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.
First up this week is one of last month’s Companies to Watch, and one of our AutoTech’s Got Talent contestants — who has raised a round of funding.
Aucto, a startup marketplace for buying and selling used industrial assets, has raised $3.7 million dollars in startup funding from venture firm NFX along with Motivate Venture Capital and individual investor Jack Greco.
The company runs online auctions for portfolios of industrial assets, with a particular focus on manufacturing equipment. It markets its platform to government and private sellers looking to market to both domestic and international buyers.
Congratulations to Jamil Rahman and the Aucto team!
Toyota’s Woven Planet Holdings has acquired Renovo.auto, a U.S. software company it says will jump-start the Japanese company’s ambitions to make an operating system for the “programmable cars” of tomorrow.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Woven Planet’s upcoming automotive operating system, called Arene, is pitched as an open software platform that will allow for “programmable cars.” Woven hopes to offer it to other companies. Woven Planet says it will be as groundbreaking as Microsoft v- Windows and Apple iOS were for personal computers and smartphones, ushering in a new era for automobiles.
Renovo delivers a set of cutting-edge software tools that will shave months, if not years, off Woven Planet’s timeline for bringing the operating system to market. It now expects to bring the software platform to the market by 2025, he said.
Hayden AI, a smart city solutions provider that developed the world’s first autonomous traffic management platform, announced $20 million dollars in Series A funding led by TYH Ventures with participation from previous investors Autotech Ventures, BootstrapLabs and Modern Venture Partners, bringing the company’s total funding to over $30 million dollars.
Hayden AI bridges the innovation gap in traffic management by combining artificial intelligence with mobile sensors that have the ability to see and reason in 3D.
The company partners with government agencies to deploy its spatially aware technologies and encourages community and stakeholder participation through its digital platform, converting a city’s fleet of public and private vehicles into a smart fleet of sensors capable of autonomous traffic enforcement. By fusing data from IoT sensors, the company’s platform generates a digital twin of the city’s main roads and curbsides in real time to simulate scenarios and generate insights that enhance traffic management, including parking and curbside management.
The vehicle insurance space has been hot lately, as we’ve seen Salty get acquired by CDK Global, and DealerPolicy raise $110 million dollars from Goldman Sachs.
This week, Just Insure, a pay-per-mile insurance technology company, raised $8 million in a funding round. Crosscut Ventures, ManchesterStory and Western Technology Investment co-led the investment, which brings its total raised to $15.3 million dollars since its January 2019 inception.
Just Insure uses telematics “to reward safe drivers and reduce insurer bias” by looking at factors such as how, when and where customers drive, rather than factors such as ZIP code or marital status as most traditional insurers do. Or put more simply, it charges customers only for miles driven and its rates vary based on driving behavior. This way, Just says it’s able to offer lower rates for “safer drivers,” and it claims to save its customers around 40% from their “previous auto insurance company.” For now, it’s only available in Arizona, although the company plans to expand to other markets such as Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia.
Advantage GPS announced the acquisition of Asset Tracking Technology, a distributor of GPS tracking devices for finance companies, buy-here, pay-here dealerships, fleet tracking and personal tracking devices.
Details of the deal were not disclosed.
Asset Tracking Technology has been a distributor for Advantage GPS serving vehicle finance clients throughout the Midwest.
The acquisition enables Advantage GPS to provide more direct, in-person service and support for Advantage clients in the Midwest.
LG Electronics is acquiring Cybellum, an Israeli automotive cybersecurity specialist that detects and assesses vulnerabilities in connected vehicle services and hardware by way of a “digital twin” approach.
Initially, it is taking a 64% stake in Cybellum for $140 million dollars, and it will contribute a further $20 million dollars in the form of a simple agreement for future equity (or SAFE) note, “upon conclusion of the trading process in the fourth quarter.” The remaining shares will then be acquired in the “near future”, which is also when the final valuation and investment will be confirmed.
As it stands now, if the valuation remains consistent, the deal in total will be worth about $240 million dollars.
LG has been building a profile as an investor in interesting automotive startups, but this is its first acquisition out of Israel, and points to the bigger company’s interest not just in hardware but in providing software solutions to the automotive industry.
In the Battery Technology space this week, Battery Resourcers, a startup that’s developing a closed-loop approach to lithium-ion battery materials, has raised $70 million dollars in mid-round funding to scale its commercial operations across two continents.
This latest round saw participation from new investor Hitachi Ventures, as well as existing investors Orbia Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures, Doral Energy, At One Ventures, TDK Ventures and TRUMPF Ventures.
