When it comes to corporate venture capital, semiconductor giant Intel has shaped up to be one of the most prolific and prescient investors in the tech world, with investments in 1,582 companies worldwide, and a tally of some 692 portfolio companies going public or otherwise exiting in the wake of Intel’s backing.
Today, the company announced its latest tranche of deals: $132 million invested in 11 startups. The deals speak to some of the company’s most strategic priorities currently and in the future, covering artificial intelligence, autonomous computing, and chip design.
Many corporate VCs have been clear in drawing a separation between their activities and that of their parents, and the same has held for Intel, but at the same time, the company has made a number of key moves that point to how it uses its VC muscle to expand its strategic relationships and also ultimately expand through M&A. Just earlier this month, it acquired Moovit, an Intel Capital portfolio company, for $900 million (a deal that was knocked down to $840 million when accounting for its previous investment).
“Intel Capital identifies and invests in disruptive startups that are working to improve the way we work and live. Each of our recent investments is pushing the boundaries in areas such as AI, data analytics, autonomous systems and semiconductor innovation. Intel Capital is excited to work with these companies as we jointly navigate the current world challenges and as we together drive sustainable, long-term growth,” said Wendell Brooks, Intel senior vice president and president of Intel Capital, in a statement.
The tranche of deals come at a critical time in the worlds of startups and venture investing. Many are worried that the slowdown in the economy, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, will mean a subsequent slowdown in tech finance. Intel says that it plans to invest between $300 million and $500 million in total this year, so this would go some way to refuting that idea, along with some of the other monster deals and big funds that we’ve written out in the last couple of months.
The list announced today doesn’t include specific investment numbers, but in some cases the startups have also announced the fundings themselves and given more detail on round sizes. These still, however, do not reveal Intel’s specific financial stakes.
Here’s the full list:
• Anodot uses machine learning for to monitor business operations autonomously, covering areas like app performance, customer incidents, and more. The idea is that using the platform to monitor for these incidents means detection and response time can be faster. The full $35 million round was announced back in April.
• Astera Labs is a fabless semiconductor startup focused on connectivity solutions for data-centric systems to remove performance bottlenecks in compute-intensive workloads in areas like AI. It announced its Series B of an undisclosed amount two weeks ago, and prior to this it had raised just over $6 million according to PitchBook.
• Axonne develops next generation high-speed automotive Ethernet network connectivity solutions for connected cars: addressing the issue of merging legacy or proprietary systems with the demands of advanced next-generation applications. Intel invested as part of a $9 million round that actually closed in March.
• Hypersonix uses big-data analytics to determine and predict customer demand for e-commerce, retail and hospitality customers. One of its customers is Amazon — which uses Hypersonix’s platform in its supply chain division. That may come as a surprise, but according to Hypersonix’s CEO the e-commerce giant does not have dedicated analytics teams to serve every division in the company, so sometimes they do buy from third parties. The round was actually announced at the beginning of this month: an $11.5 million deal.
• KFBIO out of China is one of Intel’s biotechnology bets. The company has designed and built a digital pathology scanner, which aims to replace microscopes with its big data, cloud-based, and AI-powered insights. The obvious connection and interest here for Intel is on the processor side, but potentially brings Intel into a sphere where it can flex its muscle around a range of AI and cloud computing applications as well. The deal was closed at the beginning of April and totals around $14.2 million.
• Lilt has built an AI-powered language translation platform, not to compete with the likes of Google Translate for consumers, but to help those with international-facing websites and apps localise their services more efficiently. The company actually announced its round today: a $25 million Series B led by Intel.
• MemVerge focuses on “in-memory” computing, an architecture that makes it easier to deploy heavy, data-centric applications. It closed its round of $24.5 million at the beginning of April, and while it’s always worked with Intel processors, Intel’s investment was not public until today.
• ProPlus Electronics, also out of China, is an electronic design automation (“EDA”) startup that speeds up chip design and fabrication for semiconductor companies manufacturing a variety of chips at scale. It closed its round also at the beginning of April. The exact amount was undisclosed except to note that it was in the “hundreds of millions of Chinese Yuan” (or tens of millions of US dollars).
• Retrace is an under-the-radar dental data startup that uses AI to improve “dental decision making,” but according to its site seems also to focus on other healthcare areas. It’s not clear how big the round is or when it closed.
• Spectrum Materials out of China is another stealthy company that supplies gas and other materials to semiconductor makers.
• Xsight Labs based in Israel is building chipset designs to accelerate data-intensive workloads that you typically get with AI and analytical applications. Israel has a huge R&D centre in Israel focused on autonomous driving, one of the applications that’s going to demand a lot in processing power, so this looks like a clearly strategic bet. The company raised $25 million in February, but Intel was not disclosed in that round previously.