Startup Funding: March 2020

Seventeen startups bring in $525 million, with a strong showing for quantum computing.


Dedicated AI hardware, quantum computing, and avionics startups shined in March. Here’s a look at seventeen startups, which raised a collective $525M. The avionics sector soared thanks to Lilium and its electric vertical takeoff jet. Quantum computing was another hot area, with three companies bringing in ~$88M together. Plus, chip design management, two companies developing AR glasses, and how startups are using AI.

Semiconductors & design
AI hardware startup Hailo drew $60M in a Series B round. The company’s first AI-focused processor, launched last year, targets edge devices with a focus on area and power efficiency. The domain-specific processor architecture allows software to allocate compute, memory, and control blocks as needed for different neural network layers. The funds will be used for further commercialization and as well as hardware and software development. Based in Tel Aviv, investors this round include ABB Technology Ventures, NEC, and Latitude Ventures. In total, the company has received $88M in funding.

NextVPU raised CN¥300M (~$41M) for development of its embedded computer vision processor SoC and products incorporating it. Based in Shanghai, the company’s VPU SoC contains a CNN acceleration engine and has been used in the company’s smart glasses that aim to assist blind and visually impaired wearers by translating visual information into auditory descriptions. In total, the company has received CN¥500M (~$69M) in investment.

Optoelectronic semiconductor provider Berxel Technology raised CN¥100M (~$14M) in Series A funding. The round was led by Vision Knight Capital and joined by Hongtai Aplus, Legend Star, and Leaguer Venture Capital. The Shenzhen-based company makes semiconductor lasers, laser drivers, and other optoelectronic devices, including a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) chip.

Silicon photonics startup SiLC brought in $12M in seed funding led by Dell Technologies Capital and joined by Decent Capital and ITIC. Based in Monrovia, CA, SiLC focuses on integrated silicon photonic sensors operating at the 1550nm wavelength that can extract information such as depth and velocity for LiDAR and 3D imaging applications.

Moffett AI raised $10M in angel round funding from Keytone Ventures, Cloud Angel Fund, and Creation Venture Partners for its development of AI chips using a domain-specific architecture. Based in Los Altos, CA, and Shenzhen, the startup is focusing on sparse neural networks.

San Francisco-based Logarithm Labs raised $150K in seed funding from Y Combinator for its project management service for chip designers. The startup aims to provide a holistic real-time view of an entire chip design project and provide team communication.

Kura Technologies brought in $600K in seed funding for its 150° field of view, high transparency augmented reality glasses. Based in San Francisco, the company has raised $2.3M in total.

A few other semiconductor companies raised undisclosed amounts:

  • BlueX Microelectronics – Hefei, China – SoCs for IoT & wearables – Series A funding from Northern Light Venture Capital, Vertex Ventures China
  • Bouffalo Lab – Shanghai, China – IoT SoCs – Series B funding from Sequoia Capital China
  • Cambridge Quantum Computing – Cambridge, UK – Quantum algorithms – Venture funding from Honeywell
  • IKAS Industrial Automation – Shenzhen, China – IC manufacturing and packaging – Seed funding
  • Rockley Photonics – Pasadena, CA, USA – Silicon photonics – Series E funding from Ahren Innovation Capital

Quantum computing
Rigetti Computing raised $71M in a Series D funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners and joined by Morpheus Ventures. The Berkeley, CA, company designs and manufactures quantum integrated circuits for integration into existing cloud infrastructure. It also develops algorithms focused on computational chemistry and machine learning, with total funding reaching $190M. The company acquired QxBranch in 2019 and recently won a $8.6M DARPA grant to demonstrate practical quantum computing.

Quantum Machines raised $17.5M for its quantum computing platform. Comprised of specialized hardware, software tools, and a programming language, the platform aims to make it easier to code and run quantum algorithms and experiments regardless of which quantum technology is being used. Based in Tel Aviv, the company was founded in 2018. The round was led by Avigdor Willenz and Harel Insurance Investments and joined by previous investors TLV Partners and Battery Ventures, bringing total funding to $23M.

QuSecure raised $50K in funding from the United States Air Force for development of its quantum security and communication products. Based in Menlo Park, CA, QuSecure is a subsidiary of Quantum Thought, a consulting and startup incubator firm.

Automotive emerged from stealth with a $13M seed round that included A.Capital Ventures, Amplo, Binnacle Partners, Sound Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, and SV Angel. The San Francisco, CA, based startup is developing software that can interpret sensor data using an unsupervised learning approach it says would be able to reduce the need for large amounts of data and simulation.

Self-driving startup FiveAI raised $41M in Series B funding for development of its autonomous vehicle software on a modular, cloud-based platform. Based in Cambridge, UK, the company has raised $78.7M in total. Investors include Direct Line Insurance, Sistema_VC, and Trustbridge Partners.

Damon Motors raised $3M in seed funding for its electric motorcycle platform incorporating battery propagation resistance, sensor fusion and AI. The Vancouver, BC company is taking preorders on electric motorcycles it says provide 200 miles of range and recently acquired the IP portfolio of Mission Motors. Total funding is $7.4M.

Torino, Italy based TUC Technology raised €1M (~$1M) for its structural interface for digital data transfer designed to be implemented in a vehicle’s chassis.

ChargeLab raised $1.1M in seed funding for its software to manage EV charging stations. The Toronto-based company also provides EV charging hardware, installation, and station management.

Electric aircraft company Lilium completed a $240M Series C funding round led by Tencent, with participation from existing investors including Atomico, Freigeist and LGT. The Munich-based company is developing the Lilium Jet, a five-seater all-electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and plans to begin an air taxi service in 2025. Total funding has reached $341M.

Another electric vertical takeoff and landing startup, Talyn Air, received $150K in funding from Y Combinator. The Los Angeles, CA, based company says its two-vehicle aircraft system that separates and recombines in the air allows each vehicle to operate at peak efficiency without wasting energy.

AI applications
Ninety-six companies reportedly using AI in their products raised a massive $1.1B in March, with big data analytics coming out on top. In one of the largest funding rounds this month, MiningLamp brought in $300M in Series E funding for its enterprise data analytics platform encompassing manufacturing to smart cities. Fourteen other data analytics and enterprise services startups raised ~$160M together.

Health and medical continued as a strong sector, with 20 startups raising ~$219M. Topping the category was Tempus, which raised $100M in Series G funding for using genomic data for personalized cancer care.

Twelve companies specializing in customer relations and advertising collectively raised ~$142M, while ten companies dealing with HR and employee management brought in ~$73M.

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