BlueCross BlueShield, BMW, Best Buy, And De Beers Venture Into New Investments

For many big nontech companies, the best way to innovate quickly is to fund startups that pioneer their future business.

BlueCross BlueShield, BMW, Best Buy, And De Beers Venture Into New Investments


Best Buy

The future: Mobile entertainment for all

By supporting early-stage
companies–such as Control4, whose universal-remote apps command TVs, thermostats, and more, and Viewdle, whose augmented-reality tech can
recognize human faces–Best Buy gets first dibs on the next-gen mobile products they create, “which gives [the retailer] a decided edge over its
competition,” says Tim Bajarin, president of consumer-tech consultancy Creative Strategies.


The future: Not just a car–a smart urban-navigation system


“We want to go beyond the vehicle,” says BMW i Ventures VP Ulrich Quay. The automaker’s year-old fund has committed roughly $100 million toward
mobile apps that tell drivers when, for example, it would be faster to take the subway (accounting for lights and traffic), or how to best navigate
cities by foot. Those investments are a great way for the high-end carmaker to “connect with a younger, more tech-savvy demographic of buyers,”
says Dominique Bonte, a transportation-tech analyst at ABI Research.


The future: Synthetic diamonds are forever

Element Six, the De Beers subsidiary that manufactures synthetic diamonds, funnels millions to startups that use the stones–known for their
high thermal conductivity and resistance to radiation–in all kinds of products. Among them: radiation detectors (from U.K.-based Diamond
Detectors), semiconductors (from Diamond Microwave Devices), and electrochemical reactors that treat wastewater and landfills (from Advanced
Oxidation). “It’s really a growth vehicle,” says Susan Wheeler, managing director of Element Six Ventures.


BlueCross Blueshield

The future: A streamlined medical system

The health-insurance behemoth is
pouring roughly $300 million into startups such as Nexidia, whose analytics help improve customer service; InVivoLink, which tracks and analyzes
data from medical implants; and Phreesia, whose software simplifies how doctors register patients and accept copays. By improving the medical
system, BCBS could “lower costs for itself and its customers, which is right in line with its corporate goals,” says Michael Liang, a partner at
the Chicago investment firm Baird Venture Partners.

Illustration by Am I Collective