Robot Investments Weekly: AI Components Shine Bright for Funding

Robotics Business Review

AI components and associated software systems scored big in the financing world in recent weeks, along with continued investment in the self-driving vehicle, unmanned aircraft, and healthcare robotics space.

Beyond the startup world, there were a bunch of noteworthy acquisitions and mergers recently, indicating that if a startup can’t find outside financing, there’s always the mergers route.

Today, we’re catching up on robotics transactions from the past few weeks – if you’ve missed some other transactions from last month or earlier this year, you can track them in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type. If you’re an RBR Insider, don’t forget to check out the Q2 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investment trends for the past three months. It’s free for subscribers to the Insider program.

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AI components and software return to the spotlight

Even as NVIDIA was making large announcements in the AI GPU platform space this week, smaller startups are continuing to receive funding for their chips, which provide computational power for devices on the edge, including robotics. ThinCI closed a $65 million funding round, led by automotive components leader Denso, and Temasek Holdings. The company’s offerings include applications in self-driving cars, supercomputers geared to deep learning, vision, radar, lidar and other autonomous vehicles.

Another AI chipmaker, Groq, quietly raised $60 million recently as well. As noted in this Crunchbase article, the startup has been very stealthy, offering little more than a blog posting and charts on its home page. The Groq team includes two former Google hardware engineers and Chamath Palihapitiya, the CEO of Social Capital and an “avid amateur poker player.” It should be interesting to see what Groq comes out with within the AI space.

Beyond the chips, though, AI is touching many aspects of startups and hardware offerings, particularly in the healthcare, security, and energy sectors. Here’s a quick roundup of AI investments in recent weeks:

  • Clarify Health Solutions raised $57 million in a Series B financing round, led by investment firm KKR. The company offers a platform that includes predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms to help match patients with appropriate and cost-effective care. The company said it has 20 TB of clinical, claims, social determinant, lab, and prescription data on which the system makes inferences.
  • SpIntellx announced closing a seed financing round, led by Newlin Investment Company. The company is developing AI technology and computational tools based on spatial analytics for pathologists in all therapeutic areas, cancer biopharmaceutical companies, and other drug development groups.
  • Autogrid earned a $32 million Series D funding round to help expand its AI-powered flexible energy resources network. The company’s software applications use AI, machine learning, big data and IoT technologies lets utilities, electricity retailers, and others to deliver clean energy by managing networked distributed energy resources in real time.
  • Video++, a Shenzhen, China-based startup in the online video space, announced it raised a C1 round of funding for an undisclosed amount. The company develops image recognition within video content, using computer vision to identify places, objects, faces, brands, and other elements in video content.
  • Also in China, startup AI has raised $30 million in angel funding from Bertelsmann Asia Investment and IDG Capital. The company is developing an AI scheduling system combined with blockchain to ensure the security of data transmission and access.

Unmanned aircraft and self-driving car investments continue to soar

Within the unmanned aerial vehicle, aka drone, space this week was the emergence of Impossible Aerospace, which emerged from stealth mode to announce $9.4 million in funding, along with the US-1 electric-powered drone, which the company claims can fly up to two hours on a single charge. With a battery core built into the frame of the quadcopter, the company can claim battery life that is longer than typical electric drones. The company is working with emergency response and public safety groups, and plans to release the drone later this year.

Auterion hardware reference platform drone AI components article

Auterion drone. Source: Auterion.

Auterion recently raised $10 million to continue development of an open-source drone operating system. The Zurich, Switzerland-based company said it will use the additional funding to scale operations and speed up development of the platform, which will provide a common operating system for drone manufacturers to improve interoperability between systems.

Richfield, Minn.-based Sentera raised $14 million in funding to continue to develop its agricultural drone and data system. The company’s drones, which include sensors and AI software, survey crops and provide reports that show areas where farmers need to add water, fertilizer or weed-killer chemicals.

Applied Intuition raised $11.5 million in Series A financing to continue developing its self-driving vehicle simulation software. The technology is aimed at autonomous vehicle makers to help improve their own software and simulate driving environments without the risk of physical testing.

Military funding of unmanned aircraft stays strong

Other military-based contracts of note:The U.S. military also continued to award contracts within the unmanned aircraft space. Colorado-based Liteye Systems earned $18 million in funding from the U.S. Air Force to continue development of its containerized anti-unmanned aircraft systems (C-AUDS). The U.S. version of the counter-drone system was first deployed with the U.S. Army in late 2016.

Mergers, acquisitions and grants

Recent weeks saw an uptick in the number of robotics and AI companies joining forces. Here’s a quick look:

Wrapping up the rest

There were a lot of transactions this week, but there still are some other ones worth noting:

  • Israeli firm XACT Robotics raised $5 million in funding, but also received the CE Mark for its surgical robot.
  • System1 Biosciences has raised $25 million to further develop its neurotheraputics automation system, which uses robotic automation in the lab.
  • German firm DyeMansion raised $5 million for its 3D Printing Post-Processing technology platform.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $2 million in grants for robotics companies developing energy projects.

That’s it for the week – see you next week!

The post Robot Investments Weekly: AI Components Shine Bright for Funding appeared first on Robotics Business Review.


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