Startup Funding: February 2020

From photoresists to LIDAR, 14 startups brought in $1B this month.


AI drew the biggest investments last month, with two AI hardware companies and one autonomous driving software startup pulling in nine-figure sums. Investors also pumped money into semiconductor manufacturing and test equipment, notably around EUV lithography and advanced packaging.

AI Hardware
SambaNova Systems received $250M in Series C funding for its software-defined hardware for AI, led by BlackRock with participation from existing investors including GV, Intel Capital, Walden International, WRVI Capital, and Redline Capital. Based in Palo Alto, CA, SambaNova says its integrated hardware and software solution has a reconfigurable dataflow architecture that enables applications to drive optimized hardware configurations. The company has raised $456M in total.

Graphcore, a maker of processors targeted at AI and machine learning applications, raised $150M in an extended Series D round from new investors Baillie Gifford, Mayfair Equity Partners and M&G Investments alongside existing investors such as Merian Chrysalis. This follows a $200M Series D round at the end of 2018, bringing total investment in the company to $460M. The Bristol, U.K.-based company moved from development to volume production in 2019, shipping its Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) AI accelerator for Microsoft Azure customers, and IPU-based server with Dell.

Semiconductor Manufacturing & Test
Inpria, a producer of metal oxide photoresists for EUV lithography, raised $31M in a Series C funding round led by JSR Corporation. SK Hynix and TSMC Partners also joined existing investors Air Liquide Venture Capital ALIAD, Applied Ventures, Intel Capital and Samsung Venture Investment Corporation in the round. In total, Inpria has raised $67.8M. Based in Corvallis, OR, Inpria spun out of Oregon State University in 2007. The company’s key technology is tin-oxide nanoclusters, which it says provides optimal EUV absorption and reduces photon shot noise with improved patterning resolution.

TeraView secured $6M in venture funding for development of its terahertz inspection systems. The Cambridge-based company’s Electro Optical Terahertz Pulse Reflectometry (EOTPR) is a non-destructive fault isolation tool for 2.5 and 3D advanced packaging technologies, fan-out, and MEMS. Wonik Investments, Pathfinder H, and Ingenious took part in the latest round. The company has raised $32.5M in total. A spin out from the Toshiba Corporation and Cambridge University, TeraView also makes systems for determining paint and coating thickness (such as for automotive painting) as well as tools for research and pharmaceutical inspection.

Hprobe received €2M (~$2.2M) in a seed round led by High-Tech Gründerfonds to further development of automatic test equipment for characterization and testing of MRAM (including STT, SOT, and Voltage-Controlled Magnetic Anisotropy, or VCMA) and magnetic sensors, like tunnel magnetoresistance sensors. Other investors include ITIC, TEL Venture Capital, and BNP Paribas Développement. TEL’s automatic probers are used in Hprobe’s tool, and TEL will put its sales network at the service of Hprobe development. Based in Grenoble, Hprobe spun out of spintronics research lab SPINTEC in 2017.

Injection-molded structural electronics maker TactoTek raised €23M (~$25.4M) in a Series C funding round led by Nordic Option and Valeado. TactoTek’s IMSE platform integrates and encapsulates printed electronics and standard electronic components within 3D injection-molded plastics. Use cases include in-vehicle control panels and wearables, says the company, based in Oulu, Finland. It has raised $70.2M in total.

Self-driving software company raised a massive $462M from Toyota, Sequoia Capital, and KUNLUN in a Series B funding round. Toyota alone contributed $400M, as part of a partnership formed last year between the two companies. has been testing its robotaxi pilot service since late 2018 in Guangzhou, China and rolled out a robotaxi service in California in late 2019. Based in Fremont, CA, the company has raised $726M in total.

Also on the self-driving front, Sensible4 received $7M in Series A funding for development of its full-stack autonomous driving software specialized for difficult weather conditions such as snow, fog and heavy rain. This first phase of the round was led by NordicNinja VC and ITOCHU. Based in Espoo, Finland, Sensible4 also worked with Japanese retailer MUJI on an autonomous shuttle bus and plans to build more.

LIDAR maker Cepton Technologies received $50M in Series C funding led by Koito Manufacturing. In addition to ADAS and autonomous vehicle applications, the San Jose-based company proposes use of its mirrorless, rotationless LIDAR technology for intelligent traffic systems, security, crowd analytics, and industrial robotics. As part of the transaction, Koito (a Tier 1 provider of automotive lighting systems) will obtain non-exclusive rights to manufacture and sell Cepton’s LIDAR sensor design for an automotive application, using key components supplied by Cepton. Total funding is nearly $100M.

IVEX raised €1.2M (~$1.3M) in seed funding for development of software that assesses decisions made by self-driving software to make sure they comply with safety requirements and a validation tool for car manufacturers to use in development of autonomous cars. PMV, Noshaq, The Faktory, Marc Jacobs, and SPDG provided funding, and the company already has customers including Renault and SAIC Motor as well as an agreement with farm equipment maker Case New Holland. A spin out from KU Leuven University, IVEX is based in Heverlee, Belgium.

Audio processing company DSP Concepts raised $14.5M in Series B funding led by Taiwania Capital and joined by BMW i Ventures, MediaTek Ventures, Porsche Digital, Innovation Growth Ventures/Sony Innovation Fund, and ARM IoT Fund. The company’s cross-platform audio processing engine aims to make it possible to integrate both high-quality audio and voice UI for connected devices through a library of building blocks. Based in Santa Clara, CA, DSP Concepts has raised $24.5M in total.

Wiliot raised $20M in a Series B round to develop battery-free Bluetooth chips and an IoT device management cloud. The chips, comprised of an ambient RF energy harvester, temperature and movement sensing unit, security unit, ARM Cortex M0+, and Bluetooth transmitter, are designed to be integrated into tags that can then be attached to everyday retail products. Led by Vintage Investment Partners and joined by Verizon Ventures, NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Maersk Growth, and PepsiCo, the latest round brings total investment to $69M. The Tel Aviv-based company is currently working with select customers, with general availability planned for 2021.

Analytics company FogHorn brought in $25M in a Series C funding round led by LS Corp and joined by Dell Technologies Capital, Intel Capital, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Honeywell Ventures, GE Ventures, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, March Capital Partners and Darling Ventures. Based in Sunnyvale, CA, FogHorn provides an Industrial IoT platform for edge analytics and machine learning on-premises, including real-time analysis of disparate streams of sensor data, with customers in a wide range of industries. The company has raised $72.5M in total.

UltraSense raised $20M in Series B funding for its 3D ultrasound user interface technology. The San Jose-based company says its ultrasound sensor SoC enables touch sensing through virtually any material of any thickness and targets smartphone, consumer/IoT, automotive, and industrial user interfaces.The round was led by Artiman Ventures and Robert Bosch Venture Capital, with participation from Abies Ventures, Asahi Kasei Corporation, Hui Capital, and Sony Innovation Fund.

Featured Startups:

Cybersecurity startups did well this month, with 33 companies receiving a combined $1.1B in funding.

Bringing in $340M, Netskope takes a data-centric approach to cloud security, providing protection for data created and exposed in the cloud to data going to unmanaged cloud apps and personal devices. SentinelOne uses AI to power its enterprise security platform that detects and responds to threats and received $200M. On the compliance end, OneTrust brought in $210M for privacy management and helping marketers comply with GDPR.

Sixty-nine companies using AI and machine learning raised $970M in total. The largest sectors were health, with eight companies bringing in $179M; data analytics, where nine companies raised $200M in total; and advertising and customer engagement, where eight companies received $104M combined.

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