Porsche’s new synthetic gasoline may fuel Formula 1 races

70 percent of the cars Porsche has ever built are still on the road. Since it wants to keep it that way, its developing a synthetic fuel that emits 90 percent less CO2 than gasoline derived from fossil fuels.

Enlarge / 70 percent of the cars Porsche has ever built are still on the road. Since it wants to keep it that way, its developing a synthetic fuel that emits 90 percent less CO2 than gasoline derived from fossil fuels. (credit: Porsche)

Even with the best will in the world, it will be many years before we entirely decarbonize our transport. The UK, France, China, and even California have announced plans to phase out the sale of new vehicles with internal combustion engines in the late 2030s, but to our knowledge, none of these plans include a ban on vehicles already on the road. If those cars and trucks are going to keep driving for a while longer, it behooves us to get creative when it comes to the fuel they’ll burn.

Which is why I’m a little excited about a collaboration between Porsche and Siemens to do just that. As we reported earlier this year, Porsche and Siemens are developing a low-carbon synthetic fuel that combines green hydrogen (produced by wind-powered electrolysis) with carbon dioxide (filtered from the atmosphere) to form methane, which is in turn then turned into gasoline.

On Friday, the two organizations broke ground on the Haru Oni manufacturing plant near Punto Arenas in Chile. Assuming all goes to plan, the plant should be able to produce 34,000 gallons (130,000 L) of synthetic fuel in 2022, before scaling up to 14.5 million gallons (55 million L) by 2024 and 145 million gallons (550 million L) by 2026, at a cost of around $7.6 per gallon ($2 per L).

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#cars, #chile, #formula-1, #fuel, #gasoline, #internal-combustion-engines, #low-carbon-fuel, #porsche, #siemens, #synthetic-fuel

Why former Alibaba scientist wants to back founders outside the Ivory Tower

Min Wanli had a career path much coveted by those pursuing a career in computer science. A prodigy, Min was accepted to a top research university in China at the age of 14. He subsequently obtained Ph.D. degrees in physics and statistics from the University of Chicago before spending nearly a combined decade at IBM and Google.

Like many young, aspiring Chinese scientists working in the United States, Min returned to China when the country’s internet boom was underway in the early 2010s. He joined Alibaba’s fledgling cloud arm and was at the forefront of applying its tech to industrial scenarios, like using visual identification to mitigate highway traffic and computing power to improve factory efficiency.

Then in July 2019, Min took a leap. He resigned from Alibaba Cloud, which had become a major growth driver for the e-commerce goliath and at the time China’s largest public cloud infrastructure provider (it still is). With no experience in investment, he started a new venture capital firm called North Summit Capital.

“A lot of enterprises were quite skeptical of ‘digital transformation’ around 2016 and 2017. But by 2019, after they had seen success cases [from Alibaba Cloud], they no longer questioned its viability,” said Min in his office overlooking a cluster of urban villages and highrise offices in Shenzhen. Clad in a well-ironed light blue shirt, he talked with a childlike, earnest smile.

“Suddenly, everyone wanted to go digital. But how am I supposed to meet their needs with a team of just 400-500 people?”

Min’s solution was not to serve the old-school factories and corporations himself but to finance and support a raft of companies to do so. Soon he closed the first fund for North Summit with “several hundreds of millions of dollars” from an undisclosed high-net-worth individual from the United Arab Emirates, whom Min had met when he represented Alibaba at a Duhai tech conference in 2018.

“Venture capital is like a magnifier through which I can connect with a lot of tech companies and share my lessons from the past, so they can quickly and effectively work with their clients from traditional industries,” Min said.

“For example, I’d discuss with my portfolio firms whether they should focus on selling hardware pieces or software first, or give them equal weight.”

Min strives to be deeply involved in the companies he backs. North Summit invests early, with check sizes so far ranging from roughly $5 million to $25 million. Min also started a technology service company called Quadtalent to provide post-investment support to his portfolio.

Photo: North Summit Capital’s office in Shenzhen

The notion of digital transformation is both buzzy and daunting for many investors due to the highly complex and segmented nature of traditional industries. But Min has a list of criteria to help narrow down his targets.

First, an investable area should be data-intensive. Subway tracks, for example, could benefit from implementing large amounts of sensors that monitor the rail system’s stauts. Second, an area’s manufacturing or business process should be capital-intensive, such as production lines that use exorbitant equipment. And lastly, the industry should be highly dependent on repetitive human experience, like police directing traffic.

Solving industrial problems require not just founders’ computing ingenuity but more critically, their experience in a traditional sector. As such, Min goes beyond the “Ivory Tower” of computer science wizards when he looks for entrepreneurs.

“What we need today is a type of inter-disciplinary talent who can do ‘compound algorithms.’ That means understanding sensor signals, business rationales, manufacturing, as well as computer algorithms. Applying neural network through an algorithmic black box without the other factors is simply futile.”

Min faces ample competition as investors hunt down the next ABB, Schneider, or Siemens of China. The country is driving towards technological independence in all facets of the economy and the national mandate takes on new urgency as COVID-19 disrupts global supply chains. The result is skyrocketing valuations for startups touting “industrial upgrade” solutions, Min noted.

But factory bosses don’t care whether their automation solution providers are unerdogs or startup unicorns. “At the end of the day, the factory CFO will only ask, ‘how much more money does this piece of software or equipment help us save or make?’”

The investor is cautious about deploying his maiden fund. Two years into operation, North Summit has closed four deals: TopScore, a 17-year-old footwear manufacturer embracing automation; Lingumi, a London-based English learning app targeting Chinese pre-school kids; Aerodyne, a Malaysian drone service provider; and Extreme Vision, a marketplace connecting small-and-medium enterprises to affordable AI vision solutions. 

