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Startup Funding: May 2020

Interesting startups to watch: 18 brought in $446M this month, with chips getting some big funding.

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It was a good month for semiconductor startups, with investment spanning a larger company in later funding rounds to brand new seed funding for two chip manufacturing startups. Two AI hardware startups bridge data center and edge, plus EV companies around the world get funding. In total, the eighteen startups profiled this month raised $446.3 million.

Semiconductor & design
Shanghai-based ASR Microelectronics drew $119.0M in a Series D funding round led by China Internet Investment Fund. Sequoia Capital China, Hillhouse Capital, Zhangjiang Group, TCL Capital, Shanghai STVC Group, SPINNOTEC, Shanghai Free Trade Zone Equity Fund, CBC Capital, and GL Ventures also participated in the round. ASR focuses on mobile communications, IoT, and smartphone chips. Founded in 2015, ASR acquired the Mobile Business Unit of Marvell in 2017. The company has raised over $333M to date.

Xsight Labs raised $80.0M in Series A funding led by Intel Capital and joined by Microsoft, Xilinx, Valor Equity Partners, Battery Ventures, and individual investors Zvi Limon, Orly Tsioni, Manuel Alba, and Avigdor Willenz. Xsight Labs is reportedly working on a chipset for high-speed data center communications and data-intensive workloads, but the company is largely secretive. It was founded in 2017 by former employees of EZchip, which sold to Mellanox in 2016. Based in Kiryat Gat, Israel, the startup has brought in $100.0M in total.

MemVerge drew $19.0M in Series B funding for its software that aims enable data centers to run all applications in memory. The startup’s software targets this persistent ‘Big Memory’ model and Intel Optane in particular with tools like snapshotting, memory replication, and fast crash recovery. The round was led by Intel Capital as well as Cisco Investments, NetApp, and SK Hynix, with additional participation from existing investors Gaorong Capital, Glory Ventures, Jerusalem Venture Partners, LDV Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Northern Light Venture Capital. Based in San Jose, CA and founded in 2017, MemVerge has raised $43.5M in total.

Newsight Imaging, a maker of CMOS image sensor chips for Lidar and machine vision applications as well as spectral analysis for portable food inspection and medical devices, received $7.0M in Series A funding led by Infinity Equity and joined by George So. Based in Ness Ziona, Israel, the company is branching out to at-home virus detection.

FLEEP Technologies raised €0.8M (~$0.9M) in seed funding for its flexible, recyclable electronic printing process. The Milan, Italy-based company is a spin off from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia founded in 2019 and says their carbon-based polymer ICs can be printed onto plastic, paper, or fabrics. They plan a ramp to manufacturing scale for biomedical and packaging applications in three years. The seed round was funded by Pariter Partners as well as members of Italian Angels for Growth, Club degli Investitori, and the Cogliati family.

Iris Light Technologies received $0.1M in seed funding from the Clean Energy Trust for its on-chip laser technology. A spinout of Argonne National Lab founded in 2018 and based in Chicago, Iris Light says it can improve the bandwidth and energy-efficiency of photonic chips for data centers through a proprietary, scalable method of depositing multiple lasers on a chip inside the chip maker.

ProPlus Design Solutions raised an undisclosed amount in Series A funding from Intel Capital. Based in San Jose, CA and founded in 2006, ProPlus provides SPICE modeling solutions, a Design-for-Yield solution targeted for yield and PPA trade-off, and a design environment to bridge process development, CAD, and circuit design.

Spectrum Materials raised an undisclosed amount from Intel Capital. Based in Quanzhou, China, and founded in 2009, Spectrum Materials provides ultra-high purity critical specialty gases and materials solutions for wafer fabs, used in steps including epitaxy, diffusion, ion implantation, and etching.

In total, Intel Capital announced $132.0M in funding for 11 startups in recent months.

While not a startup, SMIC saw an investment of $2,250.0M from the China National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund and Shanghai Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund. The funds will be used for the 14nm SMSC facility to increase capacity from 6,000 to 35,000 wafers per month. The two funds will respectively own a 23.08% and 11.54% stake in the plant. The company had been publicly listed with the NYSE since 2004, but delisted last year in the midst of the trade war. It is currently listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong and recently applied for a listing on the STAR Market in Shanghai.

Quantum computing
Quantum Motion Technology is working to develop a quantum computer using silicon spin-based qubit architectures which are compatible with standard CMOS fabrication. Such a scalable array would allow for qubit redundancy and thus fault tolerance, and potentially integration in a hybrid quantum/classical computer. It raised £8.0M (~$9.9M) in a Series A funding round let by INKEF Capital and joined by new investors Octopus Ventures and the National Security Strategic Investment Fund as well as existing investors Oxford Sciences Innovation, Parkwalk Advisors, and IP Group plc. Based in Leeds, U.K, the company was founded in 2017.

Singapore-based Entropica Labs received SGD2.6M (~$1.8M) in seed funding for development of its quantum computing software tools, algorithms, and models. The round was led by Elev8 and joined by SGInnovate, Wavemaker Partners, Lim Teck Lee Group, TIS Inc, V1 Capital, and Entrepreneur First as well as individual investors Charlie Songhurst and Claus Nehmzow. Spun out of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore in 2018, the startup is building a framework to enable both expert developers and occasional users to build and experiment with quantum computing workflows and currently works with Rigetti Computing, IBM, and Microsoft quantum hardware.

