EVCA Leadership
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June 1, 2021

Leadership Spotlight: Mobility Vertical Leads, Chris Abshire of Toyota Ventures and Puneeth Meruva of Trucks Venture Capital

By
Samantha Huang,
Principal at BMW i Ventures

The EVCA leadership is dedicated to building community across and empowering the next generation of venture capitalists through an array of activities—from hosting events, knowledge sharing, and connecting others. This EVCA Leadership Spotlight Series is intended to help the broader community get to know what's going on behind the scenes at the EVCA, as well as highlight the valuable contributions of those individuals who make the EVCA possible. Accordingly, it's a great privilege for us to announce this EVCA Leadership Spotlight on our very own EVCA Mobility Vertical Leads, Chris Abshire of Toyota Ventures and Puneeth Meruva of Trucks Venture Capital.

Chris Abshire, Senior Associate at Toyota Ventures

Chris Abshire is a senior associate at Toyota Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focused on frontier technologies and mobility companies. Chris is responsible for sourcing startups, evaluating opportunities, negotiating, and closing investments. Prior to joining Toyota Ventures, Chris worked at Pegasus Tech Ventures investing in frontier technologies both in the US and across SEA. He holds a degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Kansas. Outside of work, Chris loves to play basketball, compete in poker tournaments, produce music, and runs a large crypto Discord group through a pseudonym where he actively angel invests in emerging protocols.

EVCA: Could you explain more about what you do in your role as mobility vertical lead at EVCA?

Chris: As a mobility vertical lead I try to maintain a pulse on the latest trends and topics to organize fun and enlightening events that all mobility investors can benefit from. This could range from a typical Zoom webinar discussing electrification all the way to organizing a weekend event at a racetrack where members are test-driving their dream cars (trying to make this happen once everyone is vaccinated :D).

EVCA: What made you interested in taking a leadership role at EVCA?

Chris: I was interested in taking a leadership role to become even further immersed in the ecosystem and build out my mobility network. EVCA has become the prominent organization for pre-partner VCs to build out their network and get access to a plethora of resources that generally weren’t available just a few years ago to entry level VCs. EVCA has helped me meet so many new people, and provides high quality events and resources that have really helped me excel as a young investor.

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

Chris: Causality is the idea of a machine’s ability to understand cause and effect. In recent years, more R&D dollars have moved into the study of causality; however, it still represents a very small percent of AI research funding. The current view taken by most investors and data scientists is that causal frameworks are still very far away from being properly designed, let alone finding successful applications in the real-world. My view is that we’re within a few years away from seeing multi-billion dollar companies founded on the backs of causal engines. The current state-of-the-art ML fails to perform in many real-world environments, and I think people are starting to realize this and are looking for what could be the next major catalyst in the progression of ML. My bet is a wave of capital is coming towards causality very soon.

Puneeth Meruva, Senior Associate at Trucks Venture Capital

Puneeth Meruva is a Senior Associate at Trucks Venture Capital, an early stage venture firm investing in start-ups making the future of transportation safer, cleaner, and more accessible. Prior to Trucks, Puneeth developed safety and telematics related software at BMW and Uber. He also researched perception algorithms and motion planning at MIT CSAIL's Distributed Robotics Group and CMU RI's Biorobotics Laboratory. He received a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Outside of work, Puneeth is passionate about Formula 1 racing, electronic dance music, soccer.

EVCA: Could you explain more about what you do in your role as mobility vertical lead at EVCA?

Puneeth: As a co-lead for the mobility vertical, I help organize panels with founders, VCs, regulators, and other industry stakeholders on topics critical to the future of mobility. I also help share notable events in the industry to others within the vertical and facilitate conversations about them.

EVCA: What made you interested in taking a leadership role at EVCA?

Puneeth: Our line of work is a trove of niches that requires specialized knowledge and experience across a wide spectrum. I've always found that the best way to learn this knowledge is to talk to others that have thought deeply about their areas of expertise. EVCA has an incredible community of experts and I was excited to take a leadership role at EVCA to facilitate, encourage, and be a part of these conversations within it.


EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

Puneeth: Whether it be because of technology limitations, lack of infrastructure, solving for edge cases and the final 5%, developing sufficiently safe and robust systems, difficulty of nailing the HMI, inter-vehicle interactions, or any of a host of other reasons, I believe that full level 5 robo-taxi-esque autonomous vehicles (AV) are much further away than most people expect. As such, my view is that the biggest autonomy opportunities are the application of autonomous technology in structured environments where the operational design domain is simplified and AV tech can be applied in a much nearer term. Additionally, I also believe tele-op will be an incredibly important parallel tool for AVs as they evolve. Most AV companies don't like to admit that they use tele-op, but I believe that tele-op will always be a critical component of safe AV stacks and integrating them together will be one of the biggest challenges AV companies will face in the coming future.


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