This year, North Summit aims to invest close to $100 million in companies inside and outside China. Optical storage and robotic process automation (RPA) are just two areas that have been on Min’s radar in recent days.

#abb, #alibaba, #alibaba-cloud, #alibaba-group, #asia, #china, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #dubai, #funding, #ibm, #manufacturing, #siemens, #tc, #united-arab-emirates, #university-of-chicago, #venture-capital

Industrial cybersecurity startup Claroty raises $140M in pre-IPO funding round

Claroty, an industrial cybersecurity company that helps customers protect and manage their Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) assets, has raised $140 million in its latest, and potentially last round of funding. 

With the new round of Series D funding, co-led by Bessemer Venture and 40 North, the company has now amassed a total of $235 million. Additional strategic investors include LG and I Squared Capital’s ISQ Global InfraTech Fund, with all previous investors — Team8, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, and Schneider Electric — also participating. 

Founded in 2015, the late-stage startup focuses on the industrial side of cybersecurity. Its customers include General Motors, Coca-Cola EuroPacific Partners, and Pfizer, with Claroty helping the pharmaceutical firm to secure its COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. Claroty tells TechCrunch it has seen “significant” customer growth over the past 18 months, largely fueled by the pandemic, with 110% year-over-year net new logo growth and 100% customer retention. 

It will use the newly raised funds to meet this rapidly accelerating global demand for The Claroty Platform, an end-to-end solution that provides visibility into industrial networks and combines secure remote access with continuous monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities. 

“Our mission is to drive visibility, continuity, and resiliency in the industrial economy by delivering the most comprehensive solutions that secure all connected devices within the four walls of an industrial site, including all operational technology (OT), Internet of Things (IoT), and industrial IoT (IIoT) assets,” said Claroty CEO Yaniv Vardi.

To meet this growing demand, the startup is planning to expand into new regions and verticals, including transportation government-owned industries, as well as increase its global headcount. The company, which is based in New York, currently has around 240 employees. 

Claroty hasn’t yet made any acquisitions, though CEO Yaniv Vardi tells TechCrunch that this could be part of the startup’s roadmap going forward.

“We’re waiting for the right opportunity at the right time, but it’s definitely part of the plan as part of the financial runway we just secured,” he said, adding that this latest funding round will likely be the company’s last before it explores a potential IPO.

“We are thinking that this is a pre-IPO funding round,” he said. “The end goal here is to be the market leader for industrial cybersecurity. One of the mascots can be going public with an IPO, but there are different options too, such as SPAC.”

The funding round comes amid a sharp increase in cyber targeting organizations that underpin the world’s critical infrastructure and supply chains. According to a recent survey carried out by Claroty, the majority (53%) of US industrial enterprises have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of 2020. The survey of 1,110 IT and OT security professionals also found that over half believed their organization is now more of a target for cybercriminals, with 67% having seen cybercriminals use new tactics amid the pandemic. 

“The number of attacks, and impact of these attacks, is increasing significantly, especially in verticals like food, automotive, and critical infrastructure. Vardi said. “That creates a lot of risk assessments public companies had to do, and these risks needed to be addressed with a security solution on the industrial side.”

#articles, #ceo, #coca-cola, #computer-security, #computing, #data-security, #food, #funding, #general-motors, #industrial-automation, #industrial-internet-of-things, #internet-of-things, #lg, #new-york, #operational-technology, #pfizer, #pharmaceutical, #siemens, #startup-company, #startups, #team8, #techcrunch, #technology, #united-states

More funding flows into Pipe, as buzzy fintech raises $250M at a $2B valuation

At the end of March, TechCrunch reported that buzzy startup Pipe — which aims to be the “Nasdaq for revenue” — had raised $150 million in a round of funding that values the fintech at $2 billion.

Well, that deal has closed and in the end, Miami-based Pipe confirms that it has actually raised $250 million at a $2 billion valuation in a round that was “massively oversubscribed,” according to co-founder and co-CEO Harry Hurst.

“We had originally allocated $150 million for the round, but capped it at $250 million although we could have raised significantly more,” he told TechCrunch.

As we previously reported, Baltimore, Maryland-based Greenspring Associates led the round, which included participation from new investors Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global, CreditEase FinTech Investment Fund, Horizon Capital, 3L and Japan’s SBI Investment. Existing backers such as Next47, Marc Benioff, Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, MaC  Ventures and Republic also put money in the latest financing.

The investment comes about 2 ½ months after Pipe raised $50 million in “strategic equity funding” from a slew of high-profile investors such as Siemens’ Next47 and Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group, Shopify, Slack, HubSpot, Okta and Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya. With this latest round, Pipe has now raised about $316 million in total capital. The new funding was raised at “a significant step up in valuation” from the company’s last raise.

As a journalist who first covered Pipe when they raised $6 million in seed funding back in late February 2020, it’s been fascinating to watch the company’s rise. In fact, Pipe claims that its ability to achieve a $2 billion valuation in just under a year since its public launch in June of last year makes it the fastest fintech to reach this valuation in history. While I can’t substantiate that claim, I can say that its growth has indeed been swift and impressive.

Hurst, Josh Mangel and Zain Allarakhia founded Pipe in September 2019 with the mission of giving SaaS companies a way to get their revenue upfront, by pairing them with investors on a marketplace that pays a discounted rate for the annual value of those contracts. (Pipe describes its buy-side participants as “a vetted group of financial institutions and banks.”)

The goal of the platform is to offer companies with recurring revenue streams access to capital so they don’t dilute their ownership by accepting external capital or get forced to take out loans.

