Startup Funding: December 2020


AI hardware startups were hot in our December startup-funding focus, with two companies landing rounds exceeding $100M and plenty of others seeing investment. Two Chinese EDA companies received funding in a bid to boost the country’s semiconductor ecosystem. One company providing control systems for fabs achieved $8M in Series A, and both autonomous driving and electric vehicles pulled in lots of new funding. This month, we profile twenty-six startups that together raised over $1.5B in funding.

Semiconductors & design
EDA startup X-Epic raised CN¥200.0M (~$30.6M) in Series A and Pre-A+ funding rounds led by V Fund and GL Ventures and joined by Great Numbers, ZhenFund, China Fortune-Tech Capital, Green Pine Capital, and 5Y Capital. X-Epic is starting with EpicElf, an FPGA verification tool, and verification consulting. Based in Nanjing, China and founded in March 2020, the startup hopes to provide a Chinese-developed alternative for EDA tools.

Another Chinese EDA company, NineCube, received an undisclosed investment from Hubble Technology Investment (Huawei’s investment arm). The company provides an inductor/capacitor synthesis, modeling, and verification tool for RFIC design as well as circuit simulation tools. NineCube was founded in 2011 and is based in Wuhan, China.

RF company QuantalRF drew CHF17.0M (~$19.0M) in a Series B round led by Metellus AG and Dara Capital, alongside existing shareholders. QuantalRF focuses on front-end RF semiconductors including power amplifiers, low noise amplifiers, and on-chip filters. The funding will be used to speed commercialization of the company’s RF technologies, expand the engineering team, and to scale the product development of 5G/UHB (Ultra High Band) and Wi-Fi 6/6e front-end IC components. Based in Zurich, Switzerland, the company was founded as DockOn in 2008.

Transphorm raised $15.0M in a private placement of common stock (5M shares at $3.00 per share). The company provides high-performance gallium nitride (GaN) power conversion products and will use the proceeds to scale volume shipments of GaN products for the fast-charging power adapter, server, communication, and gaming power supply markets as well as converters/inverters for industrial and renewable applications, expanded sampling and qualification in EV automotive applications, and growth of its epi wafer business. Transphorm is based in Goleta, Calif., and was founded in 2007.

Memory-maker Antaios raised $11.0M in Series A funding led by Innovacom and Sofimac Innovation and joined by Applied Ventures and Bpifrance. The startup focuses on commercializing Spin-Orbit Torque MRAM (SOT-MRAM), which it believes can replace embedded NVM as well as embedded cache SRAM and can be implemented on STT-MRAM manufacturing lines. Founded in 2017 with research from SPINTEC, Antaios is based in Grenoble, France.

Adapdix drew $8.0M in Series A funding led by WRVI Capital and joined by Micron Ventures and existing investor X2 Equity. The company specializes in edge AI automation and control software for industrial equipment, with an initial focus on manufacturing customers in the semiconductor, electronics, and automotive industries. In a blog, Micron explained how the startup’s technology fits into its manufacturing flow. Adapdix is based in Pleasanton, Calif., and was founded in 2014.

UbiQD raised $7.0M in a Series A round led by Scout Ventures and Keiretsu Forum and joined by Sun Mountain Capital, Epic Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Arcview Collective Fund, Nanosys, and others. UbiQD makes a quantum dot nanomaterial with a formulation that the company says is more safe, cost-effective, and durable. The company’s focus is on creating films to improve yield in commercial greenhouses. It is based in Los Alamos, N.M., and was founded in 2014.

Spectra7 Microsystems issued a private placement for up to CAD$3.5M (~$2.8M) of common stock. The company makes high-performance analog chips for VR/AR/MR devices, data centers, and other connectivity markets. It is based in San Jose, Calif., and was founded in 2012.

NanoBridge Semiconductor (NBS) drew ¥130M (~$1.3M) in Series A funding from Japan Industrial Partners, NEC Corporation, and others. The startup focuses on resistance-change switching technology. Called NanoBridge, it controls the creation or destruction of nanometer sized metal bridges in a solid electrolyte through the application of voltage, creating a switch. NBS is focusing on applications requiring radiation resistance and licenses FPGAs and non-volatile memories using the technology. Based in Tsukuba, Japan, and founded in 2019 as a spin out from NEC.

