New “deep-tech” VC fund goes all-in for digital change, security and… cowgorithms
New seed-stage private equity firm Ubiquity Ventures has made its first six investments in start-ups. Each of the companies selected for funding are in the industrial transformation or tech security games.
Ubiquity Ventures, based in Palo Alto, is focused on “pushing software beyond the screen”, and on smart hardware and machine intelligence applications. Sunil Nagaraj, its founder and chief executive, has an active board seat on most of its portfolio companies.
Its sponsored “deep-tech” start-ups are variously focused on agriculture (“cowgoritms”; see below), robotics, security, and artificial intelligence.
Nagaraj commented: “The companies in Ubiquity’s portfolio will be life-changing for many people. Some provide solutions to problems that we didn’t know could be solved and the others have created breakthrough software for brand new industries.
“From apps for dairy farmers seeking less labor-intensive practices for herding and food safety to digital training environments for safer self-driving cars – the technologies provided by these six companies are ahead of the innovation curve and I am thrilled to be helping them grow.”
One company, Parallel Domain, produces software for testing self-driving cars. Its founder and chief, Kevin McNamara, commented: “Receiving VC funding is a dream come true, but it’s important to us to get more than a check. Ubiquity… [doesn’t] just write a check, walk away, and wait for their returns – [it is] involved in our business and they understand our technology.”
The first six companies in the venture firm’s portfolio are listed at the bottom of this article; all descriptions are from Ubiquity Ventures.
Momentum appears to be building again for investments in industrial IoT, with private equity flowing around IoT and AI companies in the last months, on particular. Integration and analytics software firm TIBCO, a portfolio company of Vista Equity, announced a deal for SnappyData earlier this month, for an undisclosed sum. SnappyData was backed by Pivotal, GE Digital and GTD Capital.
Last week, Juniper Networks agreed a $405 million deal for Cupertino-based Mist Systems, which makes AI-powered “cloud-managed wireless networks”. Mist Systems saw Series C funding 12 months ago from Dimension Data, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Norwest Venture Partners.
Meanwhile, Austin-based ATX Seed Ventures has just closed a second fund for $32 million for local high-growth tech companies. ATX has $60 million in assets under management with 26 companies, focused on IoT, AI, and “frontier commercial tech”.
At the end of February, cloud platform company Pareteum Corporation – “with a mission to connect every person and every(thing)” (TM), serving IoT and telecs infrastructure providers, among others – closed a US$50 million credit facility with Stamford-based VC firm Post Road Group. Pareteum wants “targeted” mergers and acquisitions, at home and abroad.
Also late February, telematics and tracking provider Agilis Systems – applying its IoT solutions to a broadening mix of customers in trucking, construction, equipment rentals, and home services – saw investment from Spectrum Equity. The funding-size was undisclosed.
And just three weeks ago, Vancouver-based connected car platform Mojio completed Series B financing of about $40 million (USD), including strategic investments from Bosch and T-Mobile, alongside vehicle protection provider Assurant.
In January, the German government announced a state-backed venture capital fund to drive the digital transformation of industry and stimulate enterprise innovation in its home market. The new fund will be run by KfW, formerly KfW Bankengruppe, the government-owned development bank, based in Frankfurt. It is supported by the German ministry for economic affairs and energy (BMWi), as well as the ministry for finance.
Also in January, Israeli venture capital firm Magenta Venture Partners announced a new $100 million fund for early-stage Israeli startups focused variously on autonomous vehicles, Industry 4.0, smart cities, and fin-tech, and on artificial intelligence and enterprise software. The new fund had its initial closing in October 2018, and plans its final closing in 2019.
Calgary based industrial AI and IoT provider Osprey Informatics raised $2.75 million (USD) in January as well, from Shell Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Royal Dutch Shell, and Evok Innovations, the Silicon Valley startup fund. The investment round also saw participation also from InterGen Capital and existing shareholders.
The company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, Osprey Reach, manages remote cameras at a massive scale. It employs AI to analyse images and video, cross data with inputs from other sensors and systems, and deliver actionable insights.
The Ubiquity Ventures Six
“Founded by security veterans, Eclypsium plugs a massive security hole in today’s enterprise as well as the coming wave of smart hardware: unguarded firmware. Their product defends the foundational software called firmware from malicious attacks and thus secures the hardware infrastructure that powers our world.”
“Focused on building robust, affordable and human-safe robots, utilising software breakthroughs in machine learning and computer vision.”
“Halter is a livestock management company that pairs a smart hardware collar with an AI-powered backend to enable smart dairy farm management. Their point-and-click “cowgorithms” can physically control how cows are moved around a farm to enable smart rules for increased milk production and better animal health.”
”Through their proprietary security technology, Levl prevents the impersonation of wireless transmitters to secure a variety of communications, especially with low-power devices.”
“With the rise of self-driving vehicles, Parallel Domain enables the testing of self-driving cars through software that creates completely customisable photorealistic maps, dynamic agents and scenario management, as well as layered simulation to train self-driving cars in virtual environments before they are on the road.”
“By making Android secure and more practical for enterprise-owned devices, Shoonya is the layer that helps more software applications run in the field more securely and with more peace of mind.”