Daimler’s 1886 Ventures: Shaping the future of mobility.

Daimler created 1886 Ventures (previously Lab 1886) to shape the future of mobility through automotive engineering. This is their corporate incubator story.

Corporate incubators have become the go-to among companies looking to expand non-core growth and experiment with new business models. With 1886 Ventures, Daimler's innovation efforts have a home where they can be built free of traditional processes.

Leveraging corporate assets is a proven way corporate incubators can explore new areas of growth, fuel innovation, and foster an entrepreneurial mindset – all with the end goal of making your company stronger and more future-proof.

Many successful multinationals like Google, RBC, Lufthansa, and Merck have already jumped on the bandwagon and set up their own corporate incubators with stellar results. Here at Bundl, we want to celebrate their success by featuring our favourite Corporate Incubator stories in a series similar to our Corporate Startup stories.

This week, we’re exploring the story behind Daimler’s 1886 Ventures. Let’s start at the beginning…

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A little bit about Daimler AG.

With a history that dates back to 1886, Daimler has three highly successful business units:

  • Mercedes-Benz AG is one of the world’s most renowned producers of premium cars.
  • Daimler Truck AG is one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers.
  • Daimler Mobility AG provides a wide range of financial and mobility solutions. They also invest in app-based innovations like car-sharing and ride-hailing.

With production facilities all over the world and a 2020 net profit of €2.2 billion, it’s hard to imagine what challenges this industry titan could possibly face. However, like most forward-thinking companies, Daimler is aware of the importance of innovation.

In recent years, the automotive industry has been significantly affected by factors like the rise of smart mobility, green technologies, and automated driving.

One of the ways Daimler has remained an industry leader is by creating its own independent innovation lab, 1886 Ventures. Their goal is to identify new business opportunities, including those outside its core business, and incubate them until they’ve reached market maturity.

About Daimler's 1886 Ventures.

Since the invention of the first automobile in 1886 (yes, that’s where 1886 Ventures’ name comes from), Daimler has taken automotive engineering to unprecedented heights. Lab1886, now 1886 Ventures, was created to help keep that legacy alive.

Established in 2007, 1886 Ventures is an independent innovation lab within Daimler AG. Their mission is to identify innovative ideas and leverage Daimler’s corporate know-how and assets to nurture them until they become successful ventures, like these three:


The thinking behind 1886 Ventures.

  • Ideation – Promising ideas get validated in-house. After that, an expert panel decides on how to proceed.
  • Incubation – This is the phase where new prototypes are designed and pilot projects are developed.
  • Commercialization – During this phase, projects get rolled out to the global market.

One of their strategies is to explore digital concepts outside Daimler’s core business. Experimenting with new technologies and business models is helping Daimler expand beyond automobile manufacturing to become a mobility provider.

  • 1886 Ventures operates independently from its parent company. This gives its employees the freedom to develop new ventures outside the typical corporate hierarchy in an environment that fosters an entrepreneurial mindset. In other words, they bring together the best of both worlds:
  • The corporate assets it takes to succeed.
  • The lean and agile mindset found in most startups.

As described in Lab 1886’s website:

“We unleash the potential of next technologies to build outstanding ventures that create value for our industry partners and us.”

Daimler 1886 Ventures DNA
Credit: Lab1886

The benefits.

In a landscape as competitive and fast-moving as the automotive industry, future-proofing is the name of the game. Daimler is making great strides toward that goal through 1886 Ventures.

These are just some of the benefits of having their own corporate incubator:

  • It’s a great way to actively build a culture of innovation.
  • It helps Daimler tap into new markets and accelerates the development of innovative value propositions.
  • It helps Daimler evolve beyond its core business by leveraging its expertise, resources, and partnerships.
  • The newly acquired insights can help future-proof the company, solving existing problems faster, more cost-effectively, and with lower risk.
  • It facilitates innovation through creation, experimentation, and learning by failing.
  • All the new experiments provide access to new ideas, skill sets, and technologies.
Credit: Daimler AG

What’s next?

With several successful projects under their belt, 1886 Ventures is still going strong in its mission to nurture promising new startups – from idea to launch.

One of their more recent projects involves a technology called AXYARD. The technology is now being used for automated snow removal with self-driving vehicles.

They will continue to support their teams by providing the resources, infrastructure, coaching, and mentoring needed to build disruptive new ventures – with a focus on technology.

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