More than 4,000 companies have signed up on the Pipe trading platform since its public launch in June 2020, with just over 1,000 of those signing up since its March raise, according to Hurst. Tradable annual recurring revenue (ARR) on the Pipe platform is in excess of $1 billion and trending toward $2 billion, with tens of millions of dollars currently being traded every month. When I last talked to the company in March, it had reported tens of millions of dollars traded in all of the first quarter.

“Growth has been insane,” Hurst told TechCrunch. “This speaks to why we managed to raise at such a high valuation and attract so much investor interest.”

Image Credits: Pipe

Over time, Pipe’s platform has evolved to offer non-dilutive capital to non-SaaS companies as well. In fact, 25% of its customers are currently non-SaaS, according to Hurst — a number he expects to climb to over 50% by year’s end.

Examples of the types of businesses now using Pipe’s platform include property management companies, direct-to-consumer companies with subscription products, insurance brokerages, online pharmacies and even sports/entertainment-related organizations, Hurst said. Even VC firms are users.

“Any business with very predictable revenue streams is ripe for trading on our platform,” Hurst emphasizes. “We have unlocked the largest untapped asset class in the world.”

He emphasizes that what Pipe is offering is not debt or a loan.

“Other companies in this space are dealing in loans and they’re actually raising debt and giving companies money — like reselling debt,” Hurst said. “This is what differentiates us so massively.”

Pipe’s platform assesses a customer’s key metrics by integrating with its accounting, payment processing and banking systems. It then instantly rates the performance of the business and qualifies them for a trading limit. Trading limits currently range from $50,000 for smaller early-stage and bootstrapped companies to over $100 million for late-stage and publicly traded companies, although there is no cap on how large a trading limit can be.
Pipe has no cost of capital. Institutional investors compete against each other for deals on its platform. In return, Pipe charges both parties on each side of the transaction a fixed trading fee of up to 1%, depending on the volume.

The startup has been operating with a lean and mean strategy and has a current headcount of 34. Pipe plans to use its latest capital in part to double that number by year’s end.

“We haven’t actually spent a penny of our prior financing,” Hurst told TechCrunch. “But we’re seeing huge demand for the product globally, and across so many different verticals, so we’re going to use this capital to not only secure the future of business obviously but to continue to invest into growing all of these different verticals and kick off our global expansion.”

Image Credits: Pipe co-founder and co-CEO Harry Hurst / Pipe

Ashton Newhall, managing general partner of Greenspring Associates, described Pipe as “one of the fastest-growing companies” his firm has seen.

The startup, he added, is “addressing a very large TAM (total addressable market) with the potential to fundamentally shift the financial services landscape.”

In particular, Greenspring was drawn to Pipe’s alternative financing model.

“While there are many companies that service specific niches with traditional lending products, Pipe isn’t a lender,” Newhall told TechCrunch. “Rather, it’s a trading platform and does not actually raise any money to give to customers. Instead, Pipe connects customers directly with institutional investors to get the best possible pricing to trade their actual contracts in lieu of taking a loan.”

#alexis-ohanian, #baltimore, #chamath-palihapitiya, #creditease-fintech-investment-fund, #economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenspring-associates, #hubspot, #japan, #mac-ventures, #marc-benioff, #maryland, #miami, #okta, #pipe, #raptor-group, #recent-funding, #saas, #sbi-investment, #shopify, #siemens, #social-capital, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Pipe, which aims to be the ‘Nasdaq for revenue,’ raises more money at a $2B valuation

Fast-growing fintech Pipe has raised another round of funding at a $2 billion valuation, just weeks after raising $50M in growth funding, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Although the round is still ongoing, Pipe has reportedly raised $150 million in a “massively oversubscribed” round led by Baltimore, Md.-based Greenspring Associates. While the company has signed a term sheet, more money could still come in, according to the source. Both new and existing investors have participated in the fundraise.

The increase in valuation is “a significant step up” from the company’s last raise. Pipe has declined to comment on the deal.

A little over one year ago, Pipe raised a $6 million seed round led by Craft Ventures to help it pursue its mission of giving SaaS companies a funding alternative outside of equity or venture debt.

The buzzy startup’s goal with the money was to give SaaS companies a way to get their revenue upfront, by pairing them with investors on a marketplace that pays a discounted rate for the annual value of those contracts. (Pipe describes its buy-side participants as “a vetted group of financial institutions and banks.”)

Just a few weeks ago, Miami-based Pipe announced a new raise — $50 million in “strategic equity funding” from a slew of high-profile investors. Siemens’ Next47 and Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group co-led the round, which also included participation from Shopify, Slack, HubSpot, Okta, Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya, Marc Benioff, Michael Dell’s MSD Capital, Republic, Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six and Joe Lonsdale.

At that time, Pipe co-CEO and co-founder Harry Hurst said the company was also broadening the scope of its platform beyond strictly SaaS companies to “any company with a recurring revenue stream.” This could include D2C subscription companies, ISP, streaming services or a telecommunications companies. Even VC fund admin and management are being piped on its platform, for example, according to Hurst.

“When we first went to market, we were very focused on SaaS, our first vertical,” he told TC at the time. “Since then, over 3,000 companies have signed up to use our platform.” Those companies range from early-stage and bootstrapped with $200,000 in revenue, to publicly-traded companies.

Pipe’s platform assesses a customer’s key metrics by integrating with its accounting, payment processing and banking systems. It then instantly rates the performance of the business and qualifies them for a trading limit. Trading limits currently range from $50,000 for smaller early-stage and bootstrapped companies, to over $100 million for late-stage and publicly traded companies, although there is no cap on how large a trading limit can be.

In the first quarter of 2021, tens of millions of dollars were traded across the Pipe platform. Between its launch in late June 2020 through year’s end, the company also saw “tens of millions” in trades take place via its marketplace. Tradable ARR on the platform is currently in excess of $1 billion.

