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Investment activity for automotive tech companies starts off strong in 2021

Welcome to another edition of The Friday 5 with Steve Greenfield, Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an auto technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies.

It’s a new year, and investment activity in the automotive technology space has come out of the gates strong. We have a number of technology deals to announce on today’s show, so let’s get started!

Uhnder

Uhnder, a digital automotive chip maker, announced that it raised $45 million dollars in additional funding. The Austin-based startup has raised more than $145 million in funding to date.

Uhnder makes digital 4D software-defined imaging radar technology that works better than today’s analog radar technology, is used with autonomous vehicles, and provides improved resolution and detection capabilities.

CloudTrucks

CloudTrucks, the virtual trucking carrier that empowers independent truck drivers, has closed a Series A funding round of $20.5 million dollars, led by Caffeinated Capital with participation from Craft Ventures, Khosla Ventures, SciFi VC, Kindred Ventures, Abstract Ventures, and Better Tomorrow Ventures. It also launched a first of its kind payments product – CT Cash – to help truckers manage payments.

The CloudTrucks app helps truck owners and operators efficiently manage their businesses with technology targeted to the unique needs of their industry. A “business in a box” for truckers, CloudTrucks empowers independent truck drivers to optimize their driving schedules for better pay rates, maximize their revenue and cash flow, while reducing their operating costs.

Yoshi

General Motors is leading a $23 million funding round for an on-demand car maintenance service Yoshi. It’s the second time GM’s venture capital arm has invested in the Silicon Valley start-up since 2018.

Yoshi was founded in 2015 as an on-demand fueling company in California. It would fill a vehicle’s tank wherever a driver wanted instead of the owner having to stop at a gas station. It has since expanded to also offer other services through its app such as oil changes, car washes and windshield treatments in five major markets across the U.S.

The Routing Company

The Routing Company (formerly known as Routable AI), a startup that builds dynamic routing and vehicle management solutions for transit providers, has raised $5 million dollars in a seed round led by The Engine. The funding, which brings The Routing Company’s total capital raised to $6.175 million dollars, will be used to accelerate commercialization of the startup’s dynamic shared rides technology, refine its product, and round out a team that combines extensive rideshare industry leadership experience with deep academic expertise.

Crispify

Startup Crispify monitors automotive in-cabin air quality, identifying viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19. The company announced a $700,000 dollar Pre-Seed round with participation from Avis Budget Group, Hatcher VC, Connetic Ventures, GoAhead Ventures, MTT Ventures, and accelerator program Fusion LA.

Ouster

Ouster, a startup that makes lidar sensors for self-driving cars and smart cities, has agreed to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Colonnade Acquisition Corporation.

The deal values Ouster at around $1.9 billion dollars and makes it the fifth lidar manufacturer to agree to a SPAC merger in 2020, following Velodyne Lidar, Luminar Technologies, Innoviz Technologies and Aeva.

Aeva

Speaking of Aeva, the laser-sensor startup founded by two ex-Apple engineers, is increasing its war chest by $200 million, with an investment by a Hong Kong-based hedge fund ahead of its public listing via a reverse merger.

Investor interest in Aeva is part of a wave of financing deals targeting next-generation auto-related companies focused on fields such as battery-electric and driverless technology.

Lidar, a system of laser-based sensors that allows a vehicle to “see” its surroundings, is among the most expensive components of autonomous cars and key to enabling more advanced self-driving features. With commercialization of robotaxis still years away, lidar companies are targeting limited self-driving features in passenger cars and consumer devices and industrial robots.

Fyusion

Cox Automotive has been active so far this year, announcing two acquisitions this week.

Cox has acquired Fyusion, Inc, a computer vision company and leader in immersive vehicle imaging solutions for automotive and other industries.

Cox Automotive and Fyusion began working together in 2018 on the creation of imaging capabilities for Manheim Express to simplify and improve the wholesale vehicle listing process. This included allowing dealers to walk a car and create a wholesale listing in minutes with the industry’s first 360-degree and moveable images. Since then, the companies have collaborated on 360-degree interior imaging, as well as audio and video tags to further highlight a vehicle’s condition.

Dickinson Fleet Services

Second, Cox Automotive announced the acquisition of Dickinson Fleet Services, the leading mobile maintenance provider for medium and heavy-duty trucks and trailers in North America. This investment significantly bolsters the capabilities and geographic reach of Cox Automotive Mobility’s nationwide Pivet fleet services marketplace.

