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Startup Funding: October 2020

Big funding for ADAS, autonomous driving, and EVs; twenty-four companies bring in over $1.6B.

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October 2020 was a big month for startups across the automotive space, with sizeable funding all around. Three startups based out of China brought in over $100M apiece for ADAS and autonomous driving, and a fourth U.S.-based startup saw $125M investment for simulating and testing autonomous driving systems. Two electric vehicle manufacturers also received $100M+ rounds. Collectively, the auto companies profiled this month brought in over $1.1B.

Aside from automotive, image sensors and displays were a hit with investors, with opto-electronics and switches doing well, too. This month, we look at twenty-four companies that collectively raised over $1.6B.

Semi & design
CIS chipmaker SmartSens Technology raised CN¥1500.0M (~$225M) in a funding round led by China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund (ICF), Xiaomi, China Merchant’s Bank (CMB), with Sequoia Capital China, China Internet Investment Fund, Wingtech Technology, Transsion Holdings, China Fortune-Tech Capital, Haitong Kaiyuan, and existing investors Lenovo Capital and Forebright Capital joining the round. SmartSens produces CMOS image sensors with global sensor technology to capture images without distortion. Based in Shanghai, China, and founded in 2011, SmartSens acquired automotive CMOS image sensor maker Allchip Microelectronics earlier this year.

Display manufacturer Aledia drew €80.0M (~$94.1M) in a Series D round led by Bpifrance and joined by Intel Capital for its microLED display technology based on 3D gallium nitride (GaN)-on-silicon nanowires. The company says its method can create display chips measuring several square centimeters without yield impact. Aledia plans to raise €120.0M in total for its D round and will use the proceeds to complete its product development and create a high-volume 3D microLED manufacturing facility. Based in Grenoble, France, and founded in 2012 as a spin-out from CEA-Leti, it has raised $175.1M so far.

Menlo Micro received $44.0M in Series B funding led by 40 North Ventures, alongside Piva, Paladin Capital Group, Vertical Venture Partners, and Future Shape. The company uses electromechanical and solid-state technologies to create what it claims is the ‘Ideal Switch’ that can provide a 99% or more reduction in key system-level metrics such as performance, size, weight, power consumption, and cost over standard electromechanical relays and solid-state switches. The startup has moved into a high-volume manufacturing line, with over 100,000 units per month by the end of 2020 and millions per month in 2021. Based in Irvine, Calif., and founded in 2016, Menlo Micro plans to use the funding to expand to new markets and has raised $77M total.

Medical electronics company WISE raised €15M (~$17.6M) in a Series C round led by CDP Venture Capital and joined by Indaco Venture Partners, Eureka Venture, and existing investors Principia SGR, New Frontier, High Tech Gründerfonds, and F3F. WISE produces implantable leads for neuromonitoring, neuromodulation, and brain-machine interfacing using stretchable, flexible, biocompatible electrodes with embedded circuits. Based in Milan, Italy, WISE was founded in 2011 and has raised $29.7M.

Battery maker Ateios raised $1.25M in seed funding led by Good Growth Capital and joined by Keshif Ventures, Techstars Ventures, Elevate Ventures, HG Ventures, ImpactAssets, and VisionTech Angels. The startup has a rapid battery manufacturing technology that reduces processing steps for its thin, flexible batteries that can be die-cut into custom shapes. Based in Indianapolis, Ind., and founded in 2018, Ateios will be assisted by the Battery Innovation Center with equipment and facilities to support production of commercial quantities.

NextSilicon raised an undisclosed amount in Series B funding led by Playground Global and joined by Aleph and Liberty Technology Venture Capital. Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, and founded in 2018, the startup is still in stealth mode but says it is working on a new approach to HPC architecture.

Quantum computing & photonics
Rockley Photonics raised $50.0M in venture funding from SIG-i Capital, Applied Ventures, and existing investors. The company provides integrated optical/electronic chips and modules built on a multi-micron waveguide platform which it says provides higher density waveguides, improved manufacturing tolerances, and an efficient photonic IC interface. Based in Pasadena, Calif., and founded in 2013, Rockley Photonics has raised over $225M.