AI hardware
AI chipmaker Graphcore drew $222.0M in Series E funding led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and joined by Fidelity International, Schroders, Baillie Gifford, Draper Esprit, Ahren Innovation Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, Atomico, BMW i Ventures, C4 Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Foundation Capital, Mayfair Equity Partners, MerianChrysalis, M&G Investments, Microsoft, Pitango Venture Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Samsung Catalyst Fund, Sequoia Capital, and Sofina. Graphcore produces Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) chips dedicated for machine learning workloads in data centers. The company also integrates the IPU into server blades and systems and provides development software. Based in Bristol, U.K., and founded in 2016, Graphcore has raised over $710M so far.

Horizon Robotics raised $150.0M in a Series C round led by 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside Venture Capital), Hillhouse Capital, and Capital Today and joined by Guotai Junan International and KTB Network. The company specializes in AI chips for robotics and autonomous vehicles and recently released its latest edge processor for AI and image processing in automotive applications. It also provides solutions for mapping and localization as well as in-cabin software. Based in Beijing, China and founded in 2015, Horizon Robotics has raised $850M in total.

Vastai Technologies raised $50.0M in Series A funding led by Kuaishou Technology, Redpoint Ventures China, 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside Venture Capital), and SAIF Partners and joined by existing investors including ZhenFund, Sirius Capital, and Glory Ventures. The startup is developing chips for AI, computer vision, and video processing applications for cloud inference. The funding will be used to scale up the production of the company’s main chip products and further expand the R&D team. Founded in 2018, Vastai is based in Shanghai, China.

AIStorm raised $16.0M in a Series B funding round from AsusTek, Egis Technology, Knowles Electronics, Meyer Corporation, and Senvest Management. The startup provides analog/mixed-signal AI-in-sensor SoCs that seek to avoid the process of sensor data digitization. AIStorm’s charge-domain processing approach accepts charge directly from the sensor, such as electrons from a pixel or MEMS microphone, and multiplies that charge directly to perform CNN inference, which the company says leads to lower power and latency. Based in San Jose, Calif., and founded in 2011, the startup has raised $29.2M in total.

Eta Compute received $12.5M in Series C funding led by Synaptics and joined by existing investors. The startup provides a power-optimized neural network compiler and software, as well as ulta-low-power SoCs and boards targeting IoT sensor nodes. Eta Compute and Synaptics have also entered into a joint development and marketing partnership, whereby each company will have access to select technologies of the other. Going forward, Eta Compute plans to focus on complete systems using Synaptics’ Katana SoC that can be sold as commercially deployable whole product solutions, halting development of its own silicon while optimizing its AI compiler and software for Synaptics’ hardware. Based in Westlake Village, Calif., and founded in 2015, the company has raised $23.7M to date.

Deepwave Digital drew $3.0M in seed funding led by Northrop Grumman and Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network and joined by Robin Hood Ventures, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and Lehigh Valley Angel Investors. Deepwave Digital aims to improve the performance of wireless systems with its Artificial Intelligence Radio Transceiver, a software-defined radio designed for RF deep-learning applications that incorporates three signal processors including an embedded Nvidia GPU, an FPGA, and dual embedded CPUs. The startup also provides a development environment. Based in Philadelphia, Pa., and founded in 2017, it has raised $4.2M so far.

Quantum computing
Quantum software company Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) raised $45.0M in venture funding from Honeywell Venture Capital, IBM Ventures, JSR Corporation, Serendipity Capital, Alvarium Investments, and Talipot Holdings. CQC provides quantum software products for cybersecurity and quantum chemistry as well as an architecture agnostic quantum software development toolkit and compiler. Founded in 2014 and based in Cambridge, UK, it has raised over $67.8M in total.

Quantum software startup Phasecraft drew £3.7M (~$5.0M) in seed funding led by LocalGlobe and Episode1 and joined by UCL Technology Fund, Parkwalk Advisors, and London Co-investment Fund. Phasecraft focuses on algorithm development for quantum simulation of materials and chemistry. Based in London, UK, and founded in 2018, it has raised ~$7.5M so far.

Automotive
Autonomous trucking company TuSimple raised $350.0M in Series E funding led by VectoIQ and joined by Goodyear, Union Pacific, CN Rail, U.S. Xpress, and Kroger as well as Volkswagen’s Traton Group and Navistar. TuSimple focuses on building a depot-to-depot self-driving long-haul freight network. It is currently operating in the American southwest with safety drivers present. Based in San Diego, Calif., and founded in 2015, the company has raised $648M.

EV company Hozon Auto raised CN¥2.0B (~$305.0M) from Huading Capital. The company has released three electric vehicle models, with the most recent being a small-size SUV with a 400km (~250 mile) range. Hozon is based in Jiaxing, China, and was founded in 2014.

