Startup Funding: April 2020

Twenty-two startups drew $375M in April, with a big win for semi-autonomous trucking in China.


It was another strong month for automotive startups, with one autonomous trucking company in China drawing a massive $100M investment. Another hot area was optimization of machine learning deployments, including one new company launch. Quantum computing, etch equipment, and mmWave feature in this month’s look at twenty-two startups that collectively raised $375M.

Semiconductors & design
Photonic chipmaker Lightelligence raised $26.0M in a Series A round led by Matric Partners China and joined by CICC. The company says its optical AI chip provides better speed, latency, and lower power consumption compared to traditional electronic architectures. Based in Boston, the company spun out of MIT. Total funding has reached $36.0M.

Semiconductor equipment startup Jiangsu Leuven Instruments received $14.1M in Series B funding led by CAS Star and joined by C.Domain Capital, Red Star Macalline, Xianghui Capital, and Zhongji Investment. Founded in 2017 as a jointly funded venture by Leuven Instruments of Belgium and the Institute of Microelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Leuven produces a range of etch equipment, including a reactive ion etcher, inductively coupled plasma etcher, ion beam etcher, and platform etcher for magnetic memory, as well as CVD equipment. It is based in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, China.

Optical coating tool company SOLAYER secured $10.0M in new financing from Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc. China (AMEC) and the company’s co-founder, Doug Schatz. Based in Dresden, SOLAYER’s PVD sputtering tools target precision optics for applications in 3D sensors, 5G, and LIDAR. In addition to the investment, AMEC will become a distributor of SOLAYER’s products.

Kalray received €8.0M (~$9M) in strategic investment from NXP. A public company on the Euronext Growth Paris market (ALKAL), Grenoble-based Kalray will use the funding in continued development of its massively parallel multicore processor architecture as part of a common hardware and software platform for L2 to L5 vehicle automation, a goal of the partnership with NXP. Kalray was spun out of CEA in 2008.

Luminovo raised $2.5M in a pre-seed financing round for its ‘electronic engineering operating system’ that uses machine learning to reduce the time and resources needed to bring PCBs to market. Based in Munich, Luminovo works with customers to break down data silos and reduce repetitive tasks. The round was led by Cherry Ventures and La Famiglia, with funds going primarily to product development and hiring.

Astera Labs raised an undisclosed amount in a Series B round that included Sutter Hill Ventures, Intel Capital, Avigdor Willenz, and Ron Jankov. The Santa Clara-based company provides smart retimers for PCIe 4.0 and 5.0 and is developing a Compute Express Link (CXL) portfolio.

Quantum computing
Terra Quantum raised €10.0M (~$10.8M) in venture funding for its development of quantum technologies and applications led by Lakestar. Founded in 2019 and based in Rorschach, Switzerland, the startup has developed a hybrid quantum algorithm for solving a linear system of equations with exponential speedup that utilizes quantum phase estimation.

Seeqc raised $5.0M in Series A funding from M Ventures, the strategic corporate venture capital arm of Merck KGaA, to develop commercially viable quantum computing systems for problem-specific applications. The startup’s approach combines classical and quantum computing in an all-digital architecture through a SoC design that utilizes 10-40 GHz superconductive classical co-processing to address the efficiency, stability and cost issues of quantum computing systems. Based in Elmsford, NY, USA, Seeqc was spun out of HYPRES in 2018. In total, the company has raised $11.8M.

Q-CTRL received an undisclosed amount in strategic investment from In-Q-Tel. Q-CTRL applies the principles of control engineering to quantum computing systems. The Sydney-based company has raised $15.0M in disclosed funding.

Shanghai-based Inceptio Technology drew $100.0M Series A funding for its vision of a nationwide freight network utilizing autonomous trucks. Funded by G7 Networks and GLP, Inceptio is developing a full-stack autonomous software and on-board computing platform and plans to see OEMs rolling out L3 autonomous heavy-duty trucks using the technology by the end of 2021. The company, along with Dongfeng Trucks, has produced an A-sample validation of an L3 truck.

Aiming to make autonomous driving possible in complex urban environments, Qcraft drew $24.0M in seed funding from IDG Capital, Vision+ Capital, and Tide Capital for its large-scale intelligent simulation system and a self-learning framework for decision-making and planning. The Beijing-based company has been conducting tests on California’s public roads since July 2019.

Autonomous driving startup Phantom AI brought in $22.0M in Series A funding for its modular, software-based vehicle stack providing computer vision, sensor fusion, and control capabilities for ADAS. The company is working with OEMs and Tier 1s with the goal of deploying ADAS to a greater number of vehicles. The round was led by by Celeres Investments and joined by Ford Motor Company, KT Investment, Millennium Technology Value Partners, and DSC Investment. Total investment in the Burlingame, CA, USA company is $27.0M.

Lidar startup ZVISION Technologies received $10.0M in a venture round from Fosun RZ Capital and Green Pine Capital Partners. Based in Beijing, the company’s MEMS-based Lidar provides a wide FOV and high resolution for low speed driving, blind spot, and robotics. Future products plan to target L3/L4 autonomous driving.

SparkCharge raised $3.3M for its portable charging solution for electric vehicles. The modular 3.5 kWh battery packs each hold 14-15 miles of range and charge at level 3 speeds (1 mile per minute). Based in Somerville, MA, USA, the company is targeting roadside assistance, fleet management, and concierge providers. The round was led by PJC with participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, PEAK6 Strategic Capital, M&T Bank, and Tale Venture Partners, bringing total funding to $5.0M.