Quantum photonics startup Nu Quantum raised £2.1M (~$2.7M) in seed funding led by Amadeus Capital Partners and joined by Ahren Innovation Capital, IQ Capital, Cambridge Enterprise, Martlet Capital, and Seraphim Capital. Nu Quantum develops room-temperature quantum devices which can emit and detect single photons and has created a quantum random number generator that uses the measurement of single-photons to generate streams of random numbers. Funding will go towards recruitment, R&D, and building a state-of-the-art photonics lab in Cambridge, U.K., where the company is based. It was founded in 2018 as a spin out from the University of Cambridge and has raised $3.6M to date.

ADAS & autonomy
Self-driving car company Pony.ai raised $300.0M in venture funding led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and joined by FAW Group. The company has a fleet of over 100 L4 robo-taxis currently being testing in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and California. Founded in 2016 and based in Fremont, Calif., and Guangzhou, China, Pony.ai raised $462M earlier this year and has brought in over $1B investment in total.

Connected vehicle company ECARX received CN¥1.3B (~$193.9M) in Series A funding led by Baidu and joined by SIG China. ECARX provides a smart cockpit product with 4G/5G connectivity, infotainment, and voice assistance. The company is collaborating with Baidu on the tech giant’s in-car OS. Funding will be used for R&D of autonomous driving technologies including auto chips and high precision maps. Based in Hangzhou, China, ECARX was founded in 2016 by Geely as an independently operating firm.

Connected vehicle company Joynext raised CN¥720.0M (~$107M) in a venture round led by State Development & Investment Corporation (SDIC) and China Merchants Capital Investment (CMC) as CMG-SDIC Capital and joined by Ningbo Gaofa, FG Venture, Cathay Capital, and Shenzhen Baoteng Dianli. A subsidiary of automotive component supplier Joyson Electronics, Joynext provides infotainment and ADAS and is planning to release 5G V2X in-car hardware by 2021. Based in Ningbo, China and Dresden, Germany, Joynext was created in 2019 from Joyson Electronics’ smart vehicle unit and the 2016 acquisition of the automotive division of TechniSat Digital.

ADAS startup Minieye drew CN¥270.0M (~$40.1M) in Series C funding from Harvest Fund, Oriental Fortune Capital, Vision+ Capital, and original investor NavInfo. The company uses computer vision for sensing of both the external environment for L0 to L3 assistance functions and in-cabin for driver distraction and fatigue monitoring. It offers both OEM and aftermarket modules. Founded in 2013, Minieye is based in Shenzhen, China.

Tsingtech Microvision raised CN¥100.0M (~$15.0M) in Series B funding for its ADAS platform that includes driver fatigue monitoring. The company was founded in 2013 as a spin out of Tsinghua University and is based in Suzhou, China.

Bareways raised €0.65M (~$0.8M) in seed funding for its driver assistance software focusing on unpaved and difficult road conditions outside urban and highway environments, as well as situations where network connectivity is insufficient. Based in Lübeck, Germany and founded in 2019, Bareways has raised $1.9M so far.

Auto components
Applied Intuition drew $125.0M in a Series C round from Lux Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and General Catalyst. The startup makes simulation software and infrastructure for testing autonomous vehicles, including non-car applications like mining, agriculture, aviation, and delivery robots. Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and founded in 2017, Applied Intuition plans to use the funding to expand its locations. It has raised $176.5M in total.

Envisics raised $50.0M in a Series B round led by Hyundai Mobis and joined by General Motors Ventures, SAIC Motors, and Van Tuyl Companies for its holographic augmented reality head-up displays for vehicles. Mass production of vehicles using its technology is slated for 2023. Meanwhile, Hyundai Mobis and Envisics plan to jointly develop autonomous driving specialized AR HUDs, targeting mass production by 2025. Based in Milton Keynes, U.K., Envisics was founded in 2018 when it separated from wearable AR company DAQRI with technology from Two Trees Photonics.

