By Peter High. Published on Forbes
Index Ventures General Partner, Mike Volpi, has an unusual distinction in the world of venture capital: he sits on the board of one of the oldest and largest automotive companies in the world, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (the company was actually formed in 2014, but the parts that came together are each quite old), and on the board of companies like Aurora, which provides self-driving car technology. As such, he understands and is helping to shape autonomous driving from the supply and demand sides deeper than most.
Born in Italy, raised in Japan, and educated in the United States, Volpi spent time at Cisco during times of extraordinary growth. As Chief Strategy Officer for the company he led corporate strategy, strategic alliances, and business development. During the seven years in which he held that role (spanning from 1994 through 2000), Volpi oversaw the acquisition of over 70 companies.
He started Index’s San Francisco office in 2009, ahead of the curve on tech’s move up the peninsula of Silicon Valley and into the city. Since then, he has led investments Arista Networks, Cloud.com, Hortonworks, Pure Storage, Sonos, and Zuora, among many other companies. We discuss the future of self driving cars, and several other topics in this far reaching interview.
Peter High: You have been a General Partner with Index Ventures since you joined the firm in 2009. One of the most prominent technologies you are involved in is the technology that powers autonomous vehicles. As you are an investor in that space, you have sat on the board of startups, such as Aurora, as well as the board of Fiat Chrysler. Could you elaborate on the different perspectives you gain from these diverse experiences with both digital native and digital immigrant organizations? Furthermore, can you talk about the progress that has been made in this industry now that the innovation that has been hyped up for years is becoming a reality?
Mike Volpi: There are two important messages to take away. The first is that the use of technology is enormously transformative and important to the business world, various segments of the industry, and society in general. There are 38,000 deaths in traffic accidents in the United States per year while places such as India see close to half a million deaths a year. This technology is built to change that and to create a safer environment for people to drive in. Additionally, this technology has a wide variety of ancillary benefits, such as the reduction of parking lots, the creation of urban driving environments, commute patterns, reduction of traffic, among others.