By KYLE WIGGERS, VentureBeat
Hot on the heels of Ouster’s fresh fundraising round, Israeli lidar startup Innoviz Technologies this week announced that it, too, has secured additional venture capital — and an enormous amount of it, to boot. Innoviz says it’s raised $132 million in series C financing led by China Merchants Capital, with participation from Shenzhen Capital Group, New Alliance Capital, Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services, and Phoenix Insurance Company. It’s keeping the round open, and expects a second closing in the coming months.
The series C — which comes after a $65 million series B in September 2017 and a $9 million series A in 2016 — brings Innoviz’s total raised to a whopping $214 million, which CEO Omer Keilaf says will help to further its research and development efforts and concurrent expansion into “key” automotive markets in U.S., Europe, Japan, and China.
“We’ve experienced significant growth over the past year to meet increased demand for solidstate LiDAR,” Keilaf said. “This fundraising enables many of the substantial commitments it takes to bring this technology to market at a massive scale. We’re excited to transition our production, manufacturing, and research and development efforts into the next phase and continue to furnish the full stack of LiDAR hardware and software solutions to the industry.”
Lidar — sensors that measure the distance to target objects by illuminating them with laser light and measuring the reflected pulses — are at the core of a number of autonomous car systems, including those from Uber and Lyft, and have applications in domains from robotics and security to agricultural technology. Innoviz has two spotlight products: the InnovizPro, a solid-state lidar with a 150-meter range and 20-frames-per-second framerate, and InnovizOne, an “automotive-grade” aftermarket, long-range development kit with a 250-meter range, ultra-wide field of view (120 degrees), and a 25-frames-per-second framerate.
Innoviz provides more than just the hardware that guides its clients’ autonomous systems. It’s also developing perception software with the goal of crafting an end-to-end sensing platform for original equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers, a go-to-market strategy that’s snagged it customers like Harman, HiRain Technologies, and Aptiv. BMW recently selected Innoviz’s computer vision software for a series of production cars starting in 2021, and the company says it’s actively working with additional partners — including auto industry suppliers Delphi and Magna — while pursuing new customers in the automotive space.
The lidar market is projected to be worth $1.8 billion in just five years, and it’s an overcrowded field. Israeli startup Innoviz Technologies raised $65 million in September 2017 for its lidar tech, following on the heels of funding rounds by Oryx and TetraVue. Luminar, which claims to have developed lidars with a range of more than 250 meters and a 120-degree field of view, recently announced a strategic partnership with Volvo, and in January, lidar startup Baraja raised $32 million for its innovative prism-like optics design. That’s not to mention far-infrared pioneer AdaSky, ground-penetrating radar startup WaveSense, and velocity-measuring sensor company Aeva, all of which seek to develop technologies that complement traditional vision-based autonomous car perception systems.
Waymo is yet another recent segment entrant. This month, the Alphabet subsidiary announced it would begin selling its proprietary near-range, 360-degree lidar design — Laser Bear Honeycomb — to “dozens” of customers in the coming weeks to months.
But Innoviz is betting its lidar sensors’ compact designs will help it maintain its venture capital advantage. It notes that its sensors are solid-state, meaning they don’t rely on mechanical parts susceptible to wear and tear, and claims they have “superior” capabilities across different weather conditions compared with competing lidar designs.
“As the autonomous driving market matures, Innoviz has clearly established itself among industry leaders not only as the best-in-class lidar solution but also as an integral part of the overall autonomous vehicle stack,” Keilaf said. “This round is a strong testament to the excellent progress we’ve made in cementing our technology as a true market leader capable of meeting the rigorous automotive standards at a cost that makes mass production realistic.”
Innoviz, which was founded in 2016 by Keilaf, Amit Steinberg, Oren Buskila, Oren Rosenzweig, and Zohar Zisapel, has attracted a raft of investors including Samsung, Vertex Ventures, SoftBank Ventures Asia, 360 Capital Partners, Glory Ventures, and Naver. It currently employs over 200 people across offices in China, Germany, Japan, the U.S., and its headquarters in Israel.