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Startup Funding: July 2021

Big month for ADAS in China; 35 companies raise over $4.9B.

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The trend of big funding for Chinese autonomous driving companies continued in July, with three startups each drawing $100M or more for efforts in ADAS and computer vision for automotive. The month also saw one electric vehicle manufacturer get a massive boost as it begins production on its first models, while significant funding also went to a company that wants to recycle used up EV batteries. Plus, at-memory compute and graph streaming processors for AI, self-powered IoT devices, and fault tolerant quantum computing drew interest from investors. This month, we look at 35 companies that collectively raised over $4.9B.

Semi & design
Wiliot raised a $200.0M Series C round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and joined by existing investors 83North, Amazon Web Services, Avery Dennison, Grove Ventures, M Ventures, Maersk Growth, Norwest Venture Partners, NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Vintage Investment Partners, and Verizon Ventures. The startup produces Wiliot IoT Pixels, low-cost and RF self-powered tags that attach to products or packaging to sense a range of physical and environment data such as temperature, fill level, motion, location changes, humidity, and proximity. The data is fed into a cloud service that uses machine learning to analyze and provide insights on the supply chain. With the funding, Wiliot plans to hire and prepare for the launch of its V2 product. Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, it was founded in 2017 and has raised $269M to date.

Thermoelectric chipmaker Phononic drew $50.0M in venture investment led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management. The company provides solid state cooling and heating chips with designs for lidar, optoelectronics, and cold chain fulfillment. The funding will be used to expand sales and marketing, high-volume manufacturing capabilities, and expand its cooling and refrigeration product portfolio. Based in Durham, N.C., it was founded in 2008 and has raised over $214M.

Julia Computing drew $24.0M in Series A funding led by Dorilton Ventures, with participation from Menlo Ventures, General Catalyst, and HighSage Ventures. Founded by the creators of the Julia programming language for high-performance computing, the company provides a cloud-based platform to develop, deploy, and scale Julia programs and models. Along with a range of other scientific and technical applications, it serves the JuliaSPICE tool that aims to speed up analog and mixed-signal circuit simulation and the JuliaSim multi-physics simulation platform. Founded in 2015, it is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has raised $28M.

Processor designer Ascenium raised $16.0M in Series A funding from a private investment holding company. The company is taking a unique approach, offering a software-defined general-purpose processor without an ISA. Targeting data center workloads, it uses an LLVM-based compiler to directly control a simple array of compute elements, which enables the Aptos microarchitecture to adapt to the functional intent of the program. Ascenium says that by eliminating complex hardware implementation, including deep instruction pipelines and runtime functionality such as out-of-order execution, it can reduce performance bottlenecks and power consumption. Funds will be used in bringing the processor to market. Based in Campbell, Calif., it was founded in 2019 and has raised $25M to date.

Everactive drew $16.0M in Series C funding from 3M, Ericsson, and Armstrong International. The startup provides a batteryless, wireless industrial IoT sensor platform. The company’s industrial monitoring systems use ultra-low-power radios and sensors that can be powered entirely with energy harvesting from a range of sources, including indoor solar, thermal gradients, RF, and vibration. Everactive also offers analytics services for the data its sensors collect. Based in Santa Clara, Calif., and founded in 2012 as a spin out from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, it has raised $114M so far.

Tachyum closed its Series B round with tens of millions of dollars in funding led by IPM Group and joined by Across Private Investments. The company is developing Prodigy, a processor architecture designed for high-performance computing, AI, and general data center workloads with the aim of replacing separate CPUs, GPUs, and TPUs. The funding will be used to finalize its design and move from FPGA prototyping into tape out and manufacturing. An HPC cluster utilizing Prodigy is being deployed within the EU as part of the NSCC Slovakia Supercomputer project with a reference design expected in the first half of 2022 before becoming fully operational later in the year. Founded in 2016, it is based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Equipment & manufacturing
Indium phosphide foundry SMART Photonics received financing in the form of a €13.0M (~$19.6M) loan provided by Rabobank, which will primarily be used to scale up production of photonics chips with investment in manufacturing facilities and equipment. The pure-play foundry offers buried heterostructure for InP-based lasers, a generic integration process for production of photonic ICs, and multi-project wafer runs. Based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, it was founded in 2012.

Additive manufacturing startup Fabric8Labs closed a $19.3 million Series A financing round led by Intel Capital and including Lam Capital, TDK Ventures, SE Ventures, imec.xpand, Stanley Ventures, and individual investor Mark Cuban. Fabric8Labs’ system can 3D print multiple metals at the atomic level using electrochemical deposition. It operates at near room temperature, utilizing low-cost commodity metal salts instead of expensive powders. Fabric8Labs says the technology has applications in multiple markets, including semiconductor packaging, electronics, medical, thermal management, and RF components. Founded in 2015, it is based in San Diego, Calif., and has raised $23M to date.

