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Startup Funding: September 2021

Data center chips shine; ADAS in China; 37 startups raise $1.7B.

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Startups focused on data center chips had a big month in September. A new emergent from stealth promises to accelerate big data analytics, and startups proving CXL connectivity and high-performance RISC-V chiplets also drew funding. On the other end of the spectrum, NB-IoT and edge AI designers saw investment while a company providing on-chip monitoring can predict when chips will fail. Plus, companies developing autonomous driving and ADAS systems saw big investment, particularly in China where three companies each raised over $200 million. Collectively, more than $1.7 billion was raised for 37 companies last month.

Semiconductors & design
Chip-analytics company proteanTecs raised $50.0M in Series C funding led by Koch Disruptive Technologies and joined by strategic investors MediaTek Capital and Advantest, together with Porsche SE and Allied Group subsidiary Champion Motors, as well as current investors. proteanTecs uses on-chip monitoring and machine learning to provide a cloud-based telemetry platform that predicts failures and manufacturing performance in electronics. The funding will be used for global expansion, to accelerate product development, and pursue strategic collaborations. Founded in 2017, it is based in Haifa, Israel and has raised $150M to date.

Aviva Links raised $26.5M in a Series A round led by Marvell founders Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai, joined by others. The startup is building secured in-vehicle connectivity IC solutions that can move data at multi-gigabit speeds. A subsidiary of Aviva Technology Holdings, Aviva Links was founded in 2020 and is based in San Jose, Calif.

MEMS maker Vesper closed an $18.0M equity financing round led by Accomplice and joined by Applied Materials Ventures, Sands Capital, Bose, Amazon Alexa Fund, Gopher Asset Management, ITIC, World Peace Group, Unitrontech, and MegaChips. The company makes piezoelectric MEMS sensors for pervasive voice interfaces and acoustic event-detection products. Vesper recently introduced an analog piezoelectric voice accelerometer, or bone conduction sensor, as its first non-microphone product. Based in Boston, Mass., and founded in 2009, Vesper has raised $73M to date.

Magnetic material startup EnaChip raised $7.1M in venture funding. EnaChip specializes in design, process development, and contract manufacturing of micro-magnetic components and devices mainly on silicon substrates. The company offers customized devices using its wafer-level magnetic technology platform that enables the manufacturing of high-efficiency inductors and transformers that can be used in power-management integrated systems, signal isolation sensitive circuit components where data integrity is critical, magnetic sensors for niche navigation and guidance applications, and magnetic actuators often used for bio-medical point of care devices. Founded in 2016, it is based in Jamesburg, NJ.

Power-electronics startup Frenetic raised €4.5M (~$5.3M) led by Bonsai Ventures and Join Capital and joined by previous investors 42Cap, Big Sur Ventures, and Bankinter. It offers an AI-powered, web-based simulation tool for designing magnetic components such as transformers and inductors. It also offers a range of reference designs and manufacturing of samples. Founded in 2015, it is based in Madrid, Spain.

Photodetector startup ElFys raised €3.0M (~$3.5M) in seed funding led by Metaplanet Holdings and joined by Voima Ventures along with individual investors. ElFys designs, develops, and manufactures customized photodetectors as well as standard products for applications such as wearable medical devices, spectroscopy, and UV to near-IR light sensing. Based in Espoo, Finland, it was founded in 2017.

Memory startup ZeroPoint Technologies received €2.5M (~$3.0M) in seed funding from Industrifonden and others. ZeroPoint Technologies offers a memory compression IP block for high-performance SoCs that it says effectively doubles main memory capacity and bandwidth. The general-purpose IP block is placed on the memory access path and is invisible to the operating system and applications. The funds will be used to launch several new products and expand internationally. Based in Göteborg, Sweden, it was founded in 2016 as a spin out from Chalmers University of Technology.

