Startup Funding: August 2020

17 startups raised over $1B; RISC-V, design services, and chip analytics shine.


Semiconductor startups were hot this month, with big funding going to designers and chip analytics. In automotive, one Chinese electric vehicle company raised another large round right before its IPO, and a LiDar maker’s reverse merger gave it a cash infusion and set it on its own IPO road. Plus, a growing quantum computer developer saw a funding boost. This month, we feature 17 startups that collectively raised over $1B.

Semiconductor & design
SiFive raised $61.0M in a Series E round led by SK Hynix, joined by new investor Prosperity7 Ventures (an Aramco fund), with additional funding from existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures, Western Digital Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Intel Capital, Osage University Partners, and Spark Capital. The company provides RISC-V-based processor cores, accelerators, and SoC IP for domain-specific architectures. Based in San Mateo, Calif., and founded in 2015, SiFive also recently announced the OpenFive business unit offering customizable, silicon-focused solutions with differentiated IP.

Design services company Brite Semiconductor drew CN¥350M (~$50.3M) in a Series D round led by Haitong Securities and Sunic Capital and joined by GP Capital, Oriza Holdings, Teda Venture Capital, Volcanics Venture, and Xiaomi Industry Fund. Brite provides ASIC design services for SMIC 55nm/40nm/28nm/14nm process technology as well as a range of IP including interfaces, DDR controllers/PHYs, RF, analog, and SoC platforms. Founded in 2008 and based in Shanghai, Brite has raised $80.9M so far and holds a strategic agreement with SMIC.

Chip analytics startup proteanTecs raised $45.0M in growth equity funding led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) and joined by Valor Equity Partners and Atreides Management, as well as existing investors. proteanTecs uses on-chip monitoring and machine learning to provide a cloud-based telemetry platform that predicts failures and manufacturing performance in electronics. Based in Haifa, Israel, and founded in 2017, the company has raised $97.0M in total.

AI chipmaker Syntiant drew $35.0M in Series C funding led by Applied Ventures and M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund), joined by new investors Alpha Edison, Atlantic Bridge, and Miramar Ventures. The startup provides always-on AI voice and sensor solutions for edge devices in the form of its microwatt-power Neural Decision Processors (NDPs), which the company says recently passed 1 million units shipped. Based in Irvine, Calif., and founded in 2017, Syntiant has raised a total of $65.1M.

Ozark Integrated Circuits received a $0.8M grant from the U.S. Air Force for the development of its rugged ICs and systems. Specifically, the grant will be used for development of a 32-bit RISC-V core for a microcontroller that can withstand operation at temperatures as high as 200⁰C (390⁰F) with a lifetime of more than 10,000 hours. Founded in 2011, the Fayetteville, AR-based company provides design tools and consulting focused on extreme environments.

Quantum computing
Quantum computer builder Rigetti Computing raised $79.0M in Series C funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners and joined by Franklin Templeton, Alumni Ventures Group, Data Collective DCVC, EDBI, Morpheus Ventures, and Northgate Capital. Rigetti designs and fabricates quantum systems using its dedicated fab. Most recently, Rigetti released a 32-qubit quantum computer that is currently available through Amazon Braket and the company’s own cloud service. Founded in 2013 and based in Berkeley, Calif., the company has raised a total of $198.5M to date.

Quantum Brilliance raised AU$1.6M (~$1.2M) in seed funding from CP Ventures for its diamond-based quantum microprocessors that can operate at room temperature. Based in Canberra, Australia, and founded in 2019 as a spin-out from the Australian National University, Quantum Brilliance recently teamed up with the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre on a quantum innovation hub.

Optical & sensors
Nanosys raised $20.0M in a Series I round from Shoei Chemical for its quantum dot technology used in displays. The company produces a range of quantum dots from traditional cadmium-selenide to heavy metal free versions and is currently working on expanding quantum dots to agricultural applications. Based in Milpitas, Calif., and founded in 2001, Nanosys has raised $186.5M in total.

Saphlux raised $5.0M in Series B funding for its semi-polar gallium nitride (GaN) products for LEDs and lasers with lower polarization-induced electric fields and reduced blue shift. The startup also makes quantum dot technology that uses nano-pores to improve efficiency for mini and micro LED displays. Brantford, Conn.-based Saphlux spun out of the Nitride Group at Yale University in 2014 and has raised $15.5M so far.

