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.
Let’s jump right into the technology deals of this past week.
First up, and local to home, Atlanta insurance technology startup Mile Auto raised a $10.3 million dollar seed round and scored another partnership with a major automaker.
The round included investments from California-based Ulu Ventures, Emergent Ventures and Sure Ventures, along with Louisville, Ky.-based Thornton Capital.
Mile Auto uses computer vision and machine learning to provide car insurance to low-mileage drivers. Drivers take a picture of their odometer each month, which is uploaded into Mile Auto’s database. The startup charges for insurance based on the number of miles people drive.
Mile Auto CEO Fred Blumer said the startup becomes competitive with other insurance policies when people drive less than 10,000 miles per year — which usually means they have little to no daily commute.
Low-mileage drivers often subsidize coverage for high-mileage drivers for auto insurance companies — so they pay high prices for coverage they don’t need. Mile Auto attempts to fix that.
A partnership with Porsche Financial Services helped get the company off the ground. Before being released to the public, Mile Auto worked with Porsche to provide auto insurance specifically for its customers.
Now, Mile Auto is partnering with Ford Motor Company to offer the automaker’s connected vehicle customers low-mileage savings. That feature should launch later this year.
With the seed round, Mile Auto plans to double their 16-person team. The startup is in four states right now, and plans to expand into more this year. Two new states will go live in the next six weeks.
WeaveGrid, a developer of software solutions for the scalable deployment of electric vehicles on the electric grid, announced $15M dollars in Series A fundraising to enable its next stage of growth.
The round was led by Coatue Management with participation by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and existing investors The Westly Group, Grok Ventures, and several prominent angel investors including Ramez Naam and Josh Felser.
Automaker and government commitments are driving a radical transformation that will soon see millions of new EVs charging across the United States. Electric utilities are in a leading position to benefit from accelerating EV adoption, but face risks as EV charging puts a tremendous new load on the grid. While automakers are increasingly bringing vehicles online, they do not have the infrastructure to interface with electric utilities.
Passport, a transportation software and payments company, has secured $90M dollars in growth capital from Sixth Street Growth, the growth platform of Sixth Street, a leading global investment firm.
The investment follows Passport’s $65M dollar Series D funding at the end of 2019 and brings the total capital raised by the company to more than $200M dollars.
As cities reopen in the wake of the pandemic they are managing conflicting demands on the use of their curbs. Passport plans to leverage this latest funding to further improve the company’s digital platform infrastructure to help cities maximize the use of curb space in a way that is safe, equitable and creates positive community engagement.
More than 1,000 municipalities in North America trust Passport’s digital platform as its only end-to-end operating system for managing mobile pay parking, parking enforcement, digital permitting and micro-mobility.
Smart Eye, the publicly traded Swedish company that supplies driver monitoring systems for a dozen automakers, has acquired emotion-detection software startup Affectiva for $73.5 million dollars in a cash-and-stock deal.
Affectiva, which spun out of the MIT Media Lab in 2009, has developed software that can detect and understand human emotion, which Smart Eye is keen to combine with its own AI-based eye-tracking technology.
The companies’ founders see an opportunity to expand beyond driver monitoring systems — tech that is often used in conjunction with advanced driver assistance systems to track and measure awareness — and into the rest of the vehicle.
Together, the technology could help them break into the emerging “interior sensing” market, which can be used to monitor the entire cabin of a vehicle and deliver services in response to the occupant’s emotional state.
Affectiva and Smart Eye were competitors. A meeting at the technology trade show CES in 2020 put the two companies on a path to merge.
In overseas news, wejo, the British automotive-data startup backed by General Motors, is in talks to go public through a merger with SPAC Virtuoso Acquisition Corp.
Virtuoso is seeking to raise new equity to support a transaction with a combined enterprise value of more than $1 billion dollars.
Founded in 2014, Wejo describes itself as a connected-vehicle data specialist. It says its technology interprets information from more than 10 million vehicles.
In addition to GM, the company’s investors include HELLA Ventures, Platina Partners , DIP Capital and the U.K. government’s Future Fund.