Manufacturing, equipment & materials
Materials company 6K closed a $51.0M Series C financing round led by Volta Energy Technologies, joined by new investors Catalus Capital and S Cap/Prithvi Ventures, and existing investors Anzu Partners, Launch Capital, Material Impact, and RKS Ventures. 6K produces equipment for manufacturing materials and powders used in varied industries, including battery manufacturing, semiconductor chemical mechanical planarization, and additive manufacturing. The company says its plasma system reduces both wastage and the time it takes to synthesize materials. It also produces powders and will spend the funds on expanding capacity and a dedicated battery facility. Founded in 2014, it is based in North Andover, Mass.

TactoTek raised a total of €22.0M (~$25.5M) composed of up to €15.0 in financing from the European Guarantee Fund, €4.0M of venture bridge financing led by Conor Venture Partners joined by Tesi, and €3.0M of government backed grant and loan funding. TactoTek manufactures injection molded structural electronics, which combine structure and electronic functions in a single piece for use in applications such as automotive, appliances, and smart buildings. Based on Oulu, Finland, it was founded in 2011.

Dream Ink raised nearly CNY 100.0M (~$15.5M) in Series B1 financing led by China Fortune-Tech Capital and joined by Riverhead Capital. The startup is developing liquid metals that can be used as conductive inks in printed electronics, as well as the printers themselves. It plans to use the funding in construction of a mass production line. Based in Beijing, China, it was founded in 2014 based on research conducted at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University.

ALE startup AlixLabs drew a SEK 9.0M (~$1.0M) investment from Almi Invest and private investors. AlixLabs has developed Atomic Layer Etch Pitchsplitting (APS), which can be used to manufacture nanostructures with a characteristic size below 20nm. The technique uses atomic layer etching to split nanostructures in half with a single process step by using walls of inclined structures, fabricated with dry etching or epitaxial growth, as a mask. AlixLabs says it works with single-exposure immersion lithography and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography as well as multiple patterning techniques. The funds will be used for product development and validation. Based in Lund, Sweden, it was founded in 2019.

Data center
Analytics processor startup Speedata left stealth with a $55.0M Series A round led by Walden Catalyst Ventures, 83North, and Koch Disruptive Technologies, with participation from existing investors Pitango First, Viola Ventures, and individual investors including Mellanox co-founder Eyal Waldman. Speedata’s Analytics Processing Unit (APU) is designed to accelerate big data analytic workloads. The startup claims it can replace multiple racks of CPUs by addressing the main bottlenecks of analytics, including I/O, compute, and memory, while remaining compatible with legacy hardware and code. Founded in 2019, it is based in Netanya, Israel, and has raised $70M so far.

Astera Labs drew a $50.0M Series C round led by Fidelity Management and Research and joined by Atreides Management, Valor Equity Partners, and existing investors Avigdor Willenz Group, GlobalLink1 Capital, Intel Capital, Sutter Hill Ventures, and VentureTech Alliance. Astera Labs provides a portfolio of smart retimers for Compute Express Link (CXL) 2.0 and PCI Express (PCIe) 4.0/5.0 to enable workload-optimized platforms in the cloud. In addition to ICs, the startup offers boards and design services and says it has been adopted by five major processor platforms. Based in Santa Clara, Calif., and founded in 2017, it has raised $85M.

Ventana Micro Systems raised $38.0M in Series B fundraising led by Marvell founders Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai, joined by other previous investors. Ventana is developing data center class high-performance RISC-V CPUs with extensible instruction set capability delivered in the form of multi-core chiplets. The company also offers a customizable SoC chiplet for cloud, enterprise data center, 5G, edge compute, and automotive applications. It utilizes a parallel die-to-die (D2D) solution compliant with the OCP Open Domain-Specific Architecture (ODSA) physical interface standard. Founded in 2018, it is based in Cupertino, Calif., and has raised $53M so far.

GigaIO closed a Series B round with funding of $14.7M led by Impact Venture Capital with participation from Mark IV Capital, Lagomaj Capital, SK Hynix, and Four Palms Ventures. GigaIO offers a universal composable fabric for data centers that orchestrates workloads by configuring any HPC and AI resource on the fly and integrating networking, storage, memory, and specialized accelerators into a single-system cluster fabric. It is currently available for PCIe 4.0, with Compute Express Link (CXL) and PCIe 5.0 planned. Founded in 2012, it is based in Carlsbad, Calif.

