Big investment poured into AI hardware companies this month, with a focus on edge applications. Companies are experimenting with different architectures, including analog-focused devices and those that are capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of space. IP and EDA startups in China also drew funding as the country tries to create a full chip design ecosystem. Plus, PCB assembly, photonic quantum computing, and new battery technologies feature this month as we take a look at 40 companies that collectively raised over $1.3B.
Semiconductors & design
IP startup AkroStar (Xinyaohui) raised CNY 500.0M (~$77.7M) in Series A investment led by Gaorong Capital and joined by Matrix Partners China, Shanghai Lanpu Investment Management, University of Macau Development Foundation, Macau University of Science and Technology Foundation, Sequoia Capital China, GL Ventures, Green Pine Capital Partners, V Fund Management, Shanghai Guoce Investment Management, Beijing Dazu Changqing Asset Management, and Zhuhai Da Heng Qin Group. AkroStar’s focus is high-speed interface IP for 28/14/12nm and smaller processes, with a portfolio including DDR, PCIe, HDMI, USB, SATA, and MIPI. It also provides IP integration and customization services. “With the development of the digital society and China’s semiconductor industry, the domestic market is in urgent need of local IP suppliers with internationally top strength,” said Huadong Wang, partner of Matrix Partners China. Founded in 2020, AkroStar is based in Zhuhai, China, and has raised at least $139M.
EDA startup X-Epic drew CNY400M (~$62.0M) in pre-Series B funding led by YF Capital and joined by Jingwei China and China Development Bank Equipment Fund. The company offers EpicElf, an FPGA verification tool, as well as open-source simulator EpicSim. It also offers verification consulting. Based in Nanjing, China, and founded in 2020, the startup hopes to provide a Chinese-developed alternative for EDA tools and ultimately release a full verification platform. It has raised over $100M.
Analog IP startup Agile Analog raised $19.0M in a Series A round led by OMERS Ventures and joined by Delin Ventures, Firstminute Capital, and MMC Ventures. The company provides a range of analog IP that can be configured for different process technologies, with offerings including voltage and current reference, LDO regulator, ADC, DAC, body-bias generator, timing, and side-channel attack monitor. The funding will be used to grow its commercial and engineering support teams and plans to expand the foundries it supports. Based in Cambridge, UK, and founded in 2017, Agile Analog has raised $24M to date.
VIDA Products raised $1.4M in venture funding for its high-frequency yttrium iron garnet (YIG) oscillators and ﬁlters for the microwave and millimeter-wave markets. Applications include test and measurement systems, wireless communications, and defense. VIDA is based in Rohnert Park, Calif., and was founded in 2003.
Suitera drew $0.2M in angel funding, including $0.1M from Walden C. Rhines, for its analysis and optimization tools that the company says reduces the computational time and resources required to perform complex modeling, analysis, and simulation tasks associated with the design of complex systems in a variety of domains including SoCs, 5G RF/wireless systems, 3D multi-die package assemblies, and non-electronic systems. Suitera currently offers a tool to reduce large netlists generated by extraction tools for faster SPICE simulation while preserving accuracy. Suitera was founded in 2020 as a spin out from the American University in Cairo and is based in Austin, Texas.
Manufacturing & test
Atonarp raised $50.0M in a Series D round led by WRVI Capital and joined by Furukawa Electric, Japan Post Investment, Boscolo Intervest, ATI Korea, and Banner Industries. The company provides molecular diagnostics equipment for semiconductor manufacturing and process monitoring as well as for the pharma, industrial process control, and life sciences industries. Its semiconductor metrology products provide in-situ data for equipment and process co-optimization, AI/ML deployment, and chamber matching. Funding will be used to expand operations to meet demand as well as expand to new markets. Founded in 2010 and based in Tokyo, Japan, it has raised $111M.
MacroFab raised $15.0M in a Series B round led by Edison Partners, with prior investors including ATX Venture Partners participating. Altium Limited joined the round as a strategic investor. MacroFab provides a digital platform that is used to build PCB assemblies and fully tested and packaged electronics products. The company says it aggregates unused capacity at 75+ factories in the US, Canada, and Mexico to give mid-market companies an alternative to offshoring by turning the physical plant of factories, logistics centers, and warehouses used in manufacturing into a cloud resource. MacroFab plans to use the funding to accelerate expansion in North America, including increased investment in R&D, sales/marketing and opening of a new distribution center for international logistics this summer. Founded in 2013 and based in Houston, Texas, it has raised over $30M.