Optics and photonics startup PICadvanced raised €4M (~$4.5M) in Series A funding led by Verizon Ventures and joined by PME Investimentos. Based in Ilhavo, Portugal, and founded in 2014, the company provides optoelectronic and photonic IC development and design services with a focus on passive optical networks for telecommunications and biomedicine.

Sensor startup Sorex Sensors drew £0.9K (~$1.2M) seed funding from Cambridge Angels, Cambridge Enterprise, Camvision, and SyndicateRoom for its high sensitivity MEMS mass sensors based on film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) technology. Based in Cambridge, U.K., and founded in 2017 as a spin-out from Cambridge University, Sorex says its sensors can be fabricated on silicon wafers using standard foundry processes at low cost and with a small size. The startup has raised $2.8M total.

Electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors raised $400.0M in Series C+ with funding from Alibaba, Qatar Investment Authority, and Mubadala Investment Company. The new funding joins the company’s $500.0M Series C+ round just last month in providing a boost for the company right before its U.S. IPO on NYSE in late August (NYSE:XPEV). With initial price of $15 per share, the stock opened at $23.1 on Aug. 27. The company has produced an electric SUV and just debuted a sedan with Level 3 autonomy. Based in Guangzhou, China, Xpeng was founded in 2014 and has raised $2.6B in total.

Electric vehicle charging network operator ChargePoint drew $127.0M in Series H funding to boost its global commercial and fleet businesses. Founded in 2007 and based in Campbell, Calif., the company has raised $660.0M in total.

Electric commercial vehicle company Xos Trucks raised $20.0M from investors including Proeza Ventures and BUILD Capital Group. People from both firms joined Xos’ board. The startup focuses on production of EV chassis for last-mile delivery services. The financing will be used to grow operations and further scale production of the X-Platform, which is currently used by Loomis and UPS. Founded in 2016, Xos is based in North Hollywood, Calif.

Connected car analytics startup Wejo raised £10.0M (~$13.1M) in a funding round led by DIP Capital and joined by the UK government’s The Future Fund, among others. Based in Chester, U.K., and founded in 2014, the company’s cloud-based data exchange platform aggregates and normalizes connected car data while maintaining driver privacy. The company targets both the private and public sectors.

EV charging company SWTCH raised CA$1.1M (~$0.8M) in seed funding led by IBI Group and joined by Active Impact Investments, Cogito Capital, Export Development Canada, FedDev, and Ontario Centres of Excellence. The startup focuses on EV charging deployment and management for high-density urban areas and multi-tenant buildings. Based in Toronto, Canada, and founded in 2016, the company has received $2.7M in total.

LiDAR maker Luminar will merge with Gores Metropoulos, a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by The Gores Group and Metropoulos & Co. The reverse merger will provide the company with $400.0M in cash from Gores Metropoulos and add Luminar to Nasdaq (Nasdaq: LAZR). As part of the deal, Luminar will also see $170 million financing from institutional investors including Alec Gores, Van Tuyl Companies, Peter Thiel, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Crescent Cove, Moore Strategic Ventures, Nick & Jill Woodman, and VectoIQ. Luminar’s Lidar sensor and software targets Level 3-5 autonomous vehicles and plans to see production release in 2022 in Volvo’s platform. Founded in 2012, the company is based in Orlando, Fla., and has raised $420.0M, excluding the merger cash.

Table 1: Selected startup funding in August 2020.

AI applications
What products and services that employ AI are attracting investor attention? Three areas and five companies stood out this month.

Health and medical: 13 startups raised $313.5M. Two companies took a large portion of that: Atomwise, which raised $123.0M for structure-based small molecule drug discovery, and Synthego, which drew $100.0M for CRISPR genome editing.

Advertising and customer relations: 10 companies drew $267.7M. Gong drew most of that funding, with $200.0M for its cloud-based platform that analyzes sales conversation and calls.

Data analytics and enterprise: 9 companies received $151.6M. A large portion of that went to Dataiku, which raised $100.0M for its platform that helps enterprises deploy and manage AI models.

General purpose: AI startup Groq kept its initial investors and gained a few in its funding round, which closed in August. New investor D1 Capital Partners joined new strategic partner TDK Ventures. Groq did not disclose the amount.

Find our prior startup funding reports here.
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