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Startup Funding: March 2021

24 startups raise over $1.3B; self-driving companies prepare to launch products.

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Self-driving vehicles revved up investors in March, with two companies receiving over $200M apiece as they prepare for their systems to enter mass production. One focuses on software for passenger vehicles, while the other is looking to autonomous trucks. Both of the companies received investment from automakers, with China’s largest carmaker SAIC joining each of the funding rounds. It was also a good month for startups making chips for AI acceleration, with four companies from seed to Series D stages raising funds. Plus, two companies are looking to shake up the memory and storage space with some unique solutions. This month, we take a look at 24 startups that collectively raised over $1.3B.

Semiconductors & design
eFPGA and AI accelerator company Flex Logix raised $55.0 million in a Series D funding round. The round was led by Mithril Capital Management with participation by existing investors Lux Capital, Eclipse Ventures, and the Tate Family Trust. “We are impressed with the very high inference-throughput/$ architecture that Flex Logix has developed based on unique intellectual property that gives it a sustainable competitive advantage in a very high growth market,” said Ajay Royan, managing general partner and founder of Mithril Capital Management. The funding “will allow us to further build out our software, engineering, and customer support teams and accelerate the availability of our hardware and software for edge enterprise applications,” said Flex Logix CEO Geoff Tate, adding that InferX XI accelerator chips and boards along with a compiler will be available mid-2021. Based in Mountain View, Calif., and founded in 2014, Flex Logix has raised $67.4M.

Additive manufacturing startup Fortify raised $20.0M in Series B funding led by Cota Capital with participation from Accel, Neotribe Ventures, and Prelude Ventures. The company provides systems for polymer mixing and magnetic alignment with digital light processing to produce composite parts with optimized mechanical, thermal, and electromagnetic properties. Fortify is working on developing materials for 3D printing of RF devices such as lenses, antennas, and wave guides for high-bandwidth communication applications. Founded in 2016 and based in Boston, Mass., it has raised $32.5M in total.

Analog startup Nebula Microsystems drew $15.0M in seed funding led by Morningside Group. Nebula is designing high performance analog and mixed-signal components including power converters, high speed SERDES, and high-performance amplifiers and data converters. The startup is targeting a range of applications such as telecom, automotive, and medical. Based in Richardson, Texas, Nebula plans to use the funding to expand its hiring of circuit designers, layout, and product/test engineers.

Photonics startup Teramount raised $8.0M in Series A funding led by Grove Ventures and joined by Amelia Investments and investor David Perlmutter. The company makes a photonic plug for connecting standard semiconductor manufacturing processes and packaging flow in silicon photonics, enabling fabless companies to expand into silicon photonics while working with traditional foundries and OSATs. Based in Jerusalem, Israel, Teramount was founded in 2013.

Equipment marketplace Moov drew a $2.0M strategic investment from NFX, along with investors Mark Cuban, Nat Turner, Zach Weinberg, and others. Moov provides an online platform for buying and selling of used and idle semiconductor manufacturing equipment. It also offers logistics services. “Now, more than ever, the secondary equipment market provides a vital solution to enable U.S. and global manufacturers to quickly scale production and respond to growing chip shortages, while creating a liquidity channel when surplus capacity is no longer needed,” said Moov co-founder and CEO Steven Zhou. Founded in 2018 and based in San Francisco, Calif., it has raised $4.4M so far.

Data center chip startup Xsight Labs closed its Series D round led by Valor Equity Partners and Atreides Management. The amount raised was not disclosed, and the round was joined by new investor Fidelity Management & Research Company as well as existing investors Battery Ventures, Intel Capital, Microsoft’s M12, Xilinx, and Accton Technology. The startup is sampling a fully programmable 25.6T data center switch with 100G PAM4 SerDes and will use the funding to scale its R&D, operations, and commercial teams. Based in Kiryat Gat, Israel, Xsight Labs was founded in 2017.