Liquid Instruments drew $13.7M in convertible note funding from existing investors Anzu Partners and ANU Connect Ventures as well as new investors F1 Solutions and Moelis Australia’s Growth Capital Fund. The startup makes Moku:Go, a portable software-defined test device that includes an oscilloscope, programmable power supply, PID controller, digital logic analyzer, arbitrary waveform generator, data logger, and spectrum analyzer. The device is targeted for engineering education and enthusiasts, with production expected to begin soon. The company also makes Moku:Lab, a larger device. Based in Canberra, Australia, and founded in 2014, Liquid Instruments has raised $22M to date.
Tenstorrent raised $200.0M in a Series C round led by Fidelity Management and Research Company with additional investments from Eclipse Ventures, Epic CG, and Moore Capital. The company is preparing to release its AI PCIe card this year, with servers and workstations later. Tenstorrent says its AI offering can be used for either training or inference and is based around arrays of processors it calls Tensix cores, each of which includes 5 RISC processors, an array math unit for tensor operations, a SIMD unit for vector operations, hardware for accelerating network packet operations and compression/decompression, and 1–2 megabytes of SRAM. It will also offer a service allowing developers to try running models without first having to purchase hardware. Based in Toronto, Canada, and founded in 2016, it has raised $234M to date.
Edge AI startup SiMa.ai received $80.0M in Series B financing led by Fidelity Management and Research Company with participation from Adage Capital Management as well as existing investors Amplify Partners, Dell Technologies Capital, Wing Venture Capital, Alter Venture Partners, and +ND Capital. SiMa.ai is building an SoC for machine learning workloads at low power. The company’s initial focus is computer vision applications at the embedded edge. The funding will be used to productize its first generation machine learning SoC (MLSoC) platform, as well as jumpstart the second generation product architecture and development. Founded in 2018 and based in San Jose, Calif., the startup has raised $120M in total.
Analog AI company Mythic drew $70.0M in Series C funding led by BlackRock and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and joined by Alumni Ventures Group and UDC Ventures. Targeted at edge inference applications, Mythic says its analog matrix processor can provide the compute resources of a GPU at 1/10th the power consumption. It is constructed as an array of compute tiles that integrate a flash memory array and ADCs along with a digital subsystem that includes a 32-bit RISC-V nano processor, SIMD vector engine, 64KB of SRAM, and a high-throughput network-on-chip router. It is available either as a single chip or in PCIe card configurations. Founded in 2012, the company is based in Redwood City, Calif., and Austin, Texas, and has raised $165M.
Ramon.Space drew $17.5M in Series A funding from StageOne Ventures, Deep Insight, WorldQuant Ventures, UMC Capital, and existing investor Grove Ventures. The company builds space resilient supercomputing systems with ML/AI/DSP processing technology that can enable more sophisticated software to run on satellite payloads and deep space operations. The company noted that its technology has already been deployed in numerous satellites and space missions. Founded in 2004, it is based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Analog Inference drew $10.6M in venture funding for its AI inference accelerators using analog in-memory compute technology. Targeted at applications from edge servers to mobile devices, the startup claims it can provide higher performance per watt than other technologies. Founded in 2018, it is based in Santa Clara, Calif., and has raised $15M to date.
AI chipmaker Kneron drew $7.0M in extended Series A investment from Delta Electronics’ Vivotek subsidiary. The startup focuses on edge AI solutions, including SoCs, neural processing unit IP, neural network models, and AI development tools. As part of the funding deal, Kneron will acquire Vatics, a Vivotek subsidiary, for $10.0M. Vatics makes image signal processing SoCs and IP and will lead Kneron’s surveillance and security camera division. Vatics technology will be integrated in a new suite of chips later this year. Based in San Diego, Calif., and founded in 2015, the company has raised over $100M.
eYs3D Microelectronics raised $7.0M in Series A funding from Arm IoT Capital, WI Harper, and Marubun Corporation. The startup provides computer vision ICs and platforms for AIoT, robotics, and VR/AR technologies. The funding will be put towards new product development for AI-based autonomous operation, including robotics, security, touchless control, autonomous vehicles, and smart retail. Additionally, Arm will work with eYs3D to focus on the integration of its chips with Arm’s CPU/NPU processors. Based in Taipei, Taiwan, eYs3D was founded in 2016 as a spin out from Etron Technology.