#alexis-ohanian, #baltimore, #banking, #chamath-palihapitiya, #corporate-finance, #craft-ventures, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenspring-associates, #hubspot, #investment, #isp, #joe-lonsdale, #marc-benioff, #maryland, #miami, #okta, #payment-processing, #pipe, #raptor-group, #recent-funding, #saas, #shopify, #siemens, #social-capital, #startups, #streaming-services, #tc, #telecommunications, #venture-capital

Brazilian startup Tractian gets the Y Combinator seal of approval for its equipment monitoring tech

Igor Marinelli and Gabriel Lameirinhas were raised around manufacturing plants. Marinelli’s father worked for International Paper in a plant outside of Sao Paulo while Lameirinhas’ father worked in a cement plant. 

Throughout their lives, the two friends had heard their parents complain about the sorry state of maintenance and monitoring of the heavy equipment that their factories depended on to stay up and running.

So the two men decided to do something about it, and set about to develop the technology which would become Tractian.

Friends from their days at University of Sao Paulo, Lameirinhas and Marinelli kept in touch as Marinelli pursued a career in the U.S. as an entrepreneur, they reconnected in Brazil after the collapse of Marinelli’s attempt to launch a predictive chronic health condition service called BlueAI.

Marinelli spent some time working in a paper plant himself and became a software engineer for the facility. It was there that he saw the shoddy state of affairs that industrial monitoring tools were in.

Together with Lameirinhas he determined that there could be a better way. Factories in Brazil aren’t equipped with wifi or gateways or other networking technologies that the newest solutions from companies like Siemens or Schneider Electric require. Integrations with existing enterprise resource planning software from companies like SAP present another headache, said Marinelli.

“Only industries with huge capital can go through that mess,” Marinelli said.

Tractian’s sensors measure four things: vibration, temperature, energy consumption and a horometer to measure how long a machine has been up and running. The company has also developed software that can analyze the data coming off of the sensors to predict when a machine might need maintenance.

Y Combinator found the software and hardware package compelling and so did investors like Soma Capital, Norte Ventures, and angel investors including Alan Rutledge and Immad Akhund.

Tractian’s tech costs $90 for the sensors and the analysis and software is another $60 per month, per sensor. Marinelli claims that the service can pay for itself in less than two months. Already, the company has signed up AB InBev as an initial customer and has roughly 30 buyers in total using its sensors.

 

#brazil, #energy-consumption, #entrepreneur, #heavy-equipment, #monitoring, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #software-engineer, #soma-capital, #tc, #united-states, #y-combinator

Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt receives a $14 billion order from VW

Northvolt, the Swedish battery manufacturer which raised $1 billion in financing from investors led by Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen back in 2019, has signed a massive $14 billion battery order with VW for the next 10 years.

The big buy clears up some questions about where Volkswagen will be getting the batteries for its huge push into electric vehicles, which will see the automaker reach production capacity of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025.

The deal will not only see Northvolt become the strategic lead supplier for battery cells for Volkswagen Group in Europe, but will also involve the German automaker increasing its equity ownership of Northvolt.

As part of the partnership agreement, Northvolt’s gigafactory in Sweden will be expanded and Northvolt agreed to sell its joint venture share in Salzgitter, Germany to Volkswagen as the car maker looks to build up its battery manufacturing efforts across Europe, the companies said.

The agreement between Northvolt and VW brings the Swedish battery maker’s total contracts to $27 billion in the two years since it raised its big $1 billion cash haul.

“Volkswagen is a key investor, customer and partner on the journey ahead and we will continue to work hard with the goal of providing them with the greenest battery on the planet as they rapidly expand their fleet of electric vehicles,” said Peter Carlsson, the co-founder and chief executive of Northvolt, in a statement.

Northvolt’s other partners and customers include ABB, BMW Group, Scania, Siemens, Vattenfall, and Vestas. Together these firms comprise some of the largest manufacturers in Europe.

Back in 2019, the company said that its cell manufacturing capacity could hit 16 Gigawatt hours and that it had sold its capacity to the tune of $13 billion through 2030. That means that the Volkswagen deal will eat up a significant portion of expanded product lines.

Founded Carlsson, a former executive at Tesla, Northvolt’s battery business was intended to leapfrog the European Union into direct competition with Asia’s largest battery manufacturers — Samsung, LG Chem, and CATL.

Back when the company first announced its $1 billion investment round, Carlsson had said that Northvolt would need to build up to150 gigawatt hours of capacity to hit targets for. 2030 electric vehicle sales.

The plant in Sweden is expected to hit at least 32 gigawatt hours of production thanks, in part to backing by the Swedish pension fund firms AMF and Folksam and IKEA-linked IMAS Foundation, in addition to the big financial partners Volkswagen and Goldman Sachs.

Northvolt has had a busy few months. Earlier in March the company announced the acquisition of the Silicon Valley-based startup company Cuberg.

That acquisition gave Northvolt a foothold in the U.S. and established the company’s advanced technology center.

The acquisition also gives Northvolt a window into the newest battery chemistry that’s being touted as a savior for the industry — lithium metal batteries.

Cuberg spun out of Stanford University back in 2015 to commercialize what the company called its next-generation battery combining a liquid electrolyte with a lithium metal anode. The company’s customers include Boeing, BETA Technologies, Ampaire, and VoltAero and it was backed by Boeing HorizonX Ventures, Activate.org, the California Energy Commission, the Department of Energy and the TomKat Center at Stanford.

