Nov 25, 2020

Qualcomm Ventures: Two Decades of Driving Innovation in Mobile


Qualcomm Ventures is turning 20 years old. Back in 2000, when we launched, the wireless landscape was entirely different. We used mobile phones then basically just to make phone calls; the first phone with an integrated camera was available, but only in Japan. Qualcomm, which has helped usher in every wireless milestone, knew then that the mobile landscape was on the cusp of massive transformation. Qualcomm Ventures was formed to invest in companies globally to drive the advancement and adoption of wireless technology.

Over two decades, we’ve invested in more than 360 portfolio companies and deployed over $1.5 billion in capital. Today we have $1 billion in assets under management and more than 160 companies in our portfolio. We’ve supported visionary founders and groundbreaking companies as they’ve built technology that helps drivers find the fastest routes — and helps your car drive itself. Companies we’ve invested in have disrupted the smartphone and smart hardware business in China, improved ridesharing in Brazil, and brought affordable voice and data to hundreds of millions in India. One portfolio company is leading video conferencing with a product that’s simple to use across all our devices.

We pride ourselves on all we can offer to founders. We’re committed to collaborating with entrepreneurs, giving them access to our technology, expertise, and networks, and helping them build the global businesses of tomorrow. In the last five years, 11 of our exits have achieved unicorn status. As we prepare for our next 20 years at Qualcomm Ventures, here’s a look back at some key milestones and innovations on the path to today.

For the last 20 years, we’ve had the privilege of working with extraordinary entrepreneurs who have transformed industries. From CDMA to smartphones and now 5G, we’ve been at the forefront of wireless technology to help accelerate innovation and advance the mobile ecosystem. We’re honored to have played a small part in building so many successful companies, and we look forward to what the next 20 years will bring.” — Quinn Li, SVP and Global Head of Qualcomm Ventures.

2000: Qualcomm Ventures is founded with the mission to promote the growth of the global wireless ecosystem and an initial $500 million commitment from our parent, Qualcomm Incorporated. Today, that means our goal is to accelerate innovation by making investments that leverage smartphone technologies and lead to new, connected verticals and markets.

2003: Our China office opens. We’re committed to investing only in regions where we have feet on the ground, with investment managers who know their markets and competitive landscapes — and can provide crucial guidance to portfolio companies. Today, the China office has invested in 39 companies.

2007: Our India office opens, enabling Qualcomm to play a key role in India’s wireless revolution. Today, we have active investments in 19 portfolio companies in India.

2010: We make a Series B investment in Waze, recognizing the value of crowdsourced mobility data. The investment is led by our Israel office, launched a year earlier.

2011: We invest in Xiaomi, with its unique, disruptive plan to make premium smartphones at moderate prices and sell them direct-to-consumer, primarily online, in the enormous China market. The investment builds on our trust in Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s visionary founder, whose ambitious plans called for Xiaomi to sell 300,000 units of its first model — powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 3 chipset.

2012: Brazil office opens. The next year, we make our first investment in 99, originally 99 Taxis, an innovative Brazilian rideshare platform that understands its unique local market far better than outsiders. In 2018, 99 is acquired by the Chinese rideshare giant DiDi Chuxing Technology Co.

2013: Waze is acquired by Google.

2015: Fitbit IPOs on the New York Stock Exchange. We’d invested after recognizing that the connected health and fitness leader was creating a new category by targeting a broad market beyond only fitness enthusiasts.

2015: Beijng-based Thundersoft, provider of operating system technologies that drive everything from smartphones to IoT devices to on-device AI, IPOs on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. We’d invested in 2011.

2016: Cruise Automation, a leading startup developing self-driving vehicle technology, is acquired by GM. We’d invested after looking at a number of companies in the space and believing that Cruise was the best bet, based on the founders, their vision, and our belief that they were far ahead of their competition in developing the technology needed for successful self-driving systems.

2018: We launch a $100 million AI fund focused on wireless edge AI, applications of AI that take place on the end device, like a smartphone or a vehicle. It’s based on our history of successful AI investments, including Cruise, and our belief that AI is set to transform industries, business models, and experiences, with mobile AI becoming the pervasive AI platform. Since then, we’ve invested in several innovative AI startups, including SentinelOne and AnyVision.

2018: Xiaomi IPOs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, becoming the world’s third most valuable smartphone manufacturer.

2018: Ring, the connected-home startup we’d invested in, is acquired by Amazon.

2019: We launch a $200 million 5G Ecosystem fund, leveraging our deep 5G expertise and a truly global network to help portfolio companies leverage 5G’s unique capabilities. We’d already had many successful 5G investments, including Affirmed Networks, (later acquired by Microsoft), Altiostar, Airspan and Baicells. The first investment from this fund is Tytocare, the first all-in-one modular device and telehealth platform for on-demand, remote medical exams. Other 5G investments include Celona, Cellwize, Azion, Dalong Tech and Pensando Systems.

2019: Zoom IPOs on the Nasdaq, becoming one of the year’s biggest tech offerings. We made a Series A investment in Zoom in 2012, making a big, early bet on another visionary founder, Eric Yuan, his proven track record, and his game-changing product: a superior video conferencing platform that’s easy to use and works as well on a smartphone as on a PC.

2019: Cloudflare IPOs on the New York Stock Exchange, closing its first trading day with a market cap over $5 billion. We made a 2015 investment in the innovative cloud-based web services and cybersecurity provider.

2019: AMEC IPOs as one of the first 25 companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new, tech-focused STAR Market. We made a 2007 investment in China’s only world-class, semiconductor equipment manufacturer.

2020: We invest in Jio Platforms, which disrupted the Indian telecom market by offering low price voice and data plans and reached 400 million subscribers in only four years. Now we’re supporting Jio as it rolls out advanced 5G infrastructure and services for the Indian market.

2020: Twenty years of Qualcomm Ventures. Twenty years of advancing the mobile ecosystem. Twenty years of powerful collaboration with incredible, innovative, visionary founders. We’re grateful to have been a part of their journey, and we’re excited for what’s coming next. Today, we’re investing in technologies that will power the next 20 years of mobile innovation — 5G, AI, and things beyond the phone, like IoT and automotive. We’ll keep making bets on bold entrepreneurs with great visions, people who can create what has yet to be imagined, who are looking to reshape the world around us.