Memory
DNA memory startup Iridia drew $24.0M in Series B funding led by LifeSci Venture Partners and joined by Western Digital Capital, JSR Corporation, North Sound Ventures, Pritzker Vlock Family Office, Longley Capital, Validus Growth Investors, ATEM Capital, Tech Coast Angels, and others. The company is focused on technology to integrate the writing, storage, and read back of data in a microchip format using synthetic DNA as the storage media. Iridia says this approach can lead to increased data density and durability, using an enzyme-based chemistry to add DNA-based bits representing “0s” and “1s” in a programmable fashion that can be read back without lab sequencing. Founded in 2016 and based in Carlsbad, Calif., it has raised $34.1M.

RRAM startup Intrinsic Semiconductor Technologies raised £1.4M (~$1.8M) in seed funding led by UCL Technology Fund and IP Group. Intrinsic’s non-volatile resistive RAM is based on silicon oxide memristors, which the company says will make it capable of integration with CMOS. “Furthermore, our technology could be utilized for analog AI hardware accelerators currently in development and novel computing paradigms, such as neuromorphic and spiking-based computing,” noted Intrinsic co-founder Adnan Mehonic. Based in London, UK, and founded in 2017 as a spin out from University College London, the startup is currently working with Imec to transfer its technology to a standard CMOS process on 300mm wafers.

AI hardware
AI SoC developer Iluvatar CoreX drew CNY1.2B (~$185.6M) in a Series C round led by Cedarlake Capital and Centurium Capital, joined by Guangzhou Yue Min Investment. The company says its first SoC for general purpose computing on GPUs, or GP-GPU, has been taped out at 7nm and will enter mass production soon as both chips and cards. It targets AI applications in finance, education, healthcare, and transportation. Iluvatar CoreX was founded in 2015 and is based in Nanjing, China.

AI chipmaker Kneron raised a $10.0M investment from Mobile TeleSystems. The deal gives the mobile operator, through its subsidiary MTS AI, exclusive distribution rights in Russia for Kneron chips as well as lets it create its own line of AI-ready products leveraging Kneron’s technology. Separately, Weltrend made a strategic investment in the startup as part of a collaboration on ADAS and autonomous vehicles that also includes Elan/Avisonic. Foxconn and Winbond also recently chipped in with an undisclosed investment with focuses on Industry 4.0 as well as MCU-based AI and memory computing. Kneron provides edge AI SoCs for visual, facial, and audio recognition as well as reconfigurable neural network models. Based in San Diego, Calif., and founded in 2015, the company has had over $83M in disclosed funding.

Roviero drew $6.6M in seed funding led by GreatPoint Ventures and joined by Monta Vista Capital and Dolby Family Ventures for its native graph AI processor. “The graph instructions invented by the team at Roviero dramatically reduce the compiler complexity, allowing us to implement all variations of neural networks with various backbones and support for all current and future frameworks,” said Deepak Mital, CEO at Roviero. Targeting edge AI applications, the startup says its architecture’s instruction set leads to high utilization with lower memory requirements and ultra-low power. It is based in San Jose, Calif., and was founded in 2019.

Sensors
Innovusion raised $60.0M in Series B funding from Temasek Holdings, Bertelsmann Asia Investments, and Joy Capital for its lidar systems for autonomous vehicles and ADAS. In addition to high resolution, long distance lidar hardware, the company also provides a perception and road management system to detect and track road objects. It’s lidar system is planned for deployment in an upcoming NIO vehicle model. Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and China and founded in 2016, it has raised over $90.0M so far.

Lidar company Baraja raised AUD$40.0M (~$31.0M) in Series B funding led by Blackbird Ventures and joined by Hitachi Construction Machinery, Main Sequence Ventures, Regal Funds Management, Perennial Value Management, HESTA, and InterValley Ventures. The company has taken a different approach to lidar, connecting a wavelength-tuneable laser to prism-like optics using optic fiber cable. Instead of rotating lasers or moving mirrors, rapidly switching the laser’s wavelength and transmitting light through the optics diffracts each color of light in a different direction. Based in Sydney, Australia, and founded in 2015, Baraja has raised over $63M.