Cron AI raised $4.0M in a Series A round led by VenturEast and Kitaki Ventures and joined by YourNest Venture Capital. The startup makes an FPGA-based platform to accelerate 3D sensing for edge devices. The sensor-agnostic inferencing platform is in an advanced stage of development, the company said, with test kits set to be shipped this year. “As a fully developed edge compute platform, it will fast track the adoption of 3D perception across multiple use cases globally,” said Girish Shivani, ED and Fund Manager, YourNest Venture Capital. Based in New Delhi, India, Cron AI was founded in 2015.
Xanadu raised $100.0M in Series B investment led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from Capricorn Investment Group, Tiger Global Management, BDC Capital, and In-Q-Tel, along with returning investors Georgian, OMERS Ventures, and individual investor Tim Draper. Xanadu is focused on building a fault tolerant photonic quantum computer. Christian Weedbrook, Xanadu founder and CEO, noted why the company is using photonics: “The ability to leverage preexisting foundries and off-the-shelf optical components, and the capability to naturally network photonic chips together to form a larger quantum computer with one million qubits.” The company’s quantum computers are accessible on a cloud platform, with open-source software packages available. Based in Toronto, Canada, and founded in 2016, the company’s total funding has reached $145M.
ColdQuanta received $20.0M in bridge funding from existing investors including Foundry Group, Global Frontier Quantum Opportunity Fund, LCP Quantum Partners, and Maverick Ventures. The company is developing quantum hardware and software based around its Cold Atom Quantum Technology, which cools atoms to a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero and can use lasers to manipulate the make-up of the atom. The funding will be used to further commercialization efforts and for hiring efforts. Based in Boulder, Colo., and founded in 2007, ColdQuanta has raised $74M to date.
Quantum microscopy startup Qnami drew a $4.4M Series A investment led by Runa Capital and SIT Capital and joined by seed round investors Quantonation, Verve Ventures, Zürcher Kantonalbank, and High-Tech Gründerfonds. Qnami harnesses the control and measurement of the state of a single electron using diamond scanning probes to provide analysis of magnetic materials at the nanoscale. The funds will support extension of Qnami’s quantum microscope technology into applications enabling the design and production of quantum computers and spintronics devices, plus scaling the launch of the company’s quantum scanning nitrogen vacancy magnetometer. Founded in 2017 and based in Muttenz, Switzerland, the company has raised over $7M so far.
Quantum networking startup QphoX drew €2.0M (~$2.4M) in seed funding from Quantonation, Speedinvest, and High-Tech Gründerfonds, and joined by TU Delft. QphoX is working on what it calls a quantum modem transducer to connect multiple quantum computers at room temperature through optical interconnects. The transducer is based on coupling microwave and optical photons through a mechanical intermediary resonator, which the company says allows for low-loss and high-fidelity transmission of quantum states. Based in Delft, the Netherlands, QphoX was founded in 2021 as a spin out from TU Delft, where the underlying research was developed.
Agnostiq drew $2.0M in seed funding led by Differential Ventures, with participation from Scout Ventures, Tensility Venture Partners, Boost VC, and Green Egg Ventures. The startup offers workflow management, privacy tools, and pre-built applications for running jobs on cloud-based hybrid quantum computers. It uses a software-as-a-service model and supports IBM and Amazon Braket hardware. Founded in 2018, the company is based in Toronto, Canada.
Delft Circuits raised an undisclosed amount of funding from High-Tech Gründerfonds, Scholt Group, and QuVest Capital for its I/O cabling solutions for cryogenic environments to operate quantum systems. The company says its cabling solution, which uses superconducting circuits on flexible substrates, can balance space, thermal, and electronic requirements for large scale quantum systems. Founded in 2017, it is based in Delft, the Netherlands.
Photonic chip startup Lightmatter raised $80.0M in Series B led by Viking Global Investors with participation from GV, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Lockheed Martin, Matrix Partners, SIP Global Partners, Spark Capital, and others. Over the last year, Lightmatter has announced a photonic computer, a wafer-scale solution for chip communication, and most recently a general-purpose photonic AI accelerator. “Funds will be used to accelerate production and go-to-market of our first generation roadmap products, and build out our sales and operations teams,” said Lightmatter co-founder and CEO Nick Harris. Based in Boston, Mass., it was founded in 2017 and has raised $113M.
Vector Photonics raised £1.6M (~$2.3M) of equity investment from Foresight, UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, and Equity Gap to boost its Photonic Crystal Surface Emitting Lasers (PCSELs) technology. The startup says its PCSELs, which utilize a 2D grating structure that scatters light linearly and orthogonally, offer benefits over existing laser technology with an initial focus on data center applications and later expanding to additive manufacturing, lidar, and optical sensing. Vector Photonics says its PCSELs are easy to package and incorporate into PCBs and electronic assemblies. Founded in 2020 as a spin out from the University of Glasgow, it is based in Glasgow, U.K., and has received additional government-sponsored grants totaling £2.4M (~$3.4M).
