Is Ford Open To More Startup And Technology Acquisitions?
This was an unusual move for Ford.
Bill Coughlin, President and CEO of Ford Global Technologies (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ford), told Benzinga that the company had not purchased a technology firm "in a very long time."
Up until recently, Ford hadn't even planned to acquire Livio.
"Jake Sigal, CEO of Livio, called Paul Mascarenas, Ford's Chief Technology Officer, to let him know that they'd be interested in possibly being acquired by Ford," said Coughlin. "Paul had met the Livio team before at CES and so forth, and a number of people in our connected services team were more than aware of what Livio had been doing and was impressed."
Mascarenas asked Coughlin to take a look at Livio. The more he saw, the more he liked.
"I said, 'Let's go for it,'" Coughlin recalled. "'Let's see if we can bring them in -- in a way that really helps Livio, helps Ford and maybe even helps the industry.'"
Coughlin was particularly impressed by the culture at Livio. He referred to the company's test app (which allows suppliers and app developers to see if their creations will work on different head units and different automobiles) as a "super-awesome" testing tool.
"There are tools like that that I think are very helpful and show the promise of what a small, highly-motivated team can do," said Coughlin. "So part of what they'll bring to Ford is a great team. We're just delighted to have these guys be part of the enterprise."
Coughlin also appreciated the work that Sigal, who founded Livio in 2008, has accomplished. From the start, Sigal wanted to develop products that were cool, safe and seamless enough for his mom to use.
"That's a pretty tough standard to meet, but it's a very practical one," said Coughlin. "That's the kind of attitude that I think Jake brings to Ford. We hope to be able to keep them just as entrepreneurial and nimble as they've been."
While Livio will be integrated into product development, the company will maintain a degree of its individuality. The team will stay together, and Livio will have a Board of Directors. Coughlin will serve on that board along with a number of other Ford executives who work in the connectivity space.
"They will also have a terrific opportunity to be this small team that can work with others outside of Ford very easily, yet have the security and resources associated with a really large team," said Coughlin. "We think we can achieve the best of both worlds. I'm pretty excited about this!"
Ford may not have initiated the Livio acquisition, but it could initiate others in the future.
"I think we've opened up a new avenue for the company -- or re-opened, I should say," said Coughlin. "I think the company is a bit more open to looking at other possible acquisitions that would make sense. Not that we're looking, but I think we're open to it."
Coughlin added that there are not any other startups or technology firms that Ford currently plans to acquire.
For now the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker intends to focus exclusively on Livio.
Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.
Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at louis(at)benzingapro(dot)com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ
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