Metrology startup Nearfield Instruments €12.0M (~$14.3M) in venture funding from Eugene Investment & Securities and Innovation Industries Fund. Nearfield Instruments supplies a semiconductor scanning probe microscopy system that can measure 3D surfaces. The company says its Feedforward Trajectory Planner imaging mode can be used for non-destructive in-line process monitoring of 3nm and below gate-all-around FETs (GAA FETs) while a parallel architecture of miniature SPMs increases throughput. The company shipped its first system in December 2020 and is working to bring its second product, for non-destructive subsurface nanoscale metrology, to the market. Founded in 2016 as a spin-off from research organization TNO and based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, it has raised $59M, including a $21M investment just last month.

Power electronics startup Airity Technologies drew $7.0M in venture funding. The startup is focused on compact, efficient high-voltage power converters. Airity says its power supplies reach over 90% efficiency and have applications in plasma generation for semiconductor manufacturing, medical imaging, and electric satellite propulsion. Founded in 2015, it is based in Redwood City, Calif.

Hexisense raised an undisclosed amount from GETTYLAB. Hexisense uses gallium nitride semiconductors to make a total pressure sensor that includes an oxygen chemical sensor for use in vacuum quality monitoring. Among other applications, the startup says it has uses in semiconductor manufacturing and thin film coatings. Founded in 2019 as a spin off from EPFL, it is based in Ecublens, Switzerland.

MEMS
xMEMS raised $15.0M in a Series A round. The startup emerged from stealth last year with a monolithic piezoelectric MEMS speaker for integration into earbuds and headsets, which it said provides high fidelity, full-bandwidth sound and low total harmonic distortion. The entire speaker, including actuator and diaphragm/membrane, are implemented in silicon. xMEMS was founded in 2018 and is based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Security
Secure hardware startup Kameleon Security received an undisclosed amount of investment from Xilinx, State of Mind Ventures, and J-Ventures. Kameleon Security is building a protection chip for servers, data centers, and cloud computing that it calls a Security Processing Unit (ProSPU). The ProSPU protects systems with a root of trust at boot and during runtime by dynamically securing the computing platform from the hardware all the way up the stack to the application running. The startup has been collaborating with Xilinx and plans to demonstrate its product in November. Based in Caesarea, Israel, it was founded in 2019.

AI hardware
Untether AI raised $125.0M in a venture funding round led by Tracker Capital Management and Intel Capital with participation from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Radical Ventures. The company says it has developed a new chip architecture that uses at-memory computation for neural net inference that eliminates the data movement bottleneck, saving energy and improving performance. Its chip sports 511 memory banks comprised of 385KBs of SRAM with a 2D array of 512 processing elements and RISC controller, while its accelerator card has four chips for 2000 TOPS. Founded in 2018 and based in Toronto, Canada, the company has raised $152M.

Blaize closed a $71.0M Series D round led by Franklin Templeton and Temasek, joined by DENSO and others. Blaize provides hardware and software for applying edge AI in automotive, smart retail, smart city, and industrial markets. The company’s graph streaming processors are the basis for a range of products including system-on-modules, small form accelerators, PCIe accelerator cards, and an embedded kit, coupled with its software platform. Founded in 2010, It is based in El Dorado Hills, Calif., and has raised $136M so far.

Lambda received $24.5M in financing, made up of a $15M Series A equity round from 1517 Fund, Gradient Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Razer, and individual investor Georges Harik, plus a $9.5M debt facility provided by Silicon Valley Bank. The startup provides cloud-based GPU resources for AI workloads with software for easy management of large-scale models, where it will focus most of the investment funds. It also provides workstations and laptops optimized for deep learning workloads. Founded in 2012, it is based in San Francisco, Calif.

Computer vision prototyping company Luxonis raised $2.0M in seed funding. The startup offers open hardware, firmware, and software for computer vision applications with a focus on real-time depth perception. Based on the success of the Raspberry Pi model, Luxonis is aiming to make creating proofs-of-concept and prototypes of vision systems that include spatial information easy to develop and scale into products. Founded in 2018, it is based in Littleton, Colo.

Quantum computing
PsiQuantum raised $450.0M in Series D funding led by BlackRock and joined by Baillie Gifford, M12, Blackbird Ventures, and Temasek. With the goal of providing a fault tolerant quantum computer of at least 1 million qubits, the startup is building an entire quantum computing stack, from the photonic and electronic chips, through packaging and control electronics, cryogenic systems, quantum architecture and fault tolerance, to quantum applications. Alongside GlobalFoundries, PsiQuantum has begun manufacturing of the silicon photonic and electronic chips that will form the basis of its Q1 system. Founded in 2016 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., it has raised $665M to date.

