments. Investment agencies like the Estonian Investment Agency of Enterprise Estonia are constantly struggling to communicate their offers even to a branch office,” explained Raido Lember.

“It was one of the most complicated programs we have ever prepared for a foreign investor, but we could be satisfied with the result. Subsequently, Daimler invested in Bolt,” admitted Lember.

According to Lember, Daimler is an investor who, in addition to buying a share, gives access to its group’s experts and cooperation network worldwide. They help to develop further the service or product of the funded start-up by providing corporate links and branding.

“Our foreign representation in Germany in co-operation with our HQ has proven again how valuable our investment advisory services are to our clients,” noted Lember. “Real growth and value can be created for both sides when working closely together. We are looking for many more innovation co-operation and tech investments to Estonia from Daimler AG in the future. As the relationship grows the fruitful outcomes continue.”

Estonia is a world leader in the development and application of digital logistics. From data analytics and country single windows to mobile apps and delivery robots, Estonia improves supply chain efficiency and client experience from the first mile to last.

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