Israeli startup Innoviz Technologies, which develops solid-state LiDAR sensors and perception software for the car industry, announced today that it has raised an extra $38 million as part of its Series C financing round. This brings the Series C financing round to $170 million and the total amount raised by the company to $252 million. All the funds raised will be available for investment by the company. The financing round was completed, according to market sources, at a company valuation of $550-600 million.
Innoviz was founded in 2016 by CEO Omer Kailef, Oren Rosenzweig, Amit Steinberg, and Oren Buskila.
The company has declined to reveal the names of the latest investors, claiming that they insisted on anonymity but did say they included financial and strategic investors including a well-known Asian semiconductor corporation. The first part of the series C financing round was led by Chinese funds China Merchants SINO-BLR Capital Management and Shenzhen Capital Group and New Alliance Capital, as well as Israeli investment institutions Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services (TASE: HARL) and Phoenix Holdings (TASE: PHOE).
Since it was founded, Innoviz has formed a number of partnerships with a growing group of leading auto suppliers, among which are Harman, Magna, Aptiv, and HiRain Technologies. In addition, auto manufacturer BMW will begin installing Innoviz's LiDAR detectors in BMW's autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, starting in 2021.
The company now has 250 employees in its offices around the world. 225 of them are in Israel: 130 development personnel and the rest in operations and business development. Following the financing round, the company is planning to hired dozens more employees in the coming year. The money will also be used to continue setting up the company's production lines in China for manufacturing hundreds of thousands of units annually.
Innoviz's development, based on a high-definition solid-state LiDAR sensor, facilitates remote 3D scanning and provides a high-definition image of a vehicle's surrounding in all weather conditions. The final product is smaller and cheaper than comparable laser-based products, while significantly improving range and resolution.
Since closing the first part of the financing round Innoviz has hired two computer vision industry experts, Dr. Raja Giryes and Or Shimshi, to serve as strategic collaborators to the product and software team, leveraging their extensive experience, deep learning and machine learning techniques to grow Innoviz's lead in providing unparalleled perception software as part of its holistic hardware and software stack. Dr. Raja's experience includes senior academic and research roles and a doctorate in computer science. Or brings significant private sector experience managing teams and serving in advisory roles for computer vision, deep learning, machine learning and AI with Samsung Semiconductors, Intel, Qualcomm and Citi Bank.
Innoviz is currently developing the second generation of these sensors, which will provide a larger range of vision, higher resolution, and a larger field of vision capable of providing an image up to 50 times more accurate than the existing sensor. The company manufactures its first sensor in Haifa, but the production line does not meet the standard required for autonomous driving products and is incapable of producing large enough quantities to meet the demand from the company. Innoviz therefore plans to produce its new sensor in China, and is working on setting up a production line in that country.
Kailef said, "Automation of the production line has begun in Israel and the moment that the production line here operates automatically we will move it to China. Car factories must undergo very many quality assurance checks in order to receive approval and in Israel there is no factory that has undergone such a process. Because this is such a long process - and we are supposed to start this process next year - we are compelled to use a factory that has already undergone this process. To my mind it's a shame, because so much of the technology in the sector has been developed here. I think it would be the right investment by the government to bring here all the knowhow related to production."
He added, "While all our rivals are still struggling with the capability to develop their sensors, our LiDAR is reaching its final stages and we are preparing for in which we will be more focused on efforts and attention towards the software layer above the LiDAR. That is the layer that interprets the 3D data above the sensor and knows how to identify objects such as cars and people. For car manufacturers, the interface between the sensor and computer must produce data that will be as close as possible an insight to the raw image received from the sensor. By developing this ourselves, we relieve the car companies from the need to develop this software themselves."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 10, 2019
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