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Which car insurance company did Experian acquire for $320M? What auto startup won the NAVIcon cup pitch competition?

Welcome to this episode 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.

Last week we were out in Las Vegas for used car week and the NAVIcon Conference. It was great to see everyone face to face, and we had a number of great speakers and relevant content for the industry.

We also had six outstanding companies pitch for the right to win the NAVIcon Cup.

I’m thrilled to announce that Mike Hanna and TrueSpot were the winners of this year’s navicon cup!

Congratulations to Mike and the TrueSpot team!

With that, let’s get right into this week’s deals.

Samsara

In IPO news this week, Samsara, the pioneer of the connected operations cloud, filed an S-1 for an IPO. Samsara intends to list its class a common stock on the new york stock exchange under the symbol “Iot.”

Samsara allows businesses that depend on physical operations to harness Internet of Things, or IoT data to develop actionable business insights and improve their operations.

The software provides safety, video-based coaching, dispatch productivity, and logistics efficiency by instrumenting vehicles and other assets with video and telematics. Atop these sensors, samsara software executes workflows, provides drivers with apps, monitors equipment, and provides managers and executives visibility into operations.

Monarch Tractor

Back in March of this year, autonomous tractor maker Monarch Tractor announced a $20 million Series A round. Now, just eight months later, the company is tripling the round, with a $61 million Series B round. This latest raise is led by sustainable food fund Astanor Ventures, with participation from CNH Industrial, At One Ventures, and Trimble Ventures.

Monarch Tractor says the funding will go toward scaling manufacturing and sales for its self-titled electric tractor. The system was introduced this year, with a pilot at a local vineyard. That was one of 15 initial pilots, ahead of a planned delivery of production units in Q4 of this year.

Monarch is clearly striking while the iron is hot on the funding front, as the pandemic has accelerated labor shortages on farms across the U.S., and many farm owners have been looking toward automated and robotic solutions.

Eatron Technologies

Eatron Technologies, which makes intelligent automotive software, has raised an $11 million Series A funding round led by the U.K.’s MMC Ventures. Also participating is Aster Capital and Vietnamese carmaker Vinfast. Eatron has previously collaborated with Vinfast on its range of electric cars. The startup also has a strategic partnership with the Hirschvogel Automotive Group, which invested $1.5 million dollars.

An electric vehicle’s software needs to continually optimize performance, efficiency, and safety of the EV it’s running. But many automakers don’t enable their software to be accessed by third parties, for others to help improve it. The more that embedded automotive software is decoupled from the underlying electronic hardware, the more optimization can take place, and the more efficient vehicles can become. That has important implications for things like battery range and performance overall.

Eatron’s technology enables OEMs and tier-1 suppliers to decouple automotive software from its hardware for the purposes of battery management, intelligent motion control, and advanced driver assistance. This has the effect of increasing supplier choice for oems and reducing cost, risks, and time to market.

General Motors

General Motors bought a 25% stake in Pure Watercraft, valuing the electric boat startup at $600 million dollars.

GM is offering $150 million dollars in a combination of cash and payment-in-kind, which includes access to the automaker’s components and assistance with manufacturing, in exchange for the stake.

Founded in 2011, Seattle-based Pure Watercraft makes electric motors for boats powered by lithium-ion batteries and uses a plug-and-play design mechanism that allows for any boat hull to use its motors.

Experian

Experian has acquired us-based insurance aggregator Gabi for $320 million dollars.

The acquisition will allow Experian’s to grow its presence in the insurance marketplace.

Founded in 2016, Gabi is a mobile-first insurance shopper from San Francisco. It raised $39 million dollars across four financing rounds and is backed by insurance carriers northwestern mutual future ventures, CMFG Ventures, and Securian Financial Ventures. It works with over 40 regional and national home and auto insurance carriers throughout the U.S, including Nationwide, Travelers, Progressive Insurance, Safeco Insurance, Encompass Health, and Kemper.

Helm.ai

Helm.ai, a startup creating software for autonomous vehicles, has raised $26 million dollars in Series B financing led by Amplo, JMPartners, Base Capital Funding, and Freeman Group with participation from ACVC, One Way Ventures, Binnacle partners, and Individual Investors.

Self-driving technologies have captured the attention of investors during the pandemic, particularly as strains on the supply chain — exacerbated by a driver shortage — make apparent the usefulness of automated delivery trucks. For example, earlier this year, self-driving software startup embark announced plans to go public in a deal that would value the company at more than $5 billion dollars. For its part, Alphabet’s Waymo, which is developing both driverless delivery trucks and taxis, closed a $2.5 billion dollar funding round in June ahead of an expansion to San Francisco.