Nano Labs raised “tens of millions of dollars” in an equity fundraising round led by Yongwan Capital, followed by Hashkey and several other investors. Nano Labs designs chips for data centers and AI applications using its storage-computing integrated FPU chip architecture and HBM2D memory technology. Based in Hangzhou, China, it was founded in 2019.

AI hardware
AI chip startup Deep Vision raised $35.0M in Series B funding led by Tiger Global and joined by Exfinity Venture Partners, Silicon Motion, and Western Digital. Deep Vision offers an AI processor and software for real-time video analytics and natural language processing at the edge, particularly targeting camera-based applications like such as smart retail, driver-monitoring systems, smart city, drones, and factory automation. Its processor utilizes a “polymorphic dataflow architecture” that aims to minimize data movement between compute and various levels of memory hierarchy. Based in Los Altos, Calif., it was founded in 2014 based on research conducted at Stanford University.

Axelera AI closed a seed funding round worth $12.0M led by Bitfury and joined by Imec and Imec.xpand. Axelera AI is designing AI edge hardware and software, including solutions using a custom dataflow architecture with multicore in memory computing. The startup says its platform compares to the power of a server while consuming much less power. It is expected to launch to select customers in early 2022. Based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, it was founded in 2021.

RiVAI raised “tens of millions of dollars” in a Series A round led by ByteDance and Hillhouse Capital, joined by new investors Legend Capital, WU Capital, Tsing Ventures, and ZhenFund, along with existing investor Northern Light Capital. RiVAI designs heterogenous RISC-V based SoCs with customized extended instructions designed for low power consumption in AI IoT applications. Founded in 2018, it is based in Shenzhen, China.

IoT
IoT chipmaker Xinyi Information Technology raised nearly CNY 500M (~$77.5M) in a Series B round led by CMB International and CICC Alpha, joined by China Merchants Capital, Ningbo Water Meter, FreesFund, Chendao Capital, and Huarui Investment. Xinyi specializes in narrow band IoT (NB-IoT) chips based on LPWA technology with ultra low power consumption. Based in Shanghai, China, it was founded in 2017.

Wirepas raised €10.0M (~$11.8M) in funding from Karma and Tesi. Wirepas offers connectivity solutions for industrial IoT and focuses on providing non-cellular 5G services including for private networks. Beyond industrial IoT, it is targeting smart city applications and plans to launch commercially in 2022. Founded in 2010, it is based in Tampere, Finland.

Quantum, DNA computing
Quantum Machines raised $50.0M in a Series B round led by Red Dot Capital Partners with the participation of Exor, Claridge Israel, Samsung NEXT, Valor Equity Partners, Atreides Management LP, and joined by TLV Partners, Battery Ventures, 2i Ventures, and other existing investors. Quantum Machines develops an orchestration platform for controlling and operating quantum processors as well as a standard universal language for quantum computers. It plans to use to funding to further develop its solutions and open new offices. Founded in 2018, it is based in Tel Aviv, Israel, and has raised around $83M.

DNA data storage startup Catalog raised $35.0M in Series B funding led by Hanwha Impact. Storing digital information in DNA has attracted interest due to the vast amounts that can be stored in a small area for extended periods of time. However, Catalog is looking beyond just storing data and aims to develop a computing platform for enterprise use where both data management and computation occur through the manipulation of synthetic DNA. Founded in 2016, it is based in Boston, Mass.

Quantum Flytrap raised $0.3M in pre-seed funding from SMOK Ventures. Quantum Flytrap is developing a user interface for quantum computing and cryptography with a graphical interface compatible with any hardware. The interface can be used to construct quantum experiments and as a teaching aid. Founded in 2020, it is based in Warsaw, Poland.

