Sony’s venture arm refuels Zoomcar with Series D funding cheque
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Bengaluru-based self-drive car rental startup Zoomcar India Pvt. Ltd has raised $30 million (approximately Rs 213.54 crore at current exchange rates) in its ongoing Series D round led by Sony Innovation Fund, the venture arm of Japanese electronics major Sony Corporation.

The startup is looking to raise $100 million (around Rs 711.82 crore) in this funding exercise, which saw the participation from existing investors as well, Zoomcar said in a statement, without divulging the details.

Zoomcar will use the funds for growth, enhance technological and data science infrastructure, besides upgrading its Internet of Things (IoT) layout and its shared subscription service, the statement added.

It is also looking to expand to more parts of the country and aims to have over one lakh vehicles on the road within the next 18-24 months.

Zoomcar was co-founded by Greg Moran and David Back in 2012. The car rental firm is part of a new generation of transportation services promoting shared mobility. It follows a hyperlocal model in which it allows customers to pick up cars from designated locations after booking it online or through the Zoomcar app.

It has also launched a vehicle model-agnostic driver score feature, an artificial intelligence-based algorithm that assigns a driving score by tracking the mechanical specifications of a car and the driving style of the customer. Currently, its services are present in cities such as Mumbai, Jaipur, Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati, and Ludhiana.

The latest funding in Zoomcar comes after automotive major Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. picked up a 16% stake in the startup for $27.6 million (around Rs 176 crore) as part of a larger $40 million Series C funding round. Existing investors, whom Zoomcar did not name, put in the balance amount.

In November 2017, the rental car startup had struck a Rs 35 crore financing agreement with Ford Credit India Pvt. Ltd, the non-banking finance arm of automaker Ford India, to buy cars.

In August 2016, the US-based auto giant Ford Motor Company’s smart mobility unit led a $24-million (Rs 161 crore) Series B round of funding. Others that participated in the round included Sequoia Capital, Nokia Growth Partners and Empire Angels.

Sony Innovation Fund

The corporate venture arm of the Japanese conglomerate says it engages with companies beyond investments by providing them access to Sony’s broader global network. It also helps them with developing and scaling their technology and explore new product ecosystems.

The Fund focusses on investing in a company’s seed, early and mid-stage funding rounds, with areas of interest including entertainment and gaming, lifestyle health and wellness, industry and manufacturing, AI and machine learning and next-generation devices.

Some of the companies in its portfolio include the Italy-based real-time live and on-demand video provider MainStreaming, the Japan-based space communications infrastructure firm Infostellar, and the California-headquartered healthcare-focussed robotics firm Embodied.

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