Helm, which is based in Menlo Park, California, was founded in November 2016.

Nexar Inc.

Nexar Inc., a company best-known for its line of smart dashcams, has raised $53 million dollars in a Series D financing round led by Gumra capital. The funds will be used, in part, to scale its “digital twin” service built off crowdsourced dashcam footage for automotive OEMs and cities.

The round also saw participation from State Farm Ventures, Catalyst Fund, Banca Generali, Valor Ventures, and previous investors Atreides Management, Corner Ventures, Regah Ventures, and Aleph.

Nexar’s first foray into more fully pursuing that project was with “live map” that it launched back in 2019. The service provides real-time street footage and uses computer vision to mark construction, street signs, and other features for users. Since that time, Nexar has introduced more layers and features to the service.

The company, which was founded in 2015, now captures 150 million miles of imagery each month.

The recent funds will be used to increase the availability of the data platform across more locations and improve the “digital twin” product such that information is updated within seconds of a dashcam detecting a new feature, like a pothole. The regional transportation commission of southern Nevada is already using Nexar’s CityStream platform to reduce traffic from work zones, for example.

Features could also help cities after natural disasters in identifying which roads are accessible, or which roads have been plowed in the winter, Shir said.

Nexar’s data could also be used to train ai models used in autonomous vehicle systems, by identifying edge cases, collisions, and uncommon road features.

Preact technologies

Preact technologies, an Oregon-based developer of intelligent sensing technology designed to bridge the gap between collision avoidance and active safety, announced $13 million dollar Series A funding led by state Farm Ventures. Additional participation in this round included Elev8. VC, Gotham Green Partners, Traylor Capital and Stargazer Ventures.

By leveraging proven technology, and rethinking near-field sensing, Preact Technologies is targeting “the last 100 feet” to predict crashes and prepare a vehicle for an imminent collision, deploying airbags and other safety devices before the crash happens. In an urban environment, being able to detect collisions milliseconds before they happen could help reduce the majority of severe injuries and fatalities from car crashes.

Preact’s patent-pending “TrueSense” sensors complement or may even replace many of the short-range sensors like radar, ultrasound, and cameras, estimated to be a $30 billion dollar per year market, and enable pre-crash safety systems while enhancing existing use cases such as park assist and self-parking. TrueSense sensors can help lower the cost and complexity of advanced driver assistance systems and enable many new use cases that have proven challenging in the past.

On the heels of this funding round, preact was awarded a $1 million dollar prize from Luminate for its TrueSense technology and will be establishing a manufacturing base in new york state.

Luminate is the world’s largest venture capital accelerator for optics, photonics, and imaging technology.

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.

Fetch

First up, we have Fetch, which is available at Fetchtruck.com.

Fetch focuses on making truck rental easy. Fetch is a marketplace for self-service truck rental. With just your phone, you can reserve, unlock and drive a Fetch truck or van.

Fetch users can rent hourly or daily; miles are free, and you can unlock the vehicle with your phone.

Complete your renter profile and get instantly approved. No lines or sales upsells.

Check-in and unlock your truck, straight from your phone with your Fetch account.

Trucks and vans are available for any job, any time.

Fetch is a better way to rent a truck without the hassle.

Find vehicles available near you or list your vehicle for rent at Fetchtruck.Com.

Fastree3d

Fastree3d develops fast 3D cameras. Their technology enables safer driving and autonomous navigation by continuously monitoring the surrounding space, avoiding collisions by measuring the distance to objects with high confidence. Fastree3d’s flash lidar technology will be provided to selected partners in the form of a hardware development kit.

Fastree3d imagers are flash lidars based on direct time of flight technology. The distance to objects is determined by measuring the time taken for a light pulse to travel from the imager to the object and back again.

The onboard illumination module generates light pulses that illuminate the entire scene at once, like in conventional photography, without the need for any scanning/rotational optics.

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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 steve@automotive.ventures.

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People often ask me why I’m affiliated with CBT News.

Besides having an outstanding, extremely talented, and hardworking team up here at the studio, I greatly appreciate the valuable role that CBT News plays in the automotive industry.

Every day, I eagerly look forward to my morning email from CBT News to ensure I’m getting the most up-to-date and relevant information on the industry.

I encourage you to tune in to CBT News to ensure that you’re getting the automotive news that matters.


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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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