ADAS & autonomy
DeepRoute.ai closed an over $300.0M Series B round led by Alibaba Group and joined by Jeneration Capital as well as previous investors Fosun RZ Capital, Yunqi Partners, and Glory Ventures. DeepRoute.ai provides a full-stack Level 4 self-driving platform for OEMs, Tier 1s, and mobility companies, as well as offering a robotaxi service that currently operates in Wuhan and Shenzhen. The company plans to expand its robotaxi fleet to more than 150 by the end of 2021 and is also working on developing medium duty trucks for urban logistics. The funding will be used for R&D, automaker collaboration, and fleet operation. Founded in 2019, it is based in Shenzhen, China.

Momenta received a $300.0M investment from General Motors. The investment is part of an effort to accelerate the development of next-generation self-driving technologies for future GM vehicles in China. Momenta plans to supply driving systems with varying levels of autonomy, from ADAS to full self-driving. Based in Beijing, China, it was founded in 2016 and has raised $1B. SAIC Motor also invested an additional amount in the company.

Cowarobot raised $250.0M in its Series C round. It supplies low-speed autonomous systems for applications like smart street cleaning. The company is also planning to expand to intra-city logistics and robotaxis. Founded in 2015, it is based in Shanghai, China.

PreAct Technologies raised $11.4M in venture funding for its technology that uses automotive sensors to detect when a collision is imminent and provide the vehicle information that can be used to protect passengers. The startup says its near-field sensors and software can enable a vehicle to angle car seats away from the impact of a crash, deploy airbags earlier, and raise the suspension. Based in Portland, Ore., it was founded in 2018 and has raised $14M to date.

Autonomous delivery startup StreetDrone raised £3.0M ($~4.1M) as part of a pre-Series A round from Wilko. StreetDrone focuses on low-speed autonomous and teleoperated delivery vehicles for well mapped, low complexity situations. It also offers a development platform and consulting for other companies. Based in Oxford, UK, it was founded in 2017.

Hong Jing Drive raised CNY 10.0M (~$1.5M) in Series A funding led by Country Garden Venture Capital and joined by Hangzhou Jinrong Touzi and Walden International. Hong Jing Drive provides full-stack autonomous driving and ADAS solutions for heavy trucks and passenger vehicles. Based in Hangzhou, China, it was founded in 2018.

Automotive chipmaker Black Sesame Technologies raised “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Series C funding led by Xiaomi with participation from Wingtech Technology, FulScience, SummitView Capital, FutureX Capital, Oriza Hua, Lenovo Capital, Sunic Capital, and China Automotive Chip Industry Innovation Strategic Alliance. Black Sesame develops SoCs and software for L3 ADAS and autonomous driving, including image processing and perception algorithms. Based in Shanghai, China, it was founded in 2016.

EVs
Electric truckmaker Volta Trucks raised €37.0M (~$43.5M) in a Series B round led by Luxor Capital Group and joined by Proterra, Agility, and Byggmästare A J Ahlström. Volta Trucks makes fully electric trucks for inner-city logistics with a range of 95 to 125 miles. It says it has received pre-orders of over 2,500 vehicles and it aims to begin full-scale production by the end of 2022. Based in Sigtuna, Sweden, it was founded in 2019.

Batteries
Battery recycler Redwood Materials received a $50.0M investment from Ford as part of a partnership to incorporate recycling into the automaker’s American battery production. Redwood also plans to begin producing anode foils and cathode materials domestically. Founded in 2017, it is based in Carson City, Nev., and has raised $792M to date.

LeydenJar Technologies raised €22.0M (~$26.0M) in Series A funding from new investors Catalus Capital, Yard Energy, Invest-NL, ING Sustainable Investments, and Somerset Capital Partners, along with existing investors including BOM and DOEN Participations. It also received an additional €5.0M (~$5.9M) subsidy from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. LeydenJar produces silicon anodes for lithium-ion batteries using a plasma-based deposition process. It says its technology can increase the energy density of batteries by 70% and is suitable for fast charging. It targets consumer electronics, EVs, and residential energy storage. The funding will be used to scale up its production facility, further development of its battery technology, and for hiring. Founded in 2016 as a spin out from research institute TNO, and based in Leiden, the Netherlands, it has raised over $39M.

