HP Unit to Invest in IoT, Immersive Computing, 3D Printing Startups

HP Tech Ventures is looking for early stage companies that are working in a broad range of technology areas, including AI and robotics.

IT investments

HP Inc. is formalizing its investment efforts around early stage companies that are working on products in a broad range of areas, including artificial intelligence, immersive computing and the Internet of things.

The company—the offspring of last year's split of Hewlett-Packard—this week announced the launch of HP Tech Ventures, its new corporate venture arm that officials said will invest in startups that are developing technologies that could benefit HP.

The group will be led by Andrew Bolwell, who officials referred to as HP's "chief disrupter," and will report to Shane Wall, HP's CTO and head of HP Labs. Wall came to HP in 2012 after spending 14 years with Intel, including two years with Intel Capital, the chip maker's investment arm. Intel has been aggressive over the years in investing in a range of companies of interest to the chip maker. Most recently, Intel has invested in startups working in such areas as robotics, drones, wearable devices and the Internet of things (IoT), as well as companies in China.

Other top-tier tech vendors with their own investment arms include Google, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), the other company created by the breakup of HP.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Wall said that HP would operate in a manner similar to Intel Capital by using money from its general fund to invest in the startups, rather than create a particular fund. The investment group already has been working under the radar and made some investments already, he said.

"What we have been focusing on is investments that help us accelerate a current business, or help us accelerate disruptions that are now in the lab," Wall told WSJ.

HP Tech Ventures will include teams in Palo Alto, Calif., and Tel Aviv, Israel, and will cast a wide net, according to HP officials. Along with artificial intelligence (AI), immersive computing and the IoT, the group also is looking at startups working on 3D printing, hyper-mobility, smart machines and robotics. HP's market presence will give the early stage companies a significant boost, according to Wall, not only through funding but by giving them access to its technology network, channel, distribution partners, manufacturing and supply chain.

"The next technology revolution is shifting towards strategic markets that speak to HP's strengths," he said in a statement. "With our global brand and broad reach into consumer and commercial markets worldwide, HP can help startups bring product to market, build their business and scale in the global marketplace as they grow."

HP split in November 2015, separating its enterprise IT solutions and services from PCs and printers. According to CEO Meg Whitman and other HP executives at the time, the move would give the two new companies—HP Inc., which sells clients and printers, and HPE for commercial technology—the opportunity to focus their efforts and money on their core businesses. However, it also was a way of freeing the enterprise unit from the struggling PC business that, like other system and component makers, is being battered by the years-long decline of the worldwide PC market.

HP Inc. officials in February reported that in the last quarter of 2015—the first for the company as an independent entity—revenue fell 12 percent, to $12.2 billion.