OQmented raised a multi-million Euro seed round led by Vsquared Ventures and joined by MBG SchleswigHolstein, Baltic Business Angels, and investor Helmut Jeggle. The company makes and develops MEMS-based Laser Beam Scanning (LBS) systems for lightweight, power efficient consumer AR/VR glasses and 3D sensing products. OQmented was founded in 2018 as a spin-out from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology ISIT and is based in Itzehoe, Germany.

Autonomy
Self-driving company Momenta raised $500.0M in Series C led by SAIC Motor, Toyota, Bosch, Temasek Holdings, and Yunfeng Capital. Mercedes-Benz, Daimler, GGV Capital, Shunwei Capital, Tencent, and Cathay Capital also participated. Momenta is focused on software for up to L4 autonomous driving that can work with low-cost and mass production sensors and SoCs. The company expects cars using its technology to be in production as soon as this year and will use data collected from those to improve future products. It has also been operating an L4 robotaxi service with safety drivers since 2020. Momenta is based in Beijing, China, and was founded in 2016. It has raised over $700M.

Autonomous trucking company Plus raised another $220.0M in Series D funding, following a $200.0M raise in February. This latest round was led by FountainVest Partners and ClearVue Partners, with participation from Quanta Computer, Phi Zoyi Capital, Millennium Technology Value Partners, Sequoia Capital China, SAIC Capital, and Full Truck Alliance. The company’s autonomy system can be installed on an existing truck or as an upfit option on new trucks by manufacturers. Plus says it’s in the final stages of certifying its driver-in autonomous driving solution for commercial operation in China, and FAW will start mass production of a truck using the system this summer. Based in Cupertino, Calif., and founded in 2016, Plus has raised $520M to date.

Assisted trucking startup NuPort Robotics received $1.0M in grant funding from the Government of Ontario as part of a $3.0M project with Canadian Tire Corporation to retrofit two conventional semi-tractor trailers with sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and features such as obstacle and collision avoidance. “The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety,” said Raghavender Sahdev, CEO of NuPort Robotics. Based in Toronto, Canada and founded in 2019, NuPort focuses on “middle-mile” trucking applications.

Electric vehicles
EV maker and component supplier Rimac Automobili raised €70.0M (~$83.3M) in funding from Porsche, which increased its stake in the company to 24%. Rimac is developing a two-seater electric ‘hypercar’ and also produces electric powertrains, high-voltage batteries, and infotainment modules for other automakers, including Porsche. Founded in 2009 and based in Sveta Nedelja, Croatia, Rimac has raised $209M to date.

Solar EV maker Lightyear drew $48.0M in venture funding from Zero Point Holding that will support the rollout of its first vehicle, the Lightyear One, planned for the end of this year. The sedan uses solar cells integrated with the body to augment its charge; the company says it has a 440 mile range and manages a 83 Wh/km (133Wh/mi) efficiency, with potential to recharge from the solar roof up to 80% of the annual yield for an average driver in San Francisco. Based in Helmond, The Netherlands and founded in 2016, the company has raised about $80M.

Electric delivery vehicle maker Euler Motors closed its Series A round with $9.5M in funding from ADB Ventures and Blume Ventures. The company makes light-commercial electric three-wheel and four-wheel cargo vehicles targeted at last-mile transport for third-party logistics and eCommerce companies. It has plans to debut a L5 autonomous delivery vehicle this year. It also builds the Li-ion battery packs for its vehicles and installs EV charging stations. Founded in 2018 and based in New Delhi, India, total funding has reached ~$11.6M.

Batteries
Supercapacitor manufacturer Skeleton Technologies received €51.0M (~$60.0M) in funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Free State of Saxony as part of the “European Battery Innovation – EuBatIn” project. Skeleton manufactures ultracapacitor-based energy storage technology for automotive, grid, industrial, and transportation industries and says the production costs of its ultracapacitors should decrease by almost 90% after completion of the five year project. The company uses ‘curved graphene’ to provide increased energy density and electrical conductivity compared to activated carbon. Founded in 2009 and based in Tallinn, Estonia, Skeleton Technologies has raised around $160M in total.