Dickinson’s breadth of preventative maintenance and mobile emergency repair service capabilities, including its fleet of more than 700 mobile repair units and 800 repair and maintenance technicians, will enhance Pivet’s existing network of fleet service offerings.

Kyte

Kyte has raised $9 million dollars in funding from DN Capital and Amplo VC.

Kyte lets consumers rent vehicles through their app or website, and then has the rental cars delivered by gig economy workers right to the renters’ home. Kyte also handles the pickup and refuels the vehicle for no extra charge.

Rivian Automotive

Rivian Automotive, the electric-truck startup backed by Amazon and Ford Motor Company, is close to raising a new round of funding valuing it at about $25 billion dollars.

Several existing Rivian investors are participating in the round, which will raise several billion dollars. Existing investors in the company include Amazon, T. Rowe Price Group Inc., BlackRock Inc., Soros Fund Management, Coatue, Fidelity Investments and Baron Capital Group.

Turo

Car rental app Turo is planning on going public in 2021, buoyed by the company’s success and following the strong performance of many tech initial public offerings in 2020.

They are undecided whether they will pursue a traditional IPO or go public through a merger with a blank-check corporation.

Turo is a website where private car owners rent their vehicles by the day, week or month, including luxury rides like Lamborghinis.

Driven Brands

Driven Brands filed forms with the SEC for a $100 million dollar initial public offering. Driven Brands has the Meineke, Merlin 200,000 Miles, Take 5 Oil Change, CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts and MAACO brands.

Per the S-1 filing, Driven Brands sees opportunity in what it calls “the large, recession-resistant and highly fragmented automotive industry with long-term growth trends.”

The company operates more than 4,100 locations in 49 states and in 14 countries. More than 2,500 of those locations are franchises.

Companies to Watch

Every week we highlight interesting companies in the automotive technology space to keep an eye on. If you read my monthly newsletter, I showcase a few companies each month, and we take the opportunity here on the Friday Five to share some of those companies each week with you.

Today, we’ll look at two companies to watch, DealerWing, and NemoData.

DealerWing

Our first company to watch, DealerWing, was founded in 2011 and is located in Orlando, Florida.

DealerWing has grown from a small integration-based marketing company serving 2 stores, to become a leader in service retention marketing, now operating with over 500 stores in 14 states, and all of the major metro markets.

DealerWing’s success can be attributed to creating specific, targeted, customer-based marketing that drives significant traffic, and simultaneously and consistently purges the dealer’s database. It is this combination that has created opportunities for dealers to expand their profit base, provide real ROI improvement, and simultaneously cut costs by reducing extraneous and duplicate marketing efforts.

DealerWing utilizes proprietary technology to automate the marketing and data purge process.

Highlighted by a best-in-class, web-based instant credit score program, customers can receive unique, FREE, services just for shopping on the dealer’s website. This allows customers to receive their actual credit score and simultaneously provides dealers with valuable leads and customer information, all with a minimal amount of effort and input.

The DealerWing credit score program can be found on over 250 dealer websites across the country.

NemoData

Our second company to watch is NemoData, which was founded in 2020 by Co-Founders Gal Bechor and Tom Shachar.

NemoData works with Fortune 500 enterprise fleets, telematic companies, Tier One suppliers, and OEMs to provide precision maintenance to every vehicle.

Fleet managers use NemoData’s dynamic maintenance schedule to eliminate catastrophic roadside breakdowns and increase their fleet’s capacity by 150%.

Class 8 trucks experience a roadside breakdown every 10,000 miles, costing fleets more than $5,000 per truck per year.

Nemo leverages data to find the best time to send trucks into maintenance and automatically creates a schedule,  optimized for each individual fleet.

Nemo’s early detection capabilities track subsystem level deterioration, and automatically integrate insights into the maintenance schedule, preventing catastrophic failures long before they happen.

Nemo’s schedule increases the number of miles driven and engine hours operated between maintenance services, allowing fleet owners to complete more trips every month and increase fleet uptime by up to 5 days per truck annually.

By reducing engine, tire, and brake failures, Nemo gives drivers confidence that they’re driving the safest vehicles.


Did you miss last week’s episode of The Friday 5? Watch it here now! And don’t forget to share your questions and comments with Jim Fitzpatrick at jfitzpatrick@cbtnews.com.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date or catch-up on all of our podcasts on demand.

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Steve Greenfield
Steve Greenfield
Steve is the Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an automotive technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies. They also assist PE firms to conduct due diligence on automotive technology acquisitions, advise technology CEOs on strategy, and help represent sellers at the time of sale.

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