Autonomy & connected vehicles
Einride drew $110.0M in Series B funding from new investors Temasek Holdings, Soros Fund Management, Northzone, Maersk Growth, and Build Capital. Existing investors EQT Ventures, Plum Alley Investments, Norrsken VC, Ericsson, and NordicNinja VC also participated in the round. The company operates autonomous, all-electric freight vehicles on commercial routes on public roads and also provides a software platform for managing fleets. Funding will be used to scale up deployments to customers. Founded in 2016 and based in Stockholm, Sweden, the company has raised over $152M.
Automotive security startup Upstream Security raised $36.0M as part of a Series C round led by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and joined by I.D.I. Insurance Company for its cloud-based mobility cybersecurity and data analytics platform for connected vehicles. The platform uses machine learning, data normalization, and digital twin profiling technologies to detect anomalies in real-time using existing automotive data feeds and can be deployed as part of the automotive OEM’s vehicle security operations center. The investment is part of a strategic partnership that will allow insurance companies to use connected vehicle data to gain insights for various insurance-related areas. Based in Herzliya, Israel, and founded in 2017, it has raised $77M in total.
Beep drew $20.0M in Series A funding from Intel Capital and Blue Lagoon Capital for its driverless, electric multi-passenger vehicles targeted at for cities, business districts, campuses, and similar complex geo-fenced environments. The company’s system, which is already deployed at several locations, uses a combination of machine learning, contextual traffic data, and existing centralized command center data. Founded in 2019, the startup is based in Orlando, Fla.
BaseTrack received $1.0M in seed funding from Angelsdeck for its autonomous trucking and assisted driving add-on system for freight vehicles. The company says that when used alongside a driver, it can provide up to 20% better fuel economy. Founded in 2019, it is based in Tallinn, Estonia.
Derq raised $0.5M in pre-Series A funding from Wadi Makkah Ventures for its AI video analytics platform for cities that fuses data from IoT traffic cameras and sensors and runs analytics to enable infrastructure perception and V2X/5G applications as well as safety and traffic insights. Founded in 2016 as a spin out from MIT, Derq is based in Detroit, Mich., and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It has raised about $6M.
Radar maker Oculii raised $55.0M in a Series B round led by Catapult Ventures and Conductive Ventures and joined by Taiwania Capital, Susquehanna Investment Group, Hella Ventures, PHI-Zoyi Capital, R7 Partners, VectoIQ, ACVC Partners, Mesh Ventures, SV Tech Ventures, Schox Ventures, and Signature Bank. The startup develops several automotive radar systems for coupled with AI-powered software to improve resolution. “We are working with 14 of the top 20 Tier 1/Tier 2 suppliers and have commercial development contracts with the largest OEM and AV companies in North America, Europe, and Asia,” said Oculii CEO and co-founder Steven Hong. Based in Dayton, Ohio, and founded in 2015, it has raised $75M to date.
Location sensor startup oneNav raised $21.0M in a Series B round led by GV with participation from Norwest Venture Partners and GSR Ventures. The company is debuting its L5 mobile GNSS receiver, provided as a scalable and customizable IP core, which it claims offers high location accuracy in half the footprint of existing solutions and targets space constrained devices such as smartphones, wearables, and IoT tracking modules. oneNav also signed a strategic partnership agreement with In-Q-Tel to provide U.S. intelligence and defense agencies with its GNSS technology. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., and founded in 2019, current funding has reached $33M.
SiLC raised $17.0M in Series A investment led by Alter Venture Partners and Dell Technologies Capital with additional participation from Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, Epson, UMC Capital, Yamato Holdings, and Global Brain Corporation. SiLC has a 4D+ Vision chip using frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) for lidar systems that is says offers excellent range, resolution, and accuracy in a small footprint, as well as including velocity, light polarization, and reflectivity. “Our 4D+ vision sensors provide critical additional data and cues needed for efficient machine image processing and visual cognition much like the human eye does to the brain,” said Mehdi Asghari, founder and CEO, SiLC. Founded in 2018 and based in Monrovia, Calif., the company’s total funding has reached $30M.
