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Startup Funding: September 2020

Big investment in EV, batteries, and data center chips as 26 companies raise $2.6B.

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It was a good month for startups, with big rounds in automotive, data centers, and AI. A new startup with big backing is taking aim at energy inefficiency in the data center, and another is looking to make the industrial IoT battery-free. SK Hynix founded a new company to analyze semiconductor manufacturing data, and one of China’s EV companies sees a massive cash infusion. This month, we look at 26 companies that collectively drew over $2.6B in funding.

Semiconductors & design
Server processor startup Nuvia raised $240.0M in a Series B round led by Mithril Capital in partnership with Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai (founders of Marvell), funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Temasek Holdings, with additional participation from Atlantic Bridge, Redline Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, Dell Technologies Capital, Mayfield Fund, Nepenthe, and WRVI Capital. Nuvia is aiming its upcoming data center SoC and Arm-based CPU core at lowering performance per total cost of ownership by matching high performance with high efficiency and limiting maximum power to that can be dissipated in an air-cooled environment. Based in Santa Clara, Calif., and founded in 2019 by former SoC and CPU architects from Apple and Google, Nuvia has raised $293.0M in total.

Everactive drew $35.0M in a Series C round led by Fluke (part of Fortive Corporation) for its 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, Everactive has raised $98.1M to date.

Fabless VCSEL startup RaySea raised CN¥200M (~$29.3M) in a Series A round led by Shanghai Free Trade Zone Fund and Yunhao Capital and joined by Yongchuang Capital, Puhua Capital, and Tongdu Capital. RaySea makes a range of VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) chips targeting 3D face recognition on mobile phones, offline face payment, and floor cleaning robots. It is also working on chips for automotive lidar and communications, with the funding supporting the next stage of mass production of chips and investment in tape-out R&D. Based in Ningbo, China and founded in 2017, the company has raised $43.8M so far.

Flexible electronics maker PragmatIC drew £13M (~$16.9M) in funding. Joining the round was Erik Langaker, who joined the company’s Board of Directors as Chair. The startup focuses on low cost flexible ICs such as RFID and NFC and targets moving them into mass market. PragmatIC also has a foundry offering that allows customers to produce application-specific flexible devices. Founded in 2007 and based in Cambridge, U.K., the company has raised $65.9M in total.

Microoled raised €8.0M (~$9.3M) in Series A funding from Cipio Partners and Ventech for its low power, high resolution near-to-eye OLED microdisplays. The company recently released a compact optical module for smart glasses applications and will use the funding for further development of integrated AR modules and strengthening its manufacturing capacities. Microoled is based in Grenoble, France, and was founded in 2007.

Semiconductor IP startup AccelerComm raised £5.8M (~$7.5M) in Series A funding led by IQ Capital alongside existing investors Bloc Ventures and the IP Group. The company’s channel coding IP (also known as forward error correction) is used to correct transmission errors and is optimized for satellite and cellular communications, including 5G NR, with improved spectrum efficiency, reduced latency and lower power consumption. The funds will be used for US and global expansion and further development of the technology. Founded in 2016 as a spin out from the University of Southampton and based in Southampton, U.K., AccelerComm’s total funding has reached $10.7M.

Biotech startup Cardea Bio drew $7.5M in a continued Series A round led by Tsingyuan Ventures, Lifespan Investments, and prior investor Serra Ventures, and joined by Agilent Technologies, Table Mountain Capital, Photon Fund, and Taihill Venture. The company makes graphene-based ‘Biology-gated Transistors’ (which it calls Cardean Transistors) that combine molecular biology with electronics. Cardea Bio’s CRISPR-Chip chipset uses CRISPR as the transistor gate to enable searching through genomes for genetic sequences of interest without the need of PCR/DNA amplification. Based in San Diego, Calif., and founded in 2013, the company has raised $15.3M.

Photo electron Soul closed a financing round of $7.0M (¥740M), achieved through the combination of the sale of stock to investors, a bank loan, and financing from a national funding agency. The company provides photocathode e-beam systems for semiconductor inspection, which is says improves e-beam inspection speed by 10x compared to current technology. Based in Nagoya, Japan, Photo electron Soul was founded in 2015 based on R&D from Nagoya University.

Amber Solutions raised $5.5M in Series B funding for its technology that allows electricity to be digitally controlled by software with a solid-state architecture. Targeting building electrical infrastructure such as circuit breakers, sockets, and lighting control, the startup’s products provide machine learning and machine-to-machine control embedded in a programmable solid-state power system, and the company is working on a smaller silicon version. Based in Dublin, Calif., and founded in 2017, Amber Solutions has raised $11.2M in total.

