February 23, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

MVCA Board Member Jon Lauckner Named VP & CTO of General Motors

General Motors has named Jon Lauckner vice president and chief technology officer (CTO), effective April 1. In addition to his current position as president of GM Ventures, Lauckner will be responsible for GM’s Research and Development activity.

Lauckner succeeds current CTO, Tom Stephens, who retires April 1, and he also assumes R&D responsibilities from Vice President Alan Taub, who has elected to retire and pursue outside interests after 11 years with GM.

Lauckner will continue to report to GM Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky. He will also serve as a member of the Global Product Development staff headed by Mary Barra, senior vice president of GM Global Product Development.

“Jon’s vast knowledge and experience in product development and engineering, combined with his ability to identify new and innovative external technology partners, make him a perfect fit for this critically important role,” said Girsky.  “With both GM Ventures and Research and Development aligned under him, we will be more nimble and can move faster to integrate the latest and most-advanced technologies into our vehicles for the benefit of customers.”

Lauckner has been president of General Motors Ventures, LLC since July 1, 2010.  In this role, he leads a team that makes equity investments in innovative startup companies developing next-generation automotive technology. Lauckner previously held the positions of vice president, Global Product Planning and vice president, Global Program Management.

Lauckner, 54, joined GM in 1979 as a test engineer and held a number of positions in product engineering, powertrain engineering and product development, including international assignments in South America and Europe. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1979. He earned a Master of Science degree in management from Stanford Business School in 1990 through the Sloan Fellowship program and attended the GM-Harvard Senior Executive Program in 2001.

Regarding the retirement of Alan Taub, Girsky said, “Our company and the industry have benefitted greatly from Alan’s experience and leadership. His talent and contributions are appreciated by all those who worked with him.”

Taub joined GM R&D as executive director in 2001. In July 2009, he was named vice president of Global R&D, where he led GM’s advanced technical work, seven science laboratories and seven global science offices.

Read about it on GM’s site.

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November 8, 2011 @ 1:12 am

Michigan Venture Capital Association appoints 2012 Board of Directors, recognizes members at Annual Dinner

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA) celebrated a year of individual, company, and statewide industry achievement at its Annual Dinner held November 7 at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth. Over 145 members of the Michigan venture community attended the evening event, where incoming Chairman Tim Petersen introduced members of the organization’s 2012 Board of Directors. They include:
• Tim Petersen (Chairman), Arboretum Ventures
• Ron Reed (Vice Chairman/Past Chairman), Seneca Partners
• Jim Adox, (Vice-Chairman/Treasurer), Venture Investors
• Jeff Bocan, Beringea
• Hugo Braun, North Coast Technology Investors
• Pete Farner, TGap Ventures
• Mark Horne, Plymouth Management Company
• Tom Kinnear, U-M Ross School of Business Zell Lurie Institute
• Jon Lauckner, GM Ventures
• Chris Rizik, Renaissance Venture Capital Fund
• Skip Simms, Ann Arbor SPARK
• Mina Sooch, Apjohn Ventures
• Jody Vanderwel, Grand Angels
• Ken Van Heel, Dow Chemical Company
• Donald Walker, Arbor Partners

Pete Farner, Mark Horne and Jon Lauckner are new to the board and begin three-year terms while former director John McIlwraith of Blue Chip Venture Company completes his board involvement after a six-year term.

“It was a wonderful evening that really celebrated the best of the best in our industry,” said Merrill Guerra, Executive Director of the MVCA. “We’re pleased so many venture investors, portfolio company executives, development officials and other supporters could join us, showing the growth and success the venture capital community has demonstrated in Michigan.”

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August 31, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

Detroit Free Press: GM’s venture capital fund invests millions in high-tech entrepreneurs

http://www.freep.com/article/20110826/BUSINESS0101/108260458/GM-s-venture-capital-fund-invests-millions-in-high-tech-entrepreneurs?odyssey=tab|mostpopular|text|FRONTPAGE

GM Ventures’ Jon Lauckner promises that the venture-capital fund he runs isn’t a “ZIP code investor.” Still, four of the six firms in which General Motors has invested now have ties to the company’s home state of Michigan.

Sakti3, an electric-vehicle battery maker, is based in Ann Arbor and run by a University of Michigan professor. Powermat, which makes wireless charging mats for cell phones, has its sales headquarters in Commerce Township.

And once GM Ventures was on board, plug-in hybrid developer Bright Automotive and solar-energy company Sunlogics both moved some operations to vacant space in Rochester Hills. A fifth company, battery materials firm Envia Systems, may have a Michigan office in the works next year, CEO Atul Kapadia said.

The perks for Michigan are a side benefit of GM Ventures’ main goal: to change the way GM develops and updates its products by giving it early, immediate access to entrepreneurs’ high-tech ideas.