Battery Resourcers doesn’t just recycle batteries. It has also engineered a process to turn that recycled material back into critical battery materials — specifically, nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes and purified graphite, a material used in anodes. It intends to sell those materials right back to the battery manufacturer.
In International News This Week, General Motors invested $300 million in Chinese autonomous driving startup Momenta to develop self-driving technologies for future models in China, its first such tie-up in the world’s biggest car market.
Momenta is among the few companies that hold a permit for gathering high-definition maps in China, a key tool in autonomous driving technologies. It is working with automakers to develop mass-production vehicles with self-driving functions to gather real-time data.
Momenta is also backed by SAIC Motors, GM’s main Chinese partner, as well as Toyota and Daimler.
Black Sesame Technologies, a Chinese developer of artificial intelligence-based self-driving computing chips, says it is close to a valuation of nearly $2 billion dollars after raising “hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars” from investors, including Xiaomi’s industry investment fund.
Shanghai-based Black Sesame brought in the new capital through strategic investment and two Series C tranches of capital injection.
Mexico City-based last-mile logistics platform Cargamos wants to own same-day delivery in Latin America. The company has announced a $7 million dollar raise in follow-on funding, bringing its total seed round to $11 million dollars, which it will use to create a nationwide distributed warehouse network so regional retailers can compete with giants like Amazon.
Investors in the seed round include VCs like NAZCA, FEMSA and Kayyak Ventures.
Cargamos intends to use the funding to build a large fulfillment facility in Mexico City. It also wants to expand its network of mini distribution centers which it calls points of delivery, also known as “pods,” where packages are sorted and sent out for final delivery. The company currently has about 50 pods, but wants to more than double that number in the next six months so that it can cover a service area around Mexico City of up to 75 additional cities.
Companies To Watch!
Every week we highlight interesting companies in the automotive technology space to keep an eye on. If you read my monthly industry intel report, 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 have two companies in the tire technology space to watch, which include Tyrata and RDTS Technologies.
First Up This Week Is Tyrata, which provides real-time, automated tire tread wear monitoring.
Tyrata helps fleets of vehicles Increase tire utilization and reduce tire spend; improve tire management efficiency without compromising safety; and collect, analyze, and report up-to-date tire status over the life of the tire.
Tyrata automates tread wear monitoring, using real-time data to reduce tire maintenance costs, improve maintenance scheduling, and increase vehicle uptime
Tyrata serves consumers, fleet management companies, and high-performance specialists who depend on the integrity of tires for safety, efficiency and profitability.
Tire service providers can remotely monitor their customers’ tire condition without human intervention.
Tyrata’s IntelliTread Drive-Over System is a low-cost, solid-state sensor system incorporated into a low-profile speed bump to monitor tire tread of vehicles in transit through a service lane or depot. The DOS can be set up in under three hours and has no moving parts or optics that demand ongoing maintenance. It uses commercial RFID tagging to track vehicles and correlates this data to uniquely track each tire that passes over the system
Our Second Company To Watch This Week Is RDTS Technologies, or Run Dry Traction System.
Run Dry Traction System provides a world first cutting-edge active safety system technology to the transport industry, which is a first-of-its-kind technology that has the potential to reduce the number of accidents by 10% globally.
Wet weather conditions are responsible for 30% of road accidents, of which 70% happen due to wet weather conditions and remaining due to other weather conditions like snow, icy conditions and snow
Globally, road accidents claim 1.25 million lives every year. Even though the technology is continually evolving such as autonomous systems to eliminate human errors but still phenomena like aquaplaning severely compromise the traction and is responsible for about 10% of global accidents.
Globally, road accidents result in 50 million injuries. Decades of improvement in active and passive safety systems have made our cars safer and at the same time faster.
RDTS’s active safety system works by projecting a flat jet of compressed fluid in front of the tire to ensure an uncontaminated leading patch.
They provide an active safety system that fires a high-pressure jet during the first five seconds of braking when the traction is compromised due to surface contamination.
Early tests have shown that the solution is effective on water, sand, smaller loose gravel and light snow.
So that’s your weekly Friday 5, a quick wrap-up of the big deals in automotive technology over the past week.
It’s an exciting time to be in the automotive space, with a ton of deals going on. Make sure you stay tuned in each week to stay up to date on the auto industry’s technology M&A activity. I’ll keep my fingers on the pulse of deals being done, so I can share updates with you.
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