AEV Robotics raised $2.5M in seed funding from Investible for its modular, autonomous vehicle system that uses a single robotic base to carry different pods specialized for applications such as delivery, medical services, taxi, or refrigerated compartments. Based in Sydney, Australia, the company’s low speed vehicles focus on safety in urban environments.

IoT & connectivity
Movandi brought in $27.0M in a Series C funding round for its 5G mmWave technology, which include 5G active routers/repeaters and RF front-end for fixed wireless CPE, mobile devices, small cells, and Open Radio Access Networks (ORAN) radio units. WRVI Capital led the current round along with Cota Capital and DNX Ventures. The Irving, CA, USA-based plans technology deployment this year and has raised a total of $56.7M.

Satellite connectivity company Myriota raised AUD$28.0M (~$18M) in Series B funding led by Hostplus and Main Sequence Ventures and joined by In-Q-Tel, Right Click Capital, the South Australian Venture Capital Fund, Singtel Innov8, Boeing HorizonX, and former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull. The Adelaide, Australia-based company uses low-cost and low-power satellites to provide connectivity for IoT devices and sensors in remote locations. The attachable module is able to pre-process and compress data before sending. Myriota plants to extend its number of satellites to 25 by 2022 and increase headcount 50%. In March, the company acquired satellite communications assets from data services company exactEarth. Total funding exceeds AUD$50M (~$32M).

AI hardware & development
Tecton launched from stealth with a $20.0M Series A funding round to help organizations build and deploy machine learning systems through the development of models that can be reused across different use cases. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, which took seats on the board and also contributed to the startup’s seed funding. The San Francisco-based company has raised a total of $25.0M.

Bigstream completed a $19.1 million funding round led by new investor Xilinx and existing investor Cota Capital, with participation from Samsung and SK Hynix. The Mountain View, CA, company uses FPGA/GPU and software accelerators to speed up big data platforms like Apache Spark without the need for FPGA programming, changing application code, or special APIs.

OctoML closed a $15.0M Series A funding round to use machine learning to improve deployment of ML models. The company builds on the open source Apache TVM project with a SaaS platform that turns ML models into highly optimized packages for deployment in the edge and in the cloud, while reducing resource costs. Based in Seattle, OctoML will use the funding to expand its team and further develop its platform. The round was led by Amplify Partners and joined by Madrona Venture Group.

AI chipmaker Westwell Lab drew $14.0M in a Series C funding round led by InnoStar Venture and joined by Dongling Yuda Capital, Empower Investment, Essence Securities, Hygoal Capital, and Inspur Group. The Shanghai-based company’s AI accelerator chips are part of its full stack offerings, which target applications from cargo port monitoring and mining to medical imaging and diagnosis. The company also makes Qomolo, an autonomous container truck.

Concertio drew $4.2M in seed funding for its AI-powered optimization software. Using dynamic, continuous, and static optimization, the New York-based startup tunes the many configuration settings used on a given server to best run specific applications. Use cases include Kubernetes resource optimization, minimizing latencies in high-frequency trading platforms, compiler flag mining, database optimization, optimization of CPU and ASIC products’ defaults, or maximizing networking bandwidth. The round was led by Differential Ventures with participation from Empire State Development, The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, NextLeap Ventures, Doug Alpuche, Wharton Alumni Angels, Plug and Play Venture Group, Scott Smith, J-Angels, Howard Morgan, David Magerman, Big Red Ventures, and Rough Draft Ventures.

AI.Reverie brought in $5.6M in venture funding for development of its synthetic data platform that creates annotated images and videos to train computer vision and machine learning systems. The company says synthetic data can be a way around a lack of diverse, labeled images for neural net training. The technology has been used for training airport simulation, weapons detection, cashier-less shopping, and delivery bots. Vulcan Capital led the round, with participation from Compound, In-Q-Tel, Resolute Ventures, SGInnovate, TechNexus, and Triphammer Ventures. Based in New York, the company has raised over $10M so far.

ANYVERSE raised €3.0M (~$3.3M) in Series A funding from Bullnet Capital and Inveready for its effort to create synthetic datasets of images for training neural networks. Beyond just generating an environment, the startup aims to cover a full range of real-life conditions and uses a spectral render engine to simulate sensor optics with photometric accuracy. A spin out from graphics simulation and rendering company Next Limit, the Madrid-based company is targeting robotics, autonomous vehicles, UAVs, and smart cameras.

AI applications
How are startups using AI? Eighty-two startups report using it as part of their product or service, with funding exceeding $1.3B.

Eleven data analytics and enterprise applications companies raised a total of $444.2M, with two companies exceeding the $100M mark: 4Paradigm ($230.0M) and Collibra ($112.5M). Cybersecurity was another high-dollar area, with five startups raising $275M between them. Again, two companies drew the bulk of that funding: BioCatch for its behavioral authentication ($145.0M) and Onfido for its facial biometric ID verification ($100.0M).

Rounding out the highest funded sectors is health and medical applications, where sixteen startups drew $166.6M. The fourth category, computer vision, was dominated by Intellifusion‘s $141.9M round for its full-stack AI platform targeted at public safety and social governance.

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