Scantinel Photonics raised €7.5M (~$9.2M) Series A funding from Scania Growth Capital. Scantinel Photonics is developing a frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar technology, which aims to replace currently-used time-of-flight systems. The startup says it can measure distances to objects in the plus-300-meter range with a high level of integration, solid state scanning, and pricing suitable for the automotive market. The funds will be used for further commercialization. Based in Ulm, Germany, it was founded in 2019 as a venture of Carl Zeiss AG.
Advanced Silicon Group raised $1.0M in a seed preferred stock offering led by Cherrystone Angel Group with participation by MIT Alumni Angels of Northern California, Sidecar Angels, and other private investors. ASG makes biosensors based on silicon nanowires created using metal enhanced etching. The company is preparing to launch its first product and said that other applications of the technology includes Li-ion batteries, microfluidics, lab-on-chip, thermoelectrics, and MEMS. Based in Lowell, Mass., ASG was founded in 2015.
LightCode Photonics received €0.4M ($0.5M) in pre-seed funding led by United Angels VC and Superangel and joined by numerous angel investors. The startup is working on a software-defined, high-performance 3D camera using low-resolution lidar detectors. Target applications include autonomous vehicles as well as robotics. Founded in 2020, LightCode Photonics is based in Tartu, Estonia.
Solar EV company Lightyear received €20.0M (~$24.5M) in a corporate investment from Dutch multinational SHV. Lightyear is developing electric vehicles with solar panels built into the roof. The company says its flagship sedan, launching later this year, consumes only 83 Wh/km with a range of up to 725 km (440 miles). Founded in 2016 and based in Helmond, the Netherlands, the company has raised over $100M.
Solid-state battery maker Solid Power raised $130.0M in a Series B round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company, and Volta Energy Technologies. The company’s solid-state batteries replace the liquid electrolyte in a conventional lithium-ion battery with a highly stable solid ion-conducting material and can be made on standard Li-ion equipment. Solid Power will use the funding to produce full-scale automotive batteries, increase associated material output, and expand in-house production capabilities for future vehicle integration. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future electric vehicles. Based in Louisville, Colo., and founded in 2011, the company has raised over $186M.
24M raised $56.8M in Series E led by Itochu Corporation and joined by new investors Fujifilm Corporation and Mirai Creation Fund along with previous investors, including Kyocera Corporation, Global Power Synergy Company, and North Bridge Venture Partners. The funding will be used to commercialize its SemiSolid lithium-ion battery manufacturing process for grid storage and electric vehicle applications. The SemiSolid electrodes use no binder, mixing electrolyte with active materials to form a clay-like slurry with unique attributes in a process 24M says reduces manufacturing steps and material costs. Based in Cambridge, Mass., and founded in 2010, it has raised $94M so far.
TWAICE drew $26.0M in Series B funding led by Energize Ventures and joined by existing investors Creandum, Cherry Ventures, UVC Partners, and Speedinvest. The startup offers digital twin and predictive analytics software that optimizes the development and operation of lithium-ion batteries, including aging and performance prediction. It is currently looking towards expanding in North America. Founded in 2018, TWAICE is based in Munich, Germany and has raised $45M so far.
Battery developer C4V raised $5.0M in venture funding for its processing technology for next generation anode and cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. C4V says the technology creates crystal structures that enable high voltage operations, in addition to superior corrosion resistance. Additionally, the company is designing cells for different applications in cylindrical, pouch, and prismatic form factors. C4V is based in Binghamton, N.Y., and was founded in 2014.
Electra Vehicles raised €3.6M (~$4.4M) in seed funding from Club degli Investitori and LIFTT for its software for control, design, simulation, and analysis of battery packs for applications including electric vehicles and energy storage. Based in Boston, Mass., Electra was founded in 2015.
Table: Selected companies that received funding in May 2021.
Some large rounds for companies using AI in their products show some of the potential end market opportunities for semiconductors. Many startups are trying their hands at providing customer support chatbots and automated sales assistance, with two making $100M+ rounds.
- Bowery Farming raised $300.0M in Series C for its AI-monitored indoor vertical farms.
- Shift Technology raised $220.0 in Series D for its AI decision making platform for the insurance industry.
- Riiid raised $175.0M in Series E for its AI tutor that tries to help student improve test scores.
- Cognite raised $150.0M in Series B for its data operations and contextualization platform for optimizing heavy industrial processes.
- Ada raised $130.0M in Series C for its customer support chatbot.
- ASAPP raised $120.0M in Series C for call center automation and agent assistance platform.
- Aetion raised $110.0M in Series C for its platform that uses data generated by health care systems to make decisions on medical treatment efficacy.
- Dyno Therapeutics raised $100.0M in Series A and uses ML in developing new gene therapies.