Quantum computing
Quantum computing startup Seeqc raised $22.4M in Series A funding, led by EQT Ventures and joined by FAM AB, M Ventures, BlueYard Capital, New Lab Ventures, and the Partnership Fund for New York. (The M Ventures investment of $5M was announced in April.) Seeqc’s approach combines classical and quantum computing to address efficiency and stability issues. The company’s digital quantum management SoCs are co-located with qubit chips as multi-chip modules in the same cryogenically cooled system and perform digital qubit control, readout and classical data processing functions, as well as being a platform for error correction. It also owns a multi-layer superconductor fab. Based in Elmsford, N.Y., Seeqc was spun out of Hypres in 2018. In total, the company has raised $29.2M.

Quantum photonics startup AegiQ was awarded a £1.4M (~$1.8M) grant from Innovate UK to build secure quantum communications for fiber-optic and satellite based applications as part of a consortium of companies. The startup is developing III-V semiconductor-based quantum photonics using on-demand single photons. It will also be part of a project led by Fraunhofer’s Centre for Applied Photonics that aims to increase the reliability and reduce the size, weight, power consumption, and cost of laser components and systems. Based in Sheffield, U.K., and founded as a spin out from Sheffield University in 2019, AegiQ is currently raising seed funding.

AI
Gauss Labs was founded with a $55.0M investment from SK Hynix, who will be sole investor through 2022. Initially, Gauss Labs will focus on applying AI to semiconductor manufacturing, utilizing data generated at SK Hynix’s manufacturing sites. SK Hynix plans to use the results to improve process control, yield prediction, equipment maintenance, defect inspection and fault prevention. Eventually, the company plans to expand to other manufacturing industries. Gauss Labs is based in California City, Calif.

DeepCube drew $7.0M in a Series A round led by Awz Ventures, with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies and Nima Capital. The startup provides a software-based inference accelerator to improve machine learning and deep learning performance on existing hardware, which it claims can provide a 10x speed improvement and memory reduction on systems ranging from edge devices to data centers. Based in Tel Aviv, Israel and founded in 2017, total investment in DeepCube has reached $12.0M.

AI chipmaker Aspinity drew $5.3M in Series A funding led by Anzu Partners and joined by Amazon Alexa Fund, Birchmere Ventures, Mountain State Capital, and Riverfront Ventures. The startup’s ultra-low power, analog machine learning chip aims to analyze sensor data of always-on devices in an analog format and weed out unnecessary data before waking the digital system. It can use application-specific algorithms and works with multiple types of sensors, and the company says the whole chip can use as little as 10µA of current during always-on event detection. Founded in 2015 and based in Pittsburgh, Pa., Aspinity has raised $11.8M so far.

Automotive
Electric vehicle company WM Motor raised CN¥10B (~$1.47B) in Series D funding, which the company says is the largest single funding round to date for a Chinese automaker. The round was led by a Shanghai state-owned investor group, including SAIC Motor, and joined by Baidu and Susquehanna International Group (SIG). State-owned investment institutions Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei and Hunan as well as strategic investors including Yangtze River Industry Fund, State Development & Investment Corporation (SDIC), Guangzhou Finance Holdings Group, Sino IC Leasing, Tsinghua Unigroup, Hongta Group, Yingke Capital, and Tencent Holdings also participated. Based in Shanghai, China, and founded in 2015, WM Motors currently has two electric SUV models in mass production and owns to manufacturing facilities. It is reportedly eyeing a public debut on Shanghai’s STAR Market and has raised $3.1B to date.

Battery maker Northvolt drew $600.0M in an equity raise from Baillie Gifford, Baron Capital Group, Bridford Investments, Norrsken Foundation, and PCS Holding, individual investors  Cristina Stenbeck and Daniel Ek, and existing investors Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division, IMAS Foundation, Scania, and Volkswagen Group. Northvolt makes lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, grid storage, and industrial applications with a focus on recyclability and greener manufacturing. The funds will be used for capacity expansion, R&D, and recycling, and the company has a goal of using 50% recycled material in new cells by 2030. Based in Stockholm, Sweden and founded in 2016, Northvolt has raised $3.3B so far.

Lidar maker Ouster drew $42.0M in Series B funding from Cox Automotive, Fontinalis Partners, and Tao Capital Partners. The company’s 128-beam digital lidar range includes ultra-wide angle, mid-range, and long-range models and use one chip-scale laser array and one CMOS sensor. Based in San Francisco, Calif., and founded in 2015, Ouster has raised $140.0M in total.

Automotive software integrity startup Aurora Labs raised $23.0M in Series B funding led by LG Technology Ventures and individual investor Marius Nacht and joined by Porsche SE, Toyota Tsusho, UL Ventures, and existing investors. Aurora Labs touts its ‘self-healing’ technology that uses machine learning to detect potential line-of-code faults and provide over-the-air updates to ECU software. It also provides software change risk analysis and validation. Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, and founded in 2016, the startup has raised $34.1M in total.