Atom Computing drew $15.0M in Series A investment from Innovation Endeavors, Prelude Ventures, and Venrock. The startup’s focus is nuclear-spin qubits based on an alkaline earth element. Atom Computing also debuted its first system, which traps 100 atoms in a vacuum chamber with optical tweezers and rearranges and manipulates their quantum states with lasers. Based in Berkeley, Calif., and founded in 2018, it has raised $20M to date.

Q-CTRL received a $3.5M grant from the Australian government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative. Q-CTRL has developed quantum-based gravity and magnetic field sensors that can detect and measure extremely small signals. The funding will be applied to the development of quantum hardware for measuring Earth’s magnetic field from small-form satellites. The startup also provides quantum control software. Based in Sydney, Australia, it was founded in 2017.

QuantWare drew €1.2M (~$1.4M) in a pre-seed round from FORWARD.one Venture Capital, Quantum Delta, Rabobank, and UNIIQ. It also announced its first commercially-available superconducting processor for quantum computers. The 5-qubit QPU is targeted at research institutions and universities, and the company said it has 99.9% single-qubit gate fidelities for manageable error rates. The startup is also developing a low-noise traveling wave parametric amplifier and plans to use the funding for hiring and pushing to processors with more qubits. Founded in 2020, it is based in Delft, the Netherlands.

Autonomy & ADAS
Semidrive Technology drew CN¥1,000M (~$154.3M) in a Series B round led by ProCapital and V Fund Management, joined by Boc International, CATL, CTC Capital, Matrix Partners China, Shanghai Science and Technology Investment, Shanghai Zhangjiang Haocheng Venture Capital, Vertex Ventures China, and Xiangfeng Capital. Semidrive currently offers chips for smart cockpits, ADAS, and central gateways and recently announced a self-driving platform. Funding will be used for R&D with an aim toward L4 robotaxis. Based in Nanjing, China, and founded in 2018, it has raised over $227M to date.

AI vision provider CalmCar closed its Series C round with $150.0M investment led by ZF Friedrichshafen and joined by Unicom Venture Capital, Dragonstone Capital Management, Great Filter Venture, OCI International, and VinFast. CalmCar offers computer vision software and hardware for assisted applications, robotics, and security. The funds will be used to expand production of products for L2-L4 vehicles, build a new technology center, and hiring. CalmCar and ZF recently agreed to jointly develop Auto Parking Assist (APA) and Automated Valet Parking (AVP) systems. Founded in 2016, the Suzhou, China-based company is planning an IPO in 2022.

ADAS sensor startup Freetech raised $100.0M in a Series A round led by China Internet Investment Fund and joined by Dongfeng Motor Group, Hua Ventures, and Hunan Yuna Private Equity Fund Management. The company provides domain control units to provide ADAS functions as well as automotive perception systems including radar, lidar, and cameras. With the financing, Freetech plans to continue toward mass production of its L3 product, which is expected in 2022. Based in Zhejiang, China, it was founded in 2016.

Computer vision software startup Algolux received $18.4M in a Series B round led by Forte Ventures and Drive Capital with additional funding from new investors Investissement Quebec, Castor Ventures, and Nikon-SBI Innovation Fund, as well as existing investors GM Ventures, Generation Ventures, and Intact Ventures. Algolux’s computer vision and image optimization solutions are focused on ADAS and autonomous driving applications and use computational imaging to design algorithms that treat the camera as part of the overall perception stack to resolve cases such as low-light, low contrast, and obstructions. Based in Montreal, Canada, and founded in 2014, it has raised over $31M.

Teleoperation startup Fernride raised €7.1M (~$8.4M) in Series A funding led by 10x Group and joined by Speedinvest, Fly Ventures, UnternehmerTUM, Promus Ventures, and individual investor Olivier Bonnet. Fernride combines existing semi-autonomous vehicle tech with remote teleoperators for driverless logistics operations. It is currently focusing on ports and logistics terminals and said that in the medium term it expects a single teleoperator to be able to handle 50 vehicles, taking control when AI has trouble with a task. Founded in 2019, it is based in Munich, Germany.

Venti Technologies drew $8.0M in seed funding led by LDV Partners and Alpha JWC Ventures. Venti provides autonomous systems for low-speed applications such as tug-trailers for goods movement in warehouses and yards, shipping container moving in ports, and on-campus passenger vehicles. Founded in 2018, it is based in Suzhou, China, and Boston, Mass.

Swaayatt Robots raised $3.0M in seed funding with the goal of making connected, autonomous vehicles accessible and affordable. The startup is working on L5 technology that can handle dynamic and adversarial traffic as well as unstructured environmental conditions without high-definition maps, with a particular focus on the driving conditions in India. Founded in 2015, it is based in Bhopal, India.