Cuberg’s cells deliver 70 percent increased range and capacity versus comparable lithium ion cells designed for electric aviation applications. The two companies hope that they can apply the technology to Northvolt’s automotive and industrial product portfolio with the ambition to industrialize cells in 2025 that exceed 1,000 Wh/L, while meeting the full spectrum of automotive customer requirements, according to a statement.

“The Cuberg team has shown exceptional ability to develop world-class technology, proven results and an outstanding customer base in a lean and efficient organization,” said Peter Carlsson, CEO and Co-Founder, Northvolt in a statement. “Combining these strengths with the capabilities and technology of Northvolt allows us to make significant improvements in both performance and safety while driving down cost even further for next-generation battery cells. This is critical for accelerating the shift to fully electric vehicles and responding to the needs of the leading automotive companies within a relevant time frame.”

 

#abb, #asia, #bmw-group, #boeing-horizonx-ventures, #catl, #department-of-energy, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #european-union, #germany, #goldman-sachs, #ikea, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #samsung, #siemens, #silicon-valley, #stanford-university, #sweden, #tc, #tesla, #united-states, #vestas, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-group, #vw

ChargeLab raises seed capital to be the software provider powering EV charging infrastructure

As money floods into the electric vehicle market a number of small companies are trying to stake their claim as the go-to provider of charging infrastructure. These companies are developing proprietary ecosystems that work for their own equipment but don’t interoperate.

ChargeLab, which has raised $4.3 million in seed financing led by Construct Capital and Root Ventures, is looking to be the software provider providing the chargers built by everyone else.

“You’ll find everyone in every niche and corner,” says ChargeLab chief executive Zachary Lefevre. Lefevre likens Tesla to Apple with its closed ecosystem and compares Chargepoint and Blink, two other electric vehicle charging companies to Blackberry — the once dominant smartphone maker. “What we’re trying to do is be android,” Lefevre said.

That means being the software provider for manufacturers like ABB, Schneider Electric and Siemens. “These guys are hardware makers up and down the value stack,” Lefevre said.

ChargeLab already has an agreement with ABB to be their default software provider as they go to market. The big industrial manufacturer is getting ready to launch their next charging product in North America.

As companies like REEF and Metropolis revamp garages and parking lots to service the next generation of vehicles, ChargeLab’s chief executive thinks that his software can power their EV charging services as they begin to roll that functionality out across the lots they own.

Lefevre got to know the electric vehicle charging market first as a reseller of everyone else’s equipment, he said. The company had raised a pre-seed round of $1.1 million from investors including Urban.us and Notation Capital and has now added to that bank account with another capital infusion from Construct Capital, the new fund led by Dayna Grayson and Rachel Holt, and Root Ventures, Lefevre said.

Eventually the company wants to integrate with the back end of companies like Chargepoint and Electrify America to make the charging process as efficient for everyone, according to ChargeLab’s chief executive.

As more service providers get into the market, Lefevre sees the opportunity set for his business expanding exponentially. “Super open platforms are not going to be building an EV charging system any more than they would be building their own hardware,” he said.

#abb, #android, #apple, #chargelab, #chargepoint, #charging-stations, #companies, #construct-capital, #dayna-grayson, #electric-vehicles, #electrical-engineering, #electrify-america, #inductive-charging, #north-america, #notation-capital, #rachel-holt, #reef, #root-ventures, #siemens, #smartphone, #software, #tc

Miami-based Ironhack raises $20 million for its coding bootcamps as demand for coders continues

Ironhack, a company offering programming bootcamps across Europe and North and South America, has raised $20 million in its latest round of funding.

The Miami-based company with locations in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, Paris and Sao Paulo said it will use the money to build out more virtual offerings to compliment the company’s campuses.

Over the next five years, 13 million jobs will be added to the tech industry in the U.S., according to Ironhack co-founder Ariel Quiñones. That’s in addition to another 20 million jobs that Quiñones expects to come from the growth of the technology sector in the EU.

Ironhack isn’t the only bootcamp to benefit from this growth. Last year, Lambda School raised $74 million for its coding education program.

Ironhack’s raised its latest round from Endeavor Catalyst, a fund that invests in entrepreneurs from emerging and underserved markets; Lumos Capital, which was formed by investors with a long history in education technology; Creas Capital, a Spanish impact investment firm; and Brighteye, a European edtech investor.

Prices for the company’s classes vary by country. In the U.S. an Ironhack bootcamp costs $12,000, while that figure is more like $3,000 for classes in Mexico City.

The company offers classes in subjects ranging from web development to UX/UI design and data analytics to cybersecurity, according to a statement. 

“We believe that practical skills training, a supportive global community and career development programs can give everyone, regardless of their education or employment history, the ability to write their stories through technology,” said Ariel Quiñones, co-founder of Ironhack.

Since its launch in 2013, the company has graduated more than 8,000 students, with a job placement rate of 89%, according to data collected as of July 2020. Companies who have employed Ironhack graudates include Capgemini, Siemens, and Santander, the company said.

 

#amsterdam, #barcelona, #berlin, #capgemini, #co-founder, #companies, #education-technology, #europe, #european-union, #ironhack, #lambda-school, #lisbon, #madrid, #mexico-city, #miami, #north-america, #paris, #santander, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #south-america, #tc, #united-states, #web-development

ETH spin-off LatticeFlow raises $2.8M to help build trustworthy AI systems

LatticeFlow, an AI startup that was spun out of ETH Zurich in 2020, today announced that it has raised a $2.8 million seed funding round led by Swiss deep-tech fund btov and Global Founders Capital, which previously backed the likes of Revolut, Slack and Zalando.

The general idea behind LatticeFlow is to build tools that help AI teams build and deploy AI models that are safe, reliable and trustworthy. The problem today, the team argues, is that models get very good at finding the right statistical patterns to hit a given benchmark. That makes them inflexible, though, since these models were optimized for accuracy in a lab setting, not for robustness in the real world.