Accure raised $8.0M in a Series A round led by Blue Bear Capital and joined by existing investors Capnamic Ventures and 42CAP. Accure offers battery analytics software that monitors a battery’s health and safety throughout its lifecycle to optimize performance and predict safety problems before they occur. Spun out from research conducted at RWTH Aachen in 2020, it is based in Aachen, Germany.

Aesir Technologies raised $5.0M in venture funding. The company develops nickel-zinc batteries using non-toxic materials that can be recycled. Target markets include data centers, defense, and aerospace. Founded in 2011, it is based in Joplin, Mo.

Battery material startup HeXalayer received a $1.0M grant from the National Science Foundation. The company is developing graphene anodes for lithium-ion batteries. Based in Louisville, Ky., HeXalayer was founded in 2017.

Company Sector Amount
Raised
(M USD)
Funding Type Headquarters
DeepRoute.ai Autonomy $300.0 Series B China
Momenta Autonomy $300.0 Corporate China
Cowarobot Autonomy $250.0 Series C China
Black Sesame Technologies Autonomy $100.0+ Series C China
Xinyi Information Technology IoT $77.5 Series B China
Speedata Data Center $55.0 Series A Israel
6K Materials $51.0 Series C USA
proteanTecs Semi & Design $50.0 Series C Israel
Astera Labs Data Center $50.0 Series C USA
Quantum Machines Quantum $50.0 Series B Israel
Redwood Materials Batteries $50.0 Corporate USA
Volta Trucks EVs $43.5 Series B Sweden
Ventana Micro Systems Data Center $38.0 Series B USA
Deep Vision AI HW $35.0 Series B USA
Catalog DNA $35.0 Series B USA
LeydenJar Technologies Batteries $31.9 Series A Netherlands
Aviva Links Automotive $26.5 Series A USA
TactoTek Manufacturing $25.5 Grant & Loan Finland
Vesper MEMS $18.0 Equity USA
Dream Ink Equipment $15.5 Series B1 China
GigaIO Data Center $14.7 Series B USA
Axelera AI AI HW $12.0 Seed Netherlands
Wirepas IoT $11.8 Venture Finland
PreAct Technologies Autonomy $11.4 Venture USA
Nano Labs Data Center $10.0+ Equity China
RiVAI AI HW $10.0+ Series A China
Accure Batteries $8.0 Series A Germany
EnaChip Power Semi $7.1 Venture USA
Frenetic Power Semi $5.3 Venture Spain
Aesir Technologies Batteries $5.0 Venture USA
StreetDrone Autonomy $4.1 Pre-Series A UK
ElFys Photodetector $3.5 Seed Finland
ZeroPoint Technologies Memory $3.0 Seed Sweden
Hong Jing Drive Autonomy $1.5 Series A China
AlixLabs Manufacturing $1.0 Seed Sweden
HeXalayer Batteries $1.0 Grant USA
Quantum Flytrap Quantum $0.3 Pre-Seed Poland

Table 1: Selected companies that received funding in September 2021.

AI applications
How are new AI processors and data center hardware getting used? Here are a few of the companies using AI in their products that attracted investor attention this month.

  • Agile Robots raised $220.0M in Series C for intelligent force-sensing robotics that could be used in many industries including medical and automotive manufacturing.
  • Spring Health raised $190.0M in Series C to provide employees with mental health assessments and manage conditions.
  • AlphaSense raised $180.0M in Series C to provide market intelligence through analyzing business data and financial reports.
  • FLYR Labs raised $150.0M in Series C to help airlines manage revenue and make business decisions.
  • Rebellion Defense raised $150.0M in venture funding for its platform to analyze information for national security, defense, and military forces.
  • Lightricks raised $130.0M in Series D for consumer social media photo and video editing such as its Facetune app.
  • ContractPodAi raised $115.0M in Series C for a platform for legal professionals that can analyze contracts and other legal documents.
  • CoachHub raised $110.0M in Series B to provide digital business coaching.
  • Insurify raised $100.0M in Series B to offer insurance quote comparison for consumers.

Related
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