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.
J.D. Power & Darwin Automotive
First up this week, we have a big and important deal in the AutoTech space, as J.D. Power announced it has acquired Superior Integrated Solutions, also known as Darwin Automotive, in what is one of the largest AutoTech acquisitions ever.
Darwin is a leading provider of automotive F&I software used by automotive dealerships. Superior was founded by Phil Battista in 2014, which then launched the Darwin brand in 2017.
Darwin is a leader in F&I software and digital retailing with more than 7,700 dealers using its technology. The Darwin Automotive Platform is an industry-leading F&I menu software application, supporting both showroom and digital sales with highly personalized, customer-focused tools to select vehicle financing and protection options.
The technology leverages data and predictive analytics to customize customer offers based on a range of criteria including specific vehicle information, overall deal structure, and the situation for each individual customer, creating the optimal F&I package.
Widely adopted by the largest dealer groups in the United States, the Darwin Automotive Platform is used in one-third of all new-vehicle transactions today.
The whole digital retailing space has been red hot this past month, as we witnessed Roadster selling to CDK Global, and Gubagoo selling to Reynolds & Reynolds.
I expect the Digital Retailing space to continue to be active in the coming months, from an M&A standpoint.
Congratulations go out to founder Phil Battista and the whole Darwin and Superior team.
Autonomous driving system developer Ghost Locomotion has raised a $100 million dollar Series D funding round, led by Sutter Hill Ventures. Returning investor Founders Fund also participated in the round, along with Coatue Management. The money will be used toward R&D as the company continues to develop its highway self-driving and crash prevention technology.
Ghost has been working on a universal collision avoidance technology. The system is premised on the idea that an autonomous driving system doesn’t need to recognize and categorize objects prior to avoiding them – a major paradigm shift. Most systems begin by identifying an object and then use image localization to determine its size, distance, and other relevant features.
Ghost instead tracks the movement of clusters of pixels in a scene. According to Ghost, an autonomous system that starts from image recognition is one loaded with lots of opportunities for uncertainty – and it argues, less safe actions on the road.
Porsche Ventures & Griiip
Porsche Ventures, the venture capital division of the sports car manufacturer, has taken a minority stake in Griiip.
With the Griiip investment, Porsche aims to change the motorsport viewing experience and raise the perception of car racing to new dimensions.
Griiip has developed a cloud-based data platform that enables the transmission of motorsport data directly from the racing car, and then both analyzes and visualizes this data in the cloud. Griiip introduces a new dimension of user engagement, data analysis, and viewing experience aimed at bringing the excitement of motorsport directly to every level of end-user – drivers, teams, and fans.
The “Red Box” allows direct access to raw data from the vehicle electronics of the racing car. This data is extracted directly during the race and processed into data-driven products.
The Israel-based start-up set out on a mission to make motorsport more accessible by providing new and innovative ways for racing organizations, leagues, franchises, and car manufacturers to engage with fans. The company’s personalized digital media platform, RAMP (which stands for Racing Media Platform), offers a unique approach to fan engagement in motorsport in order to attract younger audiences that seek a more immersive and personalized viewing experience via digital mediums.
The solution includes direct access to raw data from the vehicle electronic units through a hardware component known as the “Red Box”. This data is directly extracted during live races and used to create data-driven products including live content. Personalized content production made possible by RAMP allows viewers to access drivers’ profiles and compare their performance in real-time in an innovative way. This can include a range of datasets such as driver stress levels, battery status of the vehicle, predicted lap times or tire data. The information is collected and visualized in charts in real-time to allow viewers to compare driver performance.
In international news this week, Norwegian car subscription platform imove closed a 16M Euro Series A funding round led by AutoScout24, with participation from Norselab, and the Norwegian state climate investment company Nysno Climate Investments. Existing owner Hedin Automotive Norway also joined the capital round.
imove conducted an equity issue of 13M Euros combined with a 3M Euro secondary sale of shares.
Founded in 2018, imove enables players across industries like automotive, finance, insurance but also electricity and telecom, to use their white-label technology to offer car subscriptions as an alternative to car ownership or leasing. Having a car may seem like an aspiring idea, but everyone that’s experienced it knows it can lead to more headaches than happiness. Enabling the Automotive industry to be more customer-oriented has been a driving motivation for the founders.
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 LifeSaver and Griiip.
First up, we have LifeSaver, which was founded in 2013, and is located in San Jose, California.
LifeSaver helps companies prevent employee phone use while driving by automatically detecting drivers and blocking cell phones, with no beacons or dongles.
LifeSaver Reduces distracted driving and provides a connected driver platform using only the mobile device.
LifeSaver is a great fit for auto insurers and fleet operators looking to reduce their claims and exposure, and help make drivers safer.
Our second company to watch this week is Griiip, founded in 2014 and located in Israel.
Griiip makes Motorsports more accessible and affordable, by providing new ways to engage with racing. Their digital racing media platform – RAMP, changes the way users engage with Motorsports.
Griiip has developed a cloud-based data platform that enables the transmission of motorsport data directly from the racing car, and then both analyzes and visualizes this data in the cloud.
Personalized content production allows race viewers to access drivers’ profiles and compare their performance in real-time on a second screen, simultaneously with them watching the race. The result is a much more immersive and engaging experience.
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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