“One of the most commonly used paradigms for evaluating machine learning models is just aggregate metrics, like accuracy. And, of course, this is a super coarse representation of how good a model really is,” Pavol Bielik, the company’s CTO explained. “What we want to do is, we provide systematic ways of monitoring models, assessing their reliability across different relevant data slices and then also provide tools for improving these models.”

Image Credits: LatticeFlow

Building these kinds of models that are more flexible yet still provide robust results will take a new arsenal of tools, though, as well as the right team with deep expertise in these areas. Clearly, though, this is a founding team with the right background. In addition to CTO Bielik, the founding team includes Petar Tsankov, the company’s CEO and former senior researcher and lecturer at ETH Zurich, as well as ETH professors Martin Vechev, who leads the Secure, Reliable and Intelligence Systems lab at ETH, and Andreas Krause, who leads ETH’s Learning & Adaptive Systems lab. Tsankov’s last startup, DeepCode, was acquired by cybersecurity firm Snyk in 2020.

It’s also worth noting that Vechev, who previously co-founded ETH spin-off ChainSecurity, and his group at ETH previously developed ERAN, a verifier for large deep learning models with millions of parameters, that last year won the first competition for certifying deep neural networks. While the team was already looking at creating a company before winning this competition, Vechev noted that gave the team the confirmation that it was on the right path.

Image Credits: LatticeFlow

“We want to solve the main AI problem, which is making AI usable. This is the overarching goal,” Vechev told me. “[…] I don’t think you can actually found the company just purely based on the certification work. I think the kinds of skills that people have in the company, my group, Andreas [Krause]’s group, they all complement each other and cover a huge space, which I think is very, very unique. I don’t know of other companies who have covered this range of skills in these pressing points and have done groundbreaking work before.”

LatticeWorks already has a set of pilot customers who are trialing its tools. These include Swiss railways (SBB), which is using it to build a tool for automatic rail inspections, Germany’s Federal Cyber Security Bureau and the U.S. Army. The team is also working with other large enterprises that are using its tools to improve their computer vision models.

“Machine Learning (ML) is one of the core topics at SBB, as we see a huge potential in its application for an improved, intelligent and automated monitoring of our railway infrastructure,” said Dr. Ilir Fetai and Andre Roger, the leads of SBB’s AI team. “The project on robust and reliable AI with LatticeFlow, ETH, and Siemens has a crucial role in enabling us to fully exploit the advantages of using ML.”

For now, LatticeFlow remains in early access. The team plans to use the funding to accelerate its product development and bring on new customers. The team also plans to build out a presence in the U.S. in the near future.

#artificial-intelligence, #btov-partners, #deep-neural-networks, #deepcode, #emerging-technologies, #global-founders-capital, #latticeflow, #machine-learning, #recent-funding, #revolut, #siemens, #snyk, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #zalando

Digital road freight forwarder Sennder raises $160M Series, plans European expansion

Sennder, a large digital road freight forwarder based out of Germany, has raised $160m in Series D financing. The round was led by an unnamed party, but round participants included Accel, Lakestar, HV Capital, Project A and Scania. To date, Sennder has raised more than $260m, allowing it to lay claim to a potential $1bn valuation.

Sennder directly connects enterprise shippers with trucking companies, thus disintermediating the traditional freight model. It says it will move over 1 million truckloads this year. So far it’s concentrated on the lucrative European market. In June 2020 it merged with French competitor Everoad and acquired Uber Freight’s European business last September. The European logistics and freight sector has a market size of $427bn.

Sennder competes with large incumbents like Wincanton and CH Robinson as well as other startups such as OnTrac in Spin, and Instafreight.

The whole digital freight forwarding market is booming. Only last November, Germany’s Forto, a digital freight forwarder raised another $50 million in funding taking its total raised to $103 million. And in 2018 FreightHub, another European digital freight forwarder, raised $30 million in Series B financing.

Sennder’s new investment will mean it can expand in European markets. It already partners with Poste Italiane in Italy, as well as Scania and Siemens, and is now supplying transport services to over 10 organizations listed in the German DAX 30, and 11 companies comprising the Euro Stoxx 50.

Since its founding in 2015 by David Nothacker, Julius Köhler and Nicolaus Schefenacker, the company has grown to 800 employees and seven international offices.

David Nothacker, CEO and Co-Founder of Sennder, said: “We are now an established industry player on equal terms with other more traditional sector pioneers, but have maintained our founding spirit. As a data-driven company, we contribute to making the logistics industry fit for a sustainable future; ensuring transparency, flexibility and efficiency in the distribution of goods. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a digitalized logistics industry.

Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel commented: “It is always fantastic to see a portfolio company reach such a significant milestone. 2020 highlighted the value that Sennder’s innovative digital offering brings to the freight industry.”

#accel, #europe, #finance, #germany, #italy, #lakestar, #sennder, #siemens, #sonali-de-rycker, #tc, #uber-freight

Fluence, the energy storage systems developer, is now worth over $1 billion after QIA investment

The Qatar Investment Authority is investing $125 million into energy storage systems integrator and power management tech developer, Fluence, in a deal that will value the company at over $1 billion.

The joint venture between the American independent power producer, AES Corp. and the German industrial conglomerate Siemens, was already worth $900 million prior to the transaction, according to Marek Wolek, the vice president of strategy and partnerships at Fluence.

With the new cash, Fluence will look to develop and acquire software and services that can expand the company’s offerings to its core clients among utilities and independent power project developers, Wolek said.

And it might not be too long before the company seeks additional liquidity from the public markets, Wolek said. He noted that the QIA is already backing the battery company QuantumScape, which was acquired by a special purpose acquisition company in late November and whose shares have been on a meteoric rise ever since.