Autonomous vehicle company Idriverplus raised CN¥100M (~$14.6M) in Series C funding led by Xin Ding Capital and joined by Yuzhou Huaxia Weiming Health Industry Fund for its L3/L4 self-driving platform for passenger vehicles that includes multi-sensor fusion (including earlier-mentioned Ouster’s lidar) and HD mapping and localization. In addition, the company has designed its platform into low-speed fully-autonomous street sweepers, floor scrubbers, and package delivery vehicles. Based in Beijing, China, and founded in 2015 by a group from Tsinghua University, the company will use the funds for further R&D and development of a robotaxi fleet.

Effenco raised CA$10.0M ($~7.6M) in Series B funding led by BDC Capital and joined by Center of Excellence in Energy Efficiency (C3E), Investissement Quebec, and Effenco president David Arsenault for the company’s hybrid-electric technology for heavy duty commercial vehicles. Effenco’s system can shut down the engine when vehicles are stationary and provide electric power to the vehicle equipment, cab and chassis accessories. Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and founded in 2006, the company has raised $22.7M in total.

Automotive data analysis startup Acerta Analytics raised $7.0M in Series A funding led by OMERS Ventures and joined by M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund), StandUp Ventures, Radical Ventures, EDC, and Techstars. The startup uses machine learning and an anonymized database of automotive products, processes, and failure modes to identify anomalies in production data and catch defective assemblies during manufacturing. It also offers a product for real-time monitoring of vehicles on the road. Based on research from the University of Waterloo, Acerta was founded in 2017, has raised $11.0M in total, and is based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Annotell drew €5.8M (~$6.8M) in Series A funding led by led by Ernström & Co and Stena Sessan for its software to create and analyze training and validation data used to ensure the safety and accuracy of perception systems for ADAS and autonomous vehicles. Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and founded in 2018, Annotell has raised $8.0M so far.

Elaphe Propulsion Technologies drew €4.2M (~$4.9M) in Series A+ funding from EIT InnoEnergy for its electric in-wheel-drive technology for electric vehicles. Instead of a central powertrain, Elaphe provides a modular system that uses in-wheel powertrains with software for optimization of each in-wheel motor in real-time. The company has produced over 20 in-wheel motor models. Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and founded in 2006, Elaphe has raised €15.3M (~$17.3M) in total.

Electric motorcycle company Ultraviolette Automotive drew ₹300.0M (~$4.1M) in Series B funding from TVS Motor Company. Ultraviolette is preparing to release its first model, a high-performance electric motorbike equivalent to 200-250cc engines, next year. Based in Bengaluru, India, and founded in 2014, the company has raised $4.9M so far.

EV startup Etrio raised $3.0M in Series A funding led by individual investor Janardhan Rao. Etrio provides a range of EV products, from retrofitting of light commercial vehicles and passenger cars to three-wheelers and e-bikes. The startup’s LCV retrofitting focuses on last-mile and mid-mile logistics. Etrio is based in Hyderabad, India, and was founded in 2017.

Cell Propulsion drew $1.0M in pre-Series A funding led by growX ventures and Micelio and joined by existing investor Endiya Partners for its electric powertrains to retrofit buses and light commercial vehicles. The startup has focused on developing EV components that can handle tropical climate conditions and is working on a powertrain for heavy commercial vehicles. Based in Bengaluru, India, and founded in 2016, Cell Propulsion has raised $2.2M to date.


Table 1: Selected companies that received venture funding in September 2020. Source: Semiconductor Engineering

AI applications
How are startups using AI, and which areas are drawing the attention of investors?

Health and medical stood out, with 12 companies drawing a massive $816.6M:

  • XtalPi raised $318.8M in Series C funding for AI-powered drug discovery and development.
  • Recursion Pharmaceuticals drew $239.0M in Series D for its drug discovery platform, with a focus on drug repurposing to treat rare diseases.
  • Olive raised $106.0M in a venture round to automate administrative tasks in healthcare settings.
  • Finch Therapeutics raised $90.0M in Series D for development of drug treatments based on the human microbiome, with a current focus on recurrent C. diff infections.

A few other funding rounds in various sectors drew big investment:

  • Zymergen raised $300.0M for its biomanufacturing efforts, which include optical films and non-toxic crop protection.
  • Infarm raised $170.0M in Series C for distributed urban vertical farming.
  • Beyond Limits raised $133.0M in Series C for enterprise data analytics software for oil and gas, manufacturing, and healthcare industries.
  • Tonal raised $110.0M in Series D for smart home gym equipment.

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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