Each connection GM builds with the venture-capital community increases the automaker’s chances of having first dibs on the next groundbreaking technology, just as it boosts Michigan’s network of ideas, education and funding that Lauckner said is integral to create the state’s own version of Silicon Valley.

Less than a dozen people serve on the GM Ventures team that reports to Lauckner, who is the architect of the battery-generator combination in the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

The team has so far reviewed applications from about 400 companies. Investments will focus on five areas that executives think will drive much of the auto industry’s change in coming years: clean technology; infotainment; materials that are lightweight, green or otherwise “smart”; advanced technologies such as sensors or microprocessors; and alternatives to the traditional automotive business model.

The group received $100 million when it was founded last July, with more funding to come annually if GM Ventures is successful.

So far, Lauckner and his team manage $45 million in investments, including stakes in two ethanol companies dating to 2008, before the venture-capital fund began. Investments currently range from $3.2 million to $7.5 million each, and Lauckner’s group should complete several more by the end of the year, he said.

By using a venture-capital model, GM is able to align itself more with the quick-turnaround style of Silicon Valley investments, rather than longer product development process common in the auto industry, said David Brophy, who directs private-equity studies at the University of Michigan.

“Having the fund opens the door for other funds to come in and co-invest,” said Brophy, such as when leading Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partnered with GM’s investment in electric transit bus company Proterra.

GM’s version of venture capital makes its investments less risky than traditional venture bets, Lauckner said. GM does intend for GM Ventures to be self-sustaining someday, receiving proceeds from its investments. But it primarily wants to be a big customer of the start-ups’ technology, which helps ensure the small companies’ success. For instance, GM plans to start putting Powermat wireless chargers in vehicles as soon as next year.

The speed, calculated risk-taking and planning for next-generation technology represented in GM Ventures exemplifies the culture GM’s new executives have sought to create post-bankruptcy. Still, many feel Michigan’s auto-heavy economy needs a culture change as much as GM’s did.

“We had this economy in which a relatively small number of big companies provided huge employment opportunities for many people, many of which were not very high on the skill chain,” said economist Charles Ballard, a Michigan State University professor. “The world changed, and we were not nimble — certainly General Motors was not nimble.”

But GM Ventures’ investments are taking small steps to help change both the state and itself. Bright Automotive and Sunlogics both approached GM Ventures about moving to Michigan, Lauckner said, citing the proximity to auto-technology experts, more than 1.5 million vehicles’ worth of automotive production and a plethora of available industrial and office space.

“We’re not insisting that the companies locate in southeast Michigan,” Lauckner said. “What we try to do … is just say, ‘Look, if … you’re thinking about a location, we can certainly make introductions to the right people within the state.’ “

For Michigan to turn into a hotbed for start-up companies, Lauckner said, the state will have to focus on education and perks for entrepreneurs, along with financing from groups like GM Ventures.

“It’s about building an ecosystem that really supports the creation of intellectual property, the commercialization, the financing,” Lauckner said. “There’s some very encouraging signs that Michigan is moving in the right direction.”

Contact Chrissie Thompson: 313-222-8784 or cthompson@freepress.com

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October 19, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

MVCA Breakfast Roundtable, Offices of Beringea, October 19, 2010

“The tourists have left.”  That’s how National Venture Capital Assn. President Mark Heesen describes the pared down U.S. entrepreneurial ecosystem after several years of tough exit markets, low returns, and an abysmal fundraising environment.  Further, he expects the fallout from the dot-com bust and its effects on the venture capital community to continue through 2011, as the last of the weak VC players retreat from the industry.

NVCA President Mark Heesen address the MVCA Roundtable group

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Heesen did have some good news for Michigan’s venture community–the exit market is picking up, with a record number of acquisitions this year and the expectation that that number will climb after the midterm elections.  Fundraising should pick up accordingly, as existing LPs start receiving long-awaited checks and become more optimistic about the asset class.  He also shared a prediction that our state will become one of the most important state’s in the country if Republicans gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, as Reps. Fred Upton (R–6th District) and Dave Camp, (R–4th District) are poised to take leadership roles on powerful House committees.

Finally, Heesen touted the importance of regional venture funds as locally sourced deals become a key differentiation point in Silicon Valley.  He expects a continued increase in first-time funds and early stage funds, as smaller LPs previously frozen out of the asset class squeeze in.  He said the NVCA is carefully monitoring the European directives that will restrict European money invested into U.S. funds and foreign venture investments in European companies, an issue so important its passage could lead to a U.S./Europe trade war.

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The MVCA is a non-profit trade organization designed to bring together venture capital industry participants in the state of Michigan. The organization's goal is to grow and sustain a vibrant venture capital community in Michigan.
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