After the QIA investment, AES and Siemens will remain majority shareholders. Each will hold a 44 percent stake in the company after the investment.

“We believe the global problem of climate change can only be tackled by  leveraging the combined capabilities of technologists and investors from around  the world,” said Manuel Perez Dubuc, Fluence’s Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “We see  energy storage as the linchpin of a decarbonized grid and adding QIA to our  international shareholder base will allow Fluence to innovate even faster and  address the enormous global market for large-scale battery-based energy  storage.” 

One of six founding members of the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Fund Initiative, QIA is a multi-billion dollar investment vehicle that has significant stores of capital to continue its support of climate tech companies like Fluence.

Fluence has already deployed roughly 5 gigawatts of energy storage and management systems to a wide array of customers, according to Wolek.

And while Wolek said Fluence sees itself and its energy storage business as a key component of the global decarbonization which needs to occur to combat climate change, electric storage isn’t the only technology that’s needed.

It’s difficult looking at the energy market and looking at one technology and saying that one technology is going to solve everything,” said Wolek. 

Rather, the company’s role is to ensure that the battery technology Fluence is deploying can be integrated with the other technologies required to provide industry and society with the power it needs, he said. “We want to absolutely be the experts on battery-based storage,” Wolek said. “At the same time we do invest quite a bit on the digital side to expand our dispatch capabilities beyond storage.”

That could mean teaming up with other energy suppliers (like developers of hydrogen fuel proejcts) in the future, he said.

“We want to master the energy piece on the battery side,” Wolek said of the company’s ultimate goal.

That goal puts the company on something of a collision course with the energy business being built by Elon Musk’s Tesla.

The billion-dollar valuation that Fluence currently enjoys and the $36.6 billion market cap that QuantumScape has goes some way toward explaining why Tesla can be considered to be a company worth over $650 billion.

 

#chief-executive-officer, #companies, #electrical-engineering, #energy-storage, #industries, #qatar-investment-authority, #quantumscape, #siemens, #tc

Birmingham-based Help Lightning raises $8 million for its remote training and support tools

In the four years since Help Lightning first began pitching its services out of its Birmingham, Ala. headquarters, the company has managed to sign up 100 customers including some large Fortune 500 companies like Cox Communications, Siemens, and Boston Scientific.

Now, with an additional $8 million in financing from Resolve Growth Partners, the company is hoping to expand its sales and marketing efforts and continue to refine its product.

The technology was initially invented by Bart Guthrie, a neurosurgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wanted a way to improve telepresence technologies so he could assist with remote surgeries.

What Guthrie developed was a technology that could merge video streams to that experts could remotely monitor, manage, and assist in everything from service repairs to surgery.

“Think of it as a video call on steroids,” says Gary York, the company’s chief executive officer. A serial entrepreneur, York was brought on board by Guthrie to help commercialize the technology four years ago.

The technology works on any android or iOS device and is accessed through a mobile browser. The company now boasts over 100 customers including Cox, Canon, Unisys, and Boston Scientific. And its usage has soared since the advent of the pandemic, according to York.

“We saw call volume quadruple,” he said.

For instance, Cox Communications uses the technology to provide virtual trouble shooting to replace in-home service visits for customers. At Siemens, service technicians who fix medical imaging and lab diagnostic equipment can use the Help Lightning to link up with experts to troubleshoot fixes in real time. York would not comment on pricing, but said that the company provides custom quotes based on usage.

“After evaluating the virtual expertise software market for over a year, our diligence is clear that Help Lightning has built a highly differentiated solution that is valued by its customers” said Jit Sinha, co-founder and Managing Director from Resolve, in a statement earlier this week. “Help Lightning has a tremendous opportunity to power the success of this rapidly emerging market. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Gary York and his talented team.”

 

#alabama, #android, #articles, #canon, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #cox-communications, #medical-imaging, #real-time, #serial-entrepreneur, #siemens, #tc, #telecommunications, #teleconferencing, #telepresence, #unisys

Industrial-grade VR company Varjo picks up ~$52M in Series C funding

Varjo, the Finnish startup that has developed a virtual and mixed reality headset capable of “human-eye resolution” for use in various enterprise applications, has closed a $51.7 million in Series C funding.

Backing the round is Tesi, NordicNinja, and Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank. Existing investors including Lifeline Ventures, Atomico, EQT Ventures and Volvo Cars Tech Fund have also followed on. It brings total raised by Varjo to around $100 million to date.

The company is also announcing the appointment of Timo Toikkanen, who was previously president and COO of Varjo, as its new CEO. Co-founder and previous CEO, Niko Eiden, becomes CXO where he’ll be tasked with continuing to drive the company’s technology innovations and, notably, remains a board member.

Varjo says the injection of capital will be used to accelerate its global expansion and development of industry-leading hardware and software products. Global enterprise clients using the company’s various headsets include Volvo Cars, Boeing, Audi and Siemens. Applications span immersive astronaut and pilot training, designing “cars of the future”, and streamlining product development.

“We are seeing tremendous demand for virtual and mixed reality use cases, particularly as much of the world continues to work remotely,” says Timo Toikkanen, CEO of Varjo, in a statement. “When you combine the photorealistic resolution and accurate, integrated eye tracking found in our devices with the broad software compatibility we offer, the possibilities for creating, training and running research in immersive environments are endless. With support from our growing group of investors, we look forward to scaling our operations and delivering the cutting-edge technology our customers need to transform the way they work”.

