When Porsche joins venture studio UP.Labsthe mission was to create six startups over three years, all designed to solve the German automaker’s biggest problems and be compelling enough as a standalone business to attract other customers.
On Porsche’s list: software that helps manage and automate the performance of electric vehicles. Pull Systems, the first startup to emerge from this partnership, has developed a software product that the two companies believe can solve it. Pull Systems, which was unveiled at SXSW 2023, also announced that it raised $5 million in a funding round led by UP.Partners.
“Cars become a combination of software and battery — and ultimately battery performance,” said UP.Labs President Katelyn Foley. “And OEMs really have to get to a place where they can understand both of those aspects in order to stay competitive, because the things they’re really good at are actually the most common parts of the car.”
Pull Systems is a software-as-a-service platform that provides performance management software to electric vehicle suppliers, manufacturers and operators. The product is not battery management software (BMS), which is technically responsible for collecting battery data and communicating with the battery management system. The startup’s software is a compliment, said Henry Furman, former product manager at UP.Labs, now product manager at Pull Systems.
And it has already been rolled out to Porsche Taycan vehicles on the road today.
The startup has developed a library of machine learning models capable of analyzing and predicting vehicle behavior, such as driving and charging the Porsche fleet. This type of information, combined with outside data such as weather and road conditions, can be used to predict and then inform the automaker or electric vehicle owners when a vehicle needs maintenance, when to deploy over-the-air software updates and even after-sales revenue booster.
The software tracks and collects data on every vehicle in the Porsche EV fleet, which can also help identify performance issues that could be fixed with new firmware or determine the best second-life option for the battery when ‘she’s reaching her end of life,’ Furman added. .
Ultimately, the company wants the software to be automated using machine learning tools.
“Our real vision here in the complexities of electrification is that cars are actually able to take on some of the running of their own propulsion system on their own,” Furman said. “We see a great opportunity for us to automate a lot of what is essentially rules-based type of finding for these various software updates.”
For example, the software can identify a weather front entering a certain area and release a software update that helps optimize batteries, he explained.
It’s a compelling prospect for Porsche, a company that plans to expand its lineup of electric vehicles beyond the Taycan over the next few years, including the Macan in 2024, the 718 in 2025, a Cayenne and a Full-size SUV yet to be named.
Pull Systems plans to add several more automakers to its service over the next year.
The Up.Labs connection
UP.Labs is not a venture company, even though it originated and operates alongside UP.Partners. It’s also not a business accelerator or incubator, although it does create startups and work with companies. The company, which was launched during UP.Summit 2022 in Bentonville, Arkansas, is structured as a venture capital lab with a new type of financial investment vehicle.
Porsche is its first corporate partner. Foley told TechCrunch that more corporate partnerships will be announced this year.
“The way our model works is that we identify large areas of friction that hit high-value pools, and it’s the confluence of those two things that needs to be in place,” Foley said. “So he’s someone who feels the problem deeply and it comes in a lot of money – and we won’t consider anything outside of those two areas.”
At the beginning, the firm dissects the company to find all the problems. UP.Labs identified 217 of them at Porsche and boiled them down to a set of problems and ideas that would solve them. An investment committee that includes UP.Labs, Porsche and UP.Partners, whittles them down to the final pair the team will begin incubating.
Under the three-year agreement with Porsche, UP.Labs will create six companies, or two per year, with new business models focused on the automaker’s core businesses such as predictive maintenance, supply chain transparency procurement or digital retail, according to Lutz Meschke, Deputy President and Member of the Executive Board of Porsche AG for Finance and IT.