The company intends to look worldwide for such opportunities, Ms. Spring said, but will start at home.
"As a global organization, we're always looking globally at potential partnerships. For Goodyear Ventures, in the first year we'll focus in the U.S., and then we'll look to expand into other regions," she said.
Though she declined to set limits on the size of an investment the company might make, Ms. Spring said that, like most venture funds, Goodyear most often will take a minority stake in the companies in which it invests, but it won't limit itself to that.
"As we look at different opportunities and assess them and how they fit with Goodyear Ventures, we'll make that decision," she said.
The entire effort is part of Goodyear's strategic plan to be a major player in what it calls the mobility market, which includes not only electric vehicles and self-driving cars and trucks now under development, but also materials used to make vehicles more sustainable, connectivity technologies being applied to vehicles, new types of mass transport and the infrastructure needed to support the new technologies. The company will even look at "personal and 'ride-share' aircraft and systems that reduce congestion and save time," according to Goodyear Ventures' website.
Little wonder then that the company chose to unveil its new fund at the recent Consumer Eletronics Show tech trade show in Las Vegas, rather than at a big tire or automotive event.
Goodyear wants to be at the forefront of new technology, Ms. Spring said. By investing in outside startups, the company figures it can partner in and foster the development of new technologies instead of having to compete with them down the road.
This is not a new world for Goodyear. The company was quick to begin developing tires for autonomous vehicles years ago and unveiled tires with new sensor technology in 2016.
It's also partnered with other companies and research entities such as the University of Michigan's MCity testing facility for automated vehicle technology.
"We're focusing on those themes that are shaping the next generation of mobility," Ms. Spring stated.
The company has committed to invest at least $100 million through Goodyear Ventures over the next 10 years, she said.
While that sounds like a lot — and it certainly would be a big fund if almost any other local entity unveiled it — $100 million is really not a huge chunk of change or a particularly risky commitment for Goodyear. Consider that the company spent $424 million on research and development in 2018.
But the $100 million may be the best investment the company can make toward its future, because it opens Goodyear up to a world of innovation outside its doors that too many companies ignore at their peril, said one investment banker.
"Large companies inherently tend to look inward," Mark Filippell, a longtime Northeast Ohio investment banker and managing director of Western Reserve Partners in Cleveland, said, "but what Goodyear seems to be trying to do with Goodyear Ventures is to look outward. It sounds like a smart way for Goodyear to gain access to and invest in new technologies."
As for other participants, Goodyear Ventures will remain in-house only — meaning it won't allow outside investors to put money into Goodyear Ventures, but Ms. Spring said the fund likely will invest in concert with other venture capital firms.
It also is open to co-investing with others, she added, and the company hopes that small companies and their backers seek it as a partner. Or, she suggested, Goodyear may funnel deals to other venture capitalists if a target company doesn't match up with the technologies Goodyear is pursuing or otherwise represent a good partnership opportunity.