AI & ML hardware
Shanghai-based Enflame Technology (Suiyuan Technology) raised CN¥700.0M (~$98.7M) in Series B funding for its AI accelerators for training in the data center. The round was led by Summitview Capital and joined by Tencent, Delta Capital, Oceanpine Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and others. Founded in 2018, the company’s CloudBlazer T10 DL training accelerator card has at its heart a ‘deep thinking unit’ (DTU) on GlobalFoundries’ 12LP FinFET platform with 32 scalable intelligent processors, eight of which are combined into four scalable intelligent clusters, HBM2, and an on-chip configuration algorithm for power-efficient data processing.

Edge AI startup SiMa.ai raised $30.0M in Series A funding led by Dell Technologies Capital and joined by Amplify Partners, Wing Venture Capital, and +ND Capital. SiMa.ai is building an SoC for machine learning workloads with a focus on low power. Founded in 2018 and based in San Jose, CA, the company claims their software-centric SoC architecture can provide over 1000 frames per second per Watt (FPS/W), 30x compared to competing solutions available today. Total funding is $40.0M.

Automotive
Electric powertrain developer IRP Systems raised $17.0M in Series B funding led by Fosun RZ Capital and joined by JAL Ventures and previous investors Entrée Capital, Tal Capital, Union Tech Ventures, Cendana Capital, and Champion Motors. Based in Ness Ziona, Israel, IRP’s goal is to retain performance while reducing the cost of electric vehicles with powertrains targeting both full size cars as well as e-scooters, e-motorcycles, and e-quads. The company was founded in 2008, initially to develop aerospace powertrains. IRP has raised at least $20.0M in total.

Automotive vision startup Motovis brought in CN¥100.0M (~$14M) in Series A funding from Shengshi Jinhao Investment Management, Orca Capital, and Boxin Fund. Founded in 2015, the Shanghai-based startup is focusing on integrating visual simultaneous localization and mapping (VSLAM) technology with deep learning to handle multiple cameras and provide heterogenous sensor fusion on low-power embedded chips for ADAS and self-driving applications.

Lidar maker SOS Lab received $8.0M in Series A funding led by Korea Development Bank and joined by A Ventures, Emford Equity Partners, Ulmus Investment, KDB Capital, Shinhan Capital, and Shinhan Financial Group. SOS Lab is developing both long-range hybrid and medium-range solid state Lidar systems, as well as 2D Lidar for mechanical sensing in smart factories. Founded in 2016 and based in Gwangju, South Korea, the startup has raised $14.0M in total.

Regulus Cyber raised $4.0M in a Series B round for its software that prevents GNSS/GPS spoofing attacks. The sensor security platform targets automotive, mobile, maritime, aviation, and critical infrastructure applications. The round was led by SPDG Ventures and joined by btov Partners as well as existing investors Sierra Ventures, Canaan Partners Israel, F2 Capital, and Technion. The Haifa, Israel-based company’s solution will be built into HARMAN’s Shield automotive security platform. Founded in 2016, Regulus has raised $10.3M in total.

New Delhi-based Euler Motors raised ₹200.0M (~$2.6M) in a Series A round led by Inventus Capital and joined by Blume Ventures, Jetty Ventures, and individual investor Sujeet Kumar to fund its light-commercial electric three-wheel cargo vehicles. The company aims to provide ‘mobility as a service’ and is beginning with a focus on last-mile transport for third-party logistics and eCommerce companies. It also builds the Li-ion battery packs for its vehicles and installs EV charging stations. Founded in 2018, total funding has reached ~$4.6M.

Potential Motors raised CAD$2.5M (~$1.8M) in seed funding to develop its AI-based software to control electric vehicles. The funding was led by Build Ventures and joined by Brightspark Ventures and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. Based in Fredericton, Canada and founded in 2017, Potential Motors’ drive-by-wire software sits between the driver and the control hardware and controls the electric drivetrain, independently controlling power, steering, and braking in each wheel.

Axonne raised an undisclosed amount from Intel Capital. Founded in 2018 and based in Sunnyvale, CA, the startup is creating high-speed Ethernet connectivity solutions for integrating systems in automotive.

IoT & batteries
Nanotech Energy drew $27.5M in Series C funding for its non-flammable lithium-ion battery. The battery uses graphene (which the company makes) and, beyond being safer, claims to charge 18 times faster than existing commercial batteries and last longer cycles. Investors were not disclosed. The Los Angeles-based company was founded in 2014 and also produces graphene-based conductive epoxies, conductive inks, and electromagnetic interference shielding spray paints and films.

HaiLa Technologies raised $5.0M in seed funding for its ultra-low power and battery-free communication method for IoT devices. The round was led by Chrysalix Ventures and joined by Ecofuel Fund, TandemLaunch, and others. HaiLa’s technology uses a patented backscattering technique which allows modulation of digital sensor data on top of existing ambient signals of different protocols while maintaining the integrity of the signal to the original specific protocol. Founded in 2017 as Wavelite, the startup is based in Montreal, Canada.

AI applications
Ninety-one startups report using AI as part of their product or service, raising almost two billion dollars ($1,988M) between them. The single largest round was by Magic Leap, a company making AR wearable hardware and software, which drew $350.0M.

Other areas that drew large amounts of funding are health, medical, and pharmaceutical applications, where 15 companies raised $282.2M. Of those, the one with the largest round was Insitro, which raised $143M in Series B and uses machine learning combined with genomic data for drug discovery.

Customer relations and advertising was another big area this month, with eight startups raising $279.3M. A large portion of that went to ASAPP, which received $185.0M in Series B funding for its AI service that helps sales and customer care staff improve interactions with their customers.

A few other companies using AI raised over $100M: CloudWalk Technology with $253.6M for facial recognition technology powering terminals, facial scanning door entry, and infrared binocular scanning machines; States Title raised $123.0M to use AI improve the process of real estate closing.


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