The Series C round follows a number of cited milestones, such as expansion of the company’s global operations and reseller network to over 40 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. This includes the launch of sales and direct shipping to “key markets” including Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Varjo has also signed a commercial partnership with MeetinVR to deliver photorealistic virtual collaboration, a much-needed solution for users to be able to collaborate remotely. Can we say the new normal? (sorry, ed.)

#atomico, #audi, #boeing, #emerging-technologies, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #immersion, #lifeline-ventures, #siemens, #tc, #varjo, #virtual-reality, #volvo-cars, #zurcher-kantonalbank

Partners at B2B European VC henQ discuss remote work’s biggest advantages

HenQ, an Amsterdam-based VC that invests in European B2B software startups typically at seed and Series A, recently disclosed the first close of its fourth fund at €70 million. The final close is expected to top out at between €75-€85 million later this year, and the firm has already begun backing companies out of the new fund.

However, what sets henQ apart from many VC firms isn’t just its pure focus on B2B software but that its team is fully remote. Primarily investing in the Nordics and Benelux, henQ doesn’t have any official offices, with the team working from different temporary locations. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, henQ closed deals remotely.

Successes from its previous funds include Mendix (acquired by Siemens) and SEOshop (acquired by Lightspeed).

I spoke to partners Jan Andriessen, Mick Mackaay and Jelmer de Jong to learn more about henQ, what it’s like to be a fully remote VC and how the firm envisions the post-pandemic era.

TechCrunch: Can you be more specific regarding the size of check you write and the types of companies, geographies, technologies and business models you are focusing on?

Jan Andriessen: Our main focus is seed rounds, in which we often are the lead investor. We also invest in Series A rounds, often as a co-investor. Initial check sizes vary from €500,000 to €3.5 million.

A typical seed investment has a product and perhaps a few pilot customers. The key here is not revenue (which is OK to be zero), but there is proof of the actual need for the product.

Most of our recent deals were in the Nordics and Benelux, the areas where we spent the majority of our time. But we have also invested in the Baltics, Czech Republic and the UK. For henQ 4, we expect this to be the same: the bulk of our investments will be in the Nordics and Benelux, with an occasional deal in broader Europe.

In terms of technology and business trends, one of the things we firmly believe in is the consumerization of enterprise software: successful startups are centered around their customers and focus on the job to be done. More generally, we have always been focused on startups with staying power: companies that have a right to exist over time, not just now, as they deliver a product that touches the core processes of their customers and operate at the heart of their customer’s business.

For example, looking at our portfolio, Zivver delivers secure communication solutions for hospitals and governments. Stravito works deep in the research departments of FMCGs, delivering a knowledge management platform. Mews runs the full operations of hotels with their property management system, and Orderchamp enables retailers to digitize their buying process.

We see the business model of a company as a means, not an end. Most of the startups we invest in charge a SaaS plus implementation fee, and have a more enterprise-sales driven business model. We are not afraid to invest in startups that have a more complex and longer sales cycle, and are not per se looking for SaaS ‘by-the-book.’

#amsterdam, #business-incubators, #cloud, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #enterprise-software, #europe, #extra-crunch, #knowledge-management, #mendix, #saas, #siemens, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #work

Electric charging gets more juice as Soros Fund Management makes a bet on Amply Power

Even as oil companies are getting crushed by the collapse of demand for energy in the wake of international shutdowns responding to the global pandemic, investors representing one of the world’s savviest financiers are placing a small bet on electric charging as the future of transportation.

Soros Fund Management, the financial investment vehicle led by famed investor George Soros, is placing a small, $13.2 million bet, alongside Siemens and a host of other investors into the Los Angeles-based electric charging startup, Amply Power.

To be quite honest I never would have thought in a million years that Soros would jump into our industry so early in its development,” said Vic Shao, Amply’s founder, chairman and chief executive.

And despite the collapse in fossil fuel energy prices, Shao said that Amply’s value proposition still makes sense.

“Raw electric energy is half the price on average as fossil fuels,” Shao said. “As economics go by, solar will continue to get cheaper and wind too. The lowest price of extracting a barrel of oil right now is $20… and then you need to add processing and distilling.”

Shao is the former chief executive of Green Charge, a distributed energy storage company acquired by the world’s largest international energy supplier, ENGIE.

Amply has more than its fair share of competitors vying to give the electric vehicle fleet management charging market a jolt. Companies like Electriphi, EVConnnect, GreenLots, and GreenFlux are all offering somewhat similar services.

The company said it would use the money to expand its team and customer deployments to compete with its market adversaries. Right now Amply is managing charging operations for customers including: East Contra Costa County’s Tri Delta Transit, and an electric school bus fleet demonstration in New York City with Logan Bus.

AMPLY is the preferred partner of BYD and a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Company, Pacific Current, the company said.

Amply makes its money by owning and operating charging infrastructure and setting up fixed price agreements with its customers. “There are a lot of vendors out there selling hardware or selling software fleet management in software product but at the end customer owns the risk. They have to implement these tools and make it work for their fleet… or vendors,” said Shao. 

Despite slowdowns, Shao said that his business is relatively recession proof, because of its availability to government funds and the status of public transportation as a vital part of a city’s infrastructure.

“It’s really really helpful for the business to have a stable subscription revenue base that will fit the people who will pay you,” said Shao. “Ridershp is down and routes are getting cut… but transit agencies and school districts are not about to go out of business… what has slowed down a bit for us are our customers in the private sector.”

Joining Siemens and Soros in the new financing are previous seed round investors, including Congruent Ventures, PeopleFund, and Obvious Ventures.  

#business, #byd, #charging-stations, #congruent-ventures, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #electriphi, #energy, #energy-storage, #engie, #finance, #greenlots, #los-angeles, #money, #new-york-city, #obvious-ventures, #oil, #peoplefund, #public-transportation, #siemens, #soros-fund-management, #tc