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$230M Venture Fund Draws Big Names, Focuses on Transforming Transportation

Making transportation and logistics cleaner, faster, safer and lower-cost is the goal of a $230 million early-stage venture capital fund that launched on Monday (Oct. 18).

The final close of the fund was announced by early-stage venture capital firm UP.Partners. It is backed by some big-name investors, including Alaska Air Group, ARK Invest Founder and CEO Cathie Wood, Toyota subsidiary Woven Capital, industrial company Standard Industries, real estate developer Hillwood (a Perot company) and ship management company OSM Maritime.

“Woven Capital is excited to team up with UP.Partners as they encourage entrepreneurs who are focused on wide-ranging solutions that allow people, goods and information to move more seamlessly, cost-effectively and sustainably than ever before, benefiting humanity and the health of the planet for all,” Betty Bryant, principal of Woven Capital, said in the press release. Woven Capital is the investment arm of the Woven Planet Group, a Toyota Motor Corporation subsidiary.

Transforming the Movement of People and Goods

The fund will focus on supporting companies that are transforming the movement of people and goods with mobility solutions, UP.Partners explained, adding that transportation is responsible for 29% of global CO2 emissions. The group says it has assembled a consortium of leaders in aerospace, automotive, maritime, hardware, software, telecom, finance and media.

Alaska Airlines also announced on Monday (Oct. 18) that it has launched an investment arm, Alaska Star Ventures, to advance emerging technology that will accelerate its progress toward net-zero carbon emissions. The inaugural investment is in this partnership with UP.Ventures.

“We’re proud of our ambitious targets and our legacy of being pioneers, but we also know we can’t fundamentally decarbonize and achieve net-zero carbon emissions alone,” Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of public affairs and sustainability, said in the press release. “That’s why we’re focused on discovering, partnering with and enabling technologies that will allow us to take real and meaningful steps on our five-part path to net-zero, now and in the years ahead.”

Drones, Aircraft and Manufacturing

UP.Partners reports that one of its projects, an annual gathering for mobility’s innovators, investors and corporations that has been held since 2017, has resulted in direct investments exceeding $450 million into companies that have participated.

The early-stage VC fund itself has already invested in several companies, including those that are developing electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft; drones and autonomous drone technology; automated drone delivery systems; affordable LiDAR sensors; AI software for utilizing drones to automate warehouse inventory tracking; non-contact solutions to real-time powerline monitoring; a commercial urban drone delivery airline; micromobility vehicles; insurance products for new-mobility segments; algorithms and sensors to enable precise positioning for transportation, and a deep learning inspection system for automated manufacturing.

“The UP.Partners team, portfolio and ecosystem of corporate partners and investors is truly world-class, and we are proud to partner with UP.Partners on this journey of supporting early-stage technology companies that are transforming the moving world,” said Alaska Air Group CEO Ben Minicucci.

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