It was a little surprising in June when General Motors Co. decided to make a venture capitalist out of Jon Lauckner.
Lauckner, 52, had been GM's vice president for global program management. He played a big role in creation of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. So now he's a finance guy?
Not exactly, Lauckner said in an interview last week. As president of newly created GM Ventures, he's pushing into "a new way of doing business for GM" -- or at least a new way of getting innovative technology.
Lauckner has an initial $100 million pot of cash to invest in "startup companies that can lead us into the next generation of automotive technologies." GM Ventures' first deal was taking a $5 million equity stake in Bright Automotive of Anderson, Ind., which is developing a plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle.
GM wants similar deals -- minority equity in companies that could grow into suppliers of leading-edge technology. Clean and green is a major focus.
"If we're out there investing in a startup, we've probably made the decision that we're not going to pursue exactly the same technology in-house," Lauckner says. "What that means is that we're really counting on the success of the startup company to deliver that technology to us."
So how long will it take to burn through the initial $100 million?
"We're not in any danger of putting all the money to work in the next 60 to 90 days. But it won't take us years, either."