Green Li-ion drew $3.5M in seed funding led by LINICO Corporation and joined by TES Singapore, HAX SOSV, and Entrepreneur First. The startup claims its lithium-ion battery recycling process can produce cathodes of 99.9% purity for use in new batteries at reduced time and cost, and that the process is compatible with different Li-ion battery types. Founded in 2020, Green Li-ion is based in Singapore.

Battery repurposing startup Betteries received €2.1M (~$2.5M) in seed funding led by Factor[e] Ventures and Beyond Black and joined by ISAR AG. The company’s focus is on re-using EV batteries that are past the functional in-car life, turning them into portable generator-like hand trucks with modular battery packs as well as home and business backup and storage systems. It launched its first two products this year. Based in Berlin, Germany, it was founded in 2017.

Endurance Motive raised €2.0M ($2.4M) in seed funding for its lithium-ion batteries targeting industrial traction equipment such as forklifts, the naval sector, and public transport and last-mile vehicles. The startup’s batteries use a LiFePO4 chemistry. Founded in 2018, it is based in Valencia, Spain.


Table: Selected companies that received funding in March 2021.

Funders
Endiya Partners and Applied Ventures are launching a new accelerator, called Frontier-Tech Ignite (X) Program (FTIX). The program is targeted at startups in the SaaS/enterprise software, semiconductor/EDA, AI/ML/blockchain, IoT/5G/sensors, and cybersecurity domains. Five startups will be chosen, and are expected to have a working Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and initial customer traction in the market at the time of registering for the program, which will provide mentorship sessions as well as other opportunities. The deadline for submissions is April 15.

A new early-stage venture fund, Dardania Ventures, launched to focus on startups in AI/ML, digital health, cybersecurity, fintech, and automation. As well as funding, the firm is focused on providing technology due diligence and expertise in team and product development.

Future market opportunities
In other areas, investors put big money into a large number of startups using AI in their products, all of which are potential new end market opportunities for semiconductors. Data analytics, enterprise, and sales automation software were big winners, but companies using AI are active in a range of industries, from vertical farming to anti-money laundering. A quick look at $100M+ rounds:

  • Dataminr raised $475.0M in Series F for its analytics platform that it claims can identify risks and threats to businesses and public safety by scanning social media posts and other online content.
  • HighRadius raised $300.0M in Series C for its AI-driven order-to-cash and treasury management software for CFOs.
  • PatSnap raised $300.0M in Series E for its platform that analyses intellectual property, R&D, patent, and other information to guide product development in a range of industries.
  • Tonal raised $250.0M in Series E for its connected home gym platform with AI strength training coaching.
  • WorkFusion raised $220.0M in Series F for its process automation platform for banks, insurance, and healthcare providers.
  • Feedzai raised $200.0M in Series D for its fraud detection and anti-money laundering software for financial institutions.
  • Clari raised $150.0M in Series E for a sales and marketing platform that gathers data from sources like CRM and emails to predict revenue.
  • Jumio raised $150.0M in private equity for identity verification services using facial biometrics.
  • Uniphore raised $140.0M in Series D for its AI-based conversational customer service platform that provides both chatbots and process automation for live agents.
  • AbSci raised $125.0M in venture funding for its “protein printing” technology and deep learning analysis for discovery of new pharmaceuticals.
  • Clarify Health Solutions raised $115.0M in Series C for its analytics platform to optimize healthcare processes.
  • Optibus raised $107.0M in Series C for a software platform to optimize the operation of mass transportation.
  • Infarm raised $100.0M in a venture round for its cloud-connected indoor vegetable growing units for vertical farming in urban areas.
  • Corvus Insurance raised $100.0M in Series C for commercial insurance policies that use AI to assess and predict risk.
  • Socure raised $100.0M in Series D for an identity verification service that uses email, phone, address, IP, device, velocity, and internet information to identify consumers.

Related
Find our prior startup funding reports here.
Israel: Startup Powerhouse
Cerfe Labs: Spin-On Memory
Moov: Used Equipment Digital Marketplace Startup
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