Virtuo, a Paris-based startup that has built a very streamlined, all-digital approach for those who want to rent a car for a few days, or up to a few months, has picked up $96 million dollars — money that it will be using to invest in its technology; to expand to more markets beyond France, U.K. and Spain; to add in a tier for business users; and to add more vehicles into their portfolio.
The company currently has 150,000 active users, and grew 100% this last year.
The funding is coming in the form of a $60 million dollar Series C and $36 million dollars in asset financing. AXA Venture Partners, the strategic investment arm of the insurance giant, led the equity round, with new investors Bpifrance, Alpha Intelligence Capital and H14; and previous backers Balderton Capital, Iris Capital and RAISE Ventures, also participating.
German battery analytics software company TWAICE has raised $26 million dollars in Series B funding led by Chicago-based Energize Ventures. The company, which primarily works in the mobility and energy storage industries, now has a total financing of $45 million dollars.
All batteries degrade over time. For automakers, fleet managers and other companies, the crux — and key to profitability — is knowing when they will.
But it’s surprisingly difficult to understand the health and status of a battery without extensive and expensive testing, which isn’t always possible once a battery is in a vehicle.
Twaice has been taking aim at this problem since its founding in 2018.
Over in the UK, BCA Marketplace and webuyanycar.com owner Constellation Automotive Software has raised over £1bn british pounds in private capital to pump into cinch, as it seeks to capture a larger slice of the international used car market.
The capital has been raised from a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, GIC, Neuberger Berman client funds and funds advised by Soros Fund Management.
The investment will provide the group – which is formed of Cinch, BCA and WeBuyAnyCar – to realize its plans to expand across Europe, and continue investments in people, technology, data science, infrastructure and brand building.
Cinch launched in October 2020 and claims it has established itself ‘as the largest online B2C marketplace for used cars in the UK’.
It has facilitated the sale of over 45,000 cars since its launch, and seen grown levels of 45% month-over-month.
Cinch has also signed a number of high profile deals to increase consumer brand awareness.
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, our companies to watch are CalPro ADAS Solutions and Carbly.
First up, we have CalPro ADAS Solutions, founded in 2019, and located in Minneapolis.
CalPro ADAS Solutions provides ADAS (or Advanced Driver Assistance System) solutions to the Collision Repair Industry.
CalPro’s ADAS IdentiScan product uses a unique set of tools, software, analytics & application-based technology to ensure that customers are able to quickly identify a vehicle’s ADAS features, allowing them to re-calibrate the vehicle back to OEM standards and include all related costs in their initial estimate.
CalPro ADAS Solutions offers the easiest, fastest & most advanced ADAS Identification Toolavailable to Auto Body Repair Professionals.
By walking through the ADAS IdentiScan vehicle inspection wizard, users are able to determine the ADAS features affected by the damage and repair areas on the vehicle.
Our second Company to Watch this week is Carbly, founded in 2018 and located in Chicago, IL.
Carbly offers best-in-class vehicle appraisal tools, exclusively for dealers that enable them to maximize profit at auction or on the lot.
Carbly is a modern vehicle appraisal and pricing VIN Scanner tool that combines multiple data sources to give dealers all the wholesale, retail, local market, and vehicle history information you need to make more money buying and selling cars.
Carbly combines fast and reliable appraisal tools with affordable pricing and helpful customer support — Carbly can help dealers increase profits immediately.
Carbly combines all of the appraisal information and tools dealers need into one platform. Having reliable valuation and vehicle history means you can make better decisions, whether you’re buying or selling cars on the lot or at auction.
Carbly’s best-in-class VIN scanner automatically locates VIN numbers in printed text, handwriting, screens or the vehicle’s barcode or dashboard. Once scanned, Carbly users can instantly load configuration, trim, appraisal data, and vehicle history reports.
With over 260 auction locations, Carbly is the ultimate auction preparation tool. Browse upcoming auctions from all EDGE Pipeline and Manheim locations, including OVE and Manheim Express.
Get an edge in the marketplace with Carbly’s purpose-built auction tools.
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.
If you’re an early-stage automotive technology entrepreneur looking to raise money, or an entrepreneur who wants to chat about the best timing and process to sell your company to achieve the best outcome, I’d love to discuss it with you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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