Minieye raised an undisclosed amount in Series D, led by CICC Alpha and Dongfeng Asset Management, with existing shareholders Harvest Fund and Vision Plus Capital. The company offers pre-installed and aftermarket L1 and L2 assisted driving and parking systems to automakers and has plans to enter the low-speed fully autonomous driving market. Founded in 2013, Minieye is based in Shenzhen, China.

EVs
EV maker Rivian closed a $2.5 billion private funding round led by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, D1 Capital Partners, Ford Motor Company, and T. Rowe Price Associates, joined by Third Point, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Coatue. Rivian is getting ready to start production of its first two models, an electric SUV and truck. It is also working on last-mile delivery vehicles for Amazon. Based in Plymouth, Minn., and founded in 2009, Rivian has raised over $10B.

Hydrogen truckmaker HV Systems raised £5.0M (~$6.9M) in venture funding from Beehive Equity Limited, a subsidiary of EG Group. The startup is developing hydrogen-electric medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles. HV Systems designed the powertrain and offers a modular platform. Founded in 2017, it is based in Glasgow, UK.

Batteries
Battery recycler Redwood Materials raised $700.0M in a Series C round led by T. Rowe Price Associates and including Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Baillie Gifford, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Valor Equity Partners, Emerson Collective, and Franklin Templeton, along with previous investors Capricorn Investment Group, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund. Redwood Materials is currently developing processes to produce battery materials to resell into the battery supply chain and has partnerships with Panasonic, Envision AESC, and Amazon to recycle EV and other lithium-ion batteries and e-waste. Founded in 2017 and based in Carson City, Nev., it has raised $742M to date.

Verkor raised €100.0M (~$118.3M) in venture funding led by EQT Ventures and Renault Group, with participation from the Government of France, EIT InnoEnergy, Groupe IDEC, Schneider Electric, Capgemini, Arkema, Tokai COBEX, and Demeter’s Fund for Ecologic Modernisation of Transport. Verkor’s goal is to lower the carbon impact of lithium-ion battery manufacturing by making batteries closer to where they’re used, implementing Industry 4.0 technologies, and automatically recycling production scrap. Funding will be used on an R&D facility and pilot line for high-performance battery cells. The company is aiming for 50 GWh battery production capacity by 2030. The startup also recently inked an agreement with Renault Group to provide at least 10GWh capacity per year for the automaker’s C and higher range and Alpine models. Founded in 2020, it is based in Grenoble, France.

Battery maker SES (SolidEnergy Systems) received around $100.0M in investment from Hyundai Motor Co. The company develops and manufactures lithium metal batteries, as well as providing materials, recycling processes, and AI algorithms that optimize battery safety and charging. The startup has also received investment from other automakers, and announced earlier this month that it plans to go public on the NYSE through a merger with SPAC Ivanhoe Capital Acquisition Corp. The deal will net the company around $476M, made up of $276M in funds from Ivanhoe and $200M in a private investment in public equity (PIPE) offering. Investors in the PIPE include Koch Strategic Platforms, Hyundai Motor Company, Geely Holding Group, Kia Corporation, General Motors, LG Technology Ventures, Vertex Ventures, Foxconn, SAIC Motor, Fidelity Investments Canada ULC, and Franklin Templeton. Founded in 2012 and based in Singapore, it has raised over $325M.

NOHMs Technologies raised $9.3M in venture funding. The company develops functional ionic liquids for lithium-ion batteries which are non-flammable and non-volatile, including solvents, cathode additives, anode additives, and electrolytes. Founded in 2011 based on technology developed at Cornell University, it is based in Rochester, N.Y.


Table: Selected companies that received funding in July 2021.

AI applications
AI is being deployed in every industry, from detecting financial crime to automated welding to making milk substitutes. Here are some of the companies that drew the interest of investors this month.

  • Olive raised $400.0M in Series H for its AI software platform for hospitals and health systems.
  • NotCo raised $235.0M in Series D. It uses AI to design plant-based dairy substitutes.
  • AnyVision raised $235.0M in Series C for facial recognition tech used video surveillance.
  • Deep Genomics raised $179.7 in Series C to develop RNA generic therapies.
  • Quantexa raised $153.0M in Series C for customer data analytics and financial crime detection in banking and insurance.
  • NetraDyne raised $150.0M in Series C for analysis and training of fleet drivers.
  • Infervision raised $139.0M for medical AI systems including imaging, diagnosis, and medical research.
  • Dixa raised $105.0M in Series C for its customer service management platform.
  • Amperity raised $100.0M in Series D for customer data analytics and identity management.
  • Interos raised $100.0M in Series C for supply chain modeling and vulnerability assessment.
  • Path Robotics raised $100.0M in Series C for its autonomous welding robots.

 

Related
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