Autonomous driving company WeRide drew $200.0M in Series B1 funding from commercial automaker Yutong Group. The company provides L4 autonomous driving hardware and software, and the new investment will push its use in minibuses, city buses, and other commercial vehicles. WeRide also offers a robotaxi service in Guangzhou, China, where it is based. Founded in 2017, the company has raised $403.6M in total.

EV startup Sono Motors raised €45.0M (~$54.7M) in Series C funding from Swedbank, DNCA, Böllinger Group, ELFH Holding, e.ventures, Felunic Vermögensverwaltung, Seedrs, and Wi Ventures. Instead of standard EVs, the company is specializing in a solar electric car that can be partially recharged from solar cells integrated in the car’s body. The car supports a range of 250km (~155 miles) and the company says up to 34km (~21 miles) of additional range per day can be generated purely by solar energy. Founded in 2016 and based in Munich, Germany, Sono Motors has raised $126.6M to date and is planning to debut a prototype at CES.

Radar startup Uhnder raised $45.0M in Series C funding led by Sensata Technologies and joined by ACME Capital, EDOM Technology, Khosla Ventures, Lockheed Martin, Magna, Qualcomm Ventures, SAIC, Sands Capital Ventures, and TDK Ventures. Uhnder makes a digital 4D software defined imaging radar chip that uses Digital Code Modulation (DCM) to replace traditional analog frequency modulation and expects its first product to be automotive qualified next year. Sensata will also be using the radar chip in its products. Based in Austin, Texas, and founded in 2015, Uhnder has raised $145.0M in total.

Simulation startup Parallel Domain raised $11.0M in Series A funding led by Foundry Group and joined by Calibrate Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, and Toyota AI Ventures. The startup provides a platform for generating synthetic sensor data used to train and test computer vision algorithms for autonomous driving. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., and founded in 2017, Parallel Domain has raised $13.9M to date.

Actasys drew $5.0M in seed funding led by Volvo Cars Tech Fund and NextGear Ventures. Actajet specializes in cleaning automotive sensors such as cameras, lidar, and infrared sensors using an electronically controlled array of small actuator cartridges that generate strong jets of air without the need for rotary fans or compressors. The startup is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was founded in 2013.

DSP Concepts received a $3.0M strategic investment from Subaru-SBI Innovation Fund. The company provides the Audio Weaver development framework used to implement audio systems in vehicles and other consumer audio products. Based in Santa Clara, Calif., DSP Concepts was founded in 2015 and has raised $28.4M to date.

Automotive sensor startup PreAct Technologies raised $1.6M in venture funding led by Alpha Bridge and joined by elev8.vc and Sony Innovation Fund. PreAct argues that even with investment and advancement of ADAS, car crashes will continue to happen. The startup focuses on sensors that allow detection of a crash in the moments before it happens and take countermeasures designed to reduce fatality rates such as adjusting suspension and seating positions. The company also says its sensors can be used for other ADAS functions. PreAct is based in Portland, Ore., and was founded in 2018.


Table: Selected companies funded in December 2020.

AI applications
Investors saw many opportunities across a wide range of AI-enabled applications. Among them, three companies applying AI to health and medical applications drew $100M+ rounds:

  • Olive raised $225.0M in a venture round for its healthcare administration and workflow automation AI-as-a-service platform.
  • Tempus raised $200.0M in Series G for its platform that enables analysis of clinical and molecular data for precision medicine.
  • LeanTaaS raised $130.0M in Series D for its AI-powered patient queueing system for hospitals and other healthcare clinics.

But it wasn’t just healthcare. From education to government policies, numerous companies drew large amounts of funding.

  • As the pandemic pushed many students to online learning, Zuoyebang drew a massive $1.6B in Series E for its online educational platform for K-12 students in China.
  • FiscalNote raised $160.0M in a venture round for its AI-enabled service for tracking and analyzing government policy, legislative, and regulatory activity.
  • Scale AI raised $155.0M in Series D for its training and validation data for AI applications, including autonomous vehicles, retail, and conversational AI.
  • Glance, a subsidiary of InMobi Group, raised $145.0M in a venture round for its lock screen app for mobile devices that displays personalized content.
  • Flexiv raised $100.0M in Series B for its adaptive industrial robots which integrate force control, computer vision and AI technologies.
  • Ironclad raised $100.0M in Series D for its contracts software for legal teams.

Related
Find our prior startup funding reports here.
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