I was starting to get worried that investors’ love affair with self-driving startups was starting to fade, but they came back big this week with lots of money pouring their way. But there were also the standard investments in artificial intelligence companies, sprinkled with some robotics and drone funding. Let’s take a look!
Today, we’re highlighting 16 recent robotics and AI transactions, as well as some news items. If you’ve missed some transactions over the past few months, you can track them through the RBR Transactions Database. This regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type.
Big names behind Aurora investment
Last month, I referenced a Recode report that said self-driving startup Aurora Innovation was expected to lead a financing round of at least $500 million. This week, the company confirmed that it has raised $530 million, including investment by Amazon. Yep, Amazon.
If you thought that Amazon was just going to start delivering products by drones or mobile robots, think again. This investment indicates that Amazon is likely also interested in delivering packages (maybe even people, who knows?) via self-driving cars. It makes sense if you think about it, since larger vehicles would be able to deliver larger packages that a smaller mobile robot or aerial drone couldn’t.
There’s still the issues of getting the vehicles on the roads, but I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Aurora due to its high-profile pedigree of autonomous vehicle experts on its leadership team.
Moving from cars to trucks, another big investment this week went to Ike, a startup named after the nickname of President David “Ike” Eisenhower, who championed the formation of the Interstate Highway System as president in the 1950s. Lots and lots of trucks use interstate highways to deliver goods, so it makes sense for a self-driving startup to honor the president with its name.
Founded by former Apple, Google and Uber’s self-driving truck program, Ike this week raised $52 million in Series A funding, led by Bain Capital Ventures. The company will use the money to expand beyond its 30-person team on the way to scaling a commercial product.
In a blog post on Medium, the company said they believe that creating a self-driving truck is a systems problem, not necessarily only a software problem. “It’s about computer vision and deep learning, but it’s also about wire harnesses, alternators, and a clear approach to validation,” the company said in its blog post.
Military funding update
Unmanned systems aren’t just limited to the nation’s highways. The military continued its spending on unmanned aerial systems and robotics systems as well in recent weeks.
General Atomics’ electromagnetic systems division was awarded a $30.9 million contract modification by the Missile Defense Agency for the continued use of its MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles in ballistic missile defense system tests.
Endeavor Robotics announced landing a U.S. Army contract for up to $32.4 million for upgrades and sustainment of its robot systems. The company said its five-year contract will help fund company efforts “to help the Army modernize and maintain robot platforms acquired over the years.”
The company said it will deliver reset and sustainment parts for its FirstLook, Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV), PackBot and Kobra robot systems, as well as training for foreign military sales personnel.
Even though the U.S. military has invested heavily into unmanned aerial vehicles, it’s also putting money into counter-drone systems (after all, other countries have drones too). SRC, a Cicero, N.Y. provider of anti-drone technology, said it landed a $108 million contract from the U.S. Army.
Another company with ties to the defense industry made some news this week as well. Yahoo Finance reported that SoftBank had invested an additional $37 million into Boston Dynamics after it bought the business from Google in 2017 for a reported $100 million.
AI Corner: AI is everywhere
Canadian companies and investors are pumping lots of money into artificial intelligence. Framework Venture Partners launched this week, a Canada-focused venture capital firm with the goal of raising $150 million.
The company said it will invest primarily in Canadian B2B software-as-a-service companies “with a focus on companies applying machine learning techniques to large industry-specific datasets to deliver new products and services, as well as companies reimagining the consumption and seamless delivery of financial services on top of software applications that are used every day.”
Here are a bunch of other AI-related transactions from recent weeks:
- London firm Aire raised $11 million in Series B funding to help develop its system that makes credit scoring fairer for consumers.
- Orca AI secured $2.6 million in seed funding to continue development of its AI-backed navigational solutions for the shipping industry. The company’s technology combines AI and imaging technology to help vessels avoid collisions.
- Medicus AI GmbH announced landing $3.14 million in Series A funding for its AI-based medical diagnosis technology. The company’s platform helps explain and interpret medical reports and health data, “turning numbers into meaningful insights.” The company said it works with diagnostics labs to deliver insights to doctors through smart testing and diagnosis support, and to patients “in the form of visual and interactive reports.”
- Auerus Analytics earned $750,000 from Connecticut Innovations to further develop its AI-based insurance platform. The money from the state is part of a $3.1 million overall investment, including investments from Multi-Act, Alpine Meridian and others. The company’s platform has processed more than 40 million insurance policy data points, learning from structured and unstructured data sets to “measure the customer experience in real time to determine a SentiMeter score for all customers.”
- Another creator of an insurance-related platform, ProNavigator earned $1.5 million in seed funding. The Canadian company develops AI-based virtual assistants specifically for the insurance sector.
- KenSci, which is developing an AI-based platform that lets healthcare providers find hidden cost savings, earned $22 million in Series B funding.
Wrapping up the rest
My birthday is coming up, and although I’m too old to really care about things like that, my family still likes eating cake and ice cream. But before I sign off for the week, here are some additional transactions I’ve noticed recently:
- Vicarious Surgical raised $10 million in an equity sale to further develop its virtual reality-based surgical systems.
- Myomo, which is developing wearable robotics for patients suffering from neurological disorders and upper limb paralysis, is proposing to sell shares of its common stock in an underwritten public offering.
- Kofax announced plans to acquire Top Image Systems for its intelligent automation software technology.
That’s all for this week, folks! See you next week!