Sensor maker ADASKY raised $15.0M in a Series B round from Kyocera Corporation and Sungwoo Hitech for its far-infrared thermal cameras. The company’s products include high-resolution shutterless LWIR thermal cameras for vehicles as well as for stationary V2I and roadside applications. ADASKY also recently added a camera for elevated body temperature screening in crowded environments. Based in Yokneam Illit, Israel and founded in 2016, the startup has raised $55.0M to date.

Actnano raised $12.0M in Series A funding led by Emerald Technology Ventures and joined by Material Impact, Henkel Tech Ventures, GC Ventures America (PTT Global Chemical), and Ireon Ventures (Hellas Oil). The company provides water and environmental resistant nanocoating technology for automotive and consumer electronics, including connectors, antennas, LEDs, and high heat generating components. Based in Cambridge, Mass., Actnano was founded in 2012.

Zadar Labs received $4.0M in seed funding from Mentors Fund and Plug and Play for its mmWave imaging radar sensors for automated robotics and autonomous vehicles. Founded in 2019 and based in San Jose, Calif., Zadar Labs has raised $5.5M so far.

VisIC Technologies drew an undisclosed amount in Series E funding with participation from MediaTek. The company makes gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductors for electric vehicles and automotive high-voltage applications. VisIC was founded in 2010 and is based in Ness Ziona, Israel.

Electric vehicles
Electric bus manufacturer Proterra raised $200.0M in Series H funding led by Cowen Sustainable Advisors along with supporting investments from Soros Fund Management, Generation Investment Management, and Broadscale Group. The company’s line of buses covers municipal transit, school buses, and coaches. In addition, it also manufactures batteries and provides technology and a charging platform for other heavy- and medium-duty vehicle manufacturers. Based in Burlingame, Calif., and founded in 2004, Proterra has raised $681.8M in total.

EV maker Arrival raised $118.0M in a venture round from funds managed by BlackRock for its electric delivery vans and buses. The company’s manufacturing focuses on the creation of ‘Microfactories’ that build vehicles in the regions where they will be sold to reduce production costs and shipping emissions. The funds will be used to ramp up vehicle production, including the launch of Arrival’s first U.S. Microfactory in South Carolina. Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2015, Arrival has raised $229.4M in total.

Einride raised $10.0M in a venture round led by Norrsken VC and joined by EQT Ventures, Nordic Ninja VC, and Ericsson Ventures. The company manufactures and operates electric cargo trucks for autonomous freight delivery. The cabless trucks, or ‘pods,’ can either self-drive or be controlled remotely. Founded in 2016 and based in Stockholm, Sweden, Einride has raised $42.3M in total.


Table 1: Selected companies that raised venture funding in October 2020. Source: Semiconductor Engineering

AI applications
How are startups using AI, and what drew investors’ attention this month? Three of the largest rounds went to companies specializing in customer relations and advertising:

  • Tekion raised $150.0M in Series C for its automotive retail and sales platform for car dealerships.
  • SimilarWeb raised $120.0M in Series F for its web analytics that lets brands assess customer engagement and compare it with competitors.
  • Take Blip raised $100.0M in Series A funding for a chatbot that connects companies’ CRM database with customer-facing conversational messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

A few other sizeable rounds were in HR and medical:

  • Eightfold raised $125.0M in Series D funding for its platform for employee recruiting, development, and management as well as internal role assignment.
  • Sophia Genetics raised $110.0 in Series F for AI analysis of genomic and radiomic data in healthcare settings and clinical trials.

In addition, over ten companies providing platforms that make it easier to build and develop AI models and software were funded. While none of them drew massive rounds, making AI deployment more accessible is clearly an active area. Here are a few:

  • Grid AI raised $18.6M Series A round for training AI models on the cloud.
  • Dataloop raised $11.0M in Series A to streamline the process of preparing visual data for machine learning.
  • Deci raised $9.1M in seed funding to optimize deep learning models and improve inference performance.

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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