Flexciton is using AI to help factories optimise production lines

Flexciton, the London-based startup that is using AI to help factories optimise production lines, has raised £2.5 million in funding, in a round led by Backed VC. Also participating is Join Capital and company builder Entrepreneur First. The young company pitched at EF’s 6th London demo day in 2016. Riding the so-called “Industry 4.0” wave, […]

Flexciton, the London-based startup that is using AI to help factories optimise production lines, has raised £2.5 million in funding, in a round led by Backed VC. Also participating is Join Capital and company builder Entrepreneur First. The young company pitched at EF’s 6th London demo day in 2016.

Riding the so-called “Industry 4.0” wave, Flexciton has developed an AI-driven solution to optimise the way manufacturers plan and schedule “multi-step production lines,” which it says is a complex mathematical task faced by all manufacturers. It’s also traditionally quite a manual one, with existing software solutions still leaving a lot of the heavy lifting to humans.

“Running every factory in the world is a plan for that factory’s production,” explains Flexciton co-founder Jamie Potter. “This plan dictates everything which goes on in the factory. Plan well and a factory can be very profitable but plan badly and the same factory could deliver late on customer orders, overspend on equipment and materials and have its margins destroyed”.

Potter says that typically a human manually creates a plan based on their past experience, which isn’t always optimal. “The difference between an Ok plan and the optimal plan is huge for a factory, planning well can save a single factory many millions of pounds per year. The problem is, finding that optimal plan is one of the hardest mathematical problems that exists in the real world”.

Which, of course, is where more machines can help. Flexciton’s AI technology learns from a factory’s data, and Potter says it can understand exactly how that factory works. “It can then search through the trillions of different options to find the most efficient production plan. The results can be staggering too as our technology has shown time and again that it is capable of double-digit performance gains to a factory!” he says.

Already revenue-generating, Flexciton has customers in the textiles, food, automotive and semiconductor sectors. “We love to work with particularly complicated factories. Here the planning problem is the hardest and this is where we add the most value,” says Potter.

To back this up, Flexciton has recruited a number of experts in the field of industrial optimisation and AI. The current Flexciton team has published over 140 peer-reviewed academic papers, which focus on the practical application of this technology in eight different industrial use cases. To boot, Flexciton’s senior optimisation scientist, Dr. Giorgos Kopanos, has even published a book on the subject.

Flexciton is using AI to help factories optimise production lines

Flexciton, the London-based startup that is using AI to help factories optimise production lines, has raised £2.5 million in funding, in a round led by Backed VC. Also participating is Join Capital and company builder Entrepreneur First. The young company pitched at EF’s 6th London demo day in 2016. Riding the so-called “Industry 4.0” wave, […]

Flexciton, the London-based startup that is using AI to help factories optimise production lines, has raised £2.5 million in funding, in a round led by Backed VC. Also participating is Join Capital and company builder Entrepreneur First. The young company pitched at EF’s 6th London demo day in 2016.

Riding the so-called “Industry 4.0” wave, Flexciton has developed an AI-driven solution to optimise the way manufacturers plan and schedule “multi-step production lines,” which it says is a complex mathematical task faced by all manufacturers. It’s also traditionally quite a manual one, with existing software solutions still leaving a lot of the heavy lifting to humans.

“Running every factory in the world is a plan for that factory’s production,” explains Flexciton co-founder Jamie Potter. “This plan dictates everything which goes on in the factory. Plan well and a factory can be very profitable but plan badly and the same factory could deliver late on customer orders, overspend on equipment and materials and have its margins destroyed”.

Potter says that typically a human manually creates a plan based on their past experience, which isn’t always optimal. “The difference between an Ok plan and the optimal plan is huge for a factory, planning well can save a single factory many millions of pounds per year. The problem is, finding that optimal plan is one of the hardest mathematical problems that exists in the real world”.

Which, of course, is where more machines can help. Flexciton’s AI technology learns from a factory’s data, and Potter says it can understand exactly how that factory works. “It can then search through the trillions of different options to find the most efficient production plan. The results can be staggering too as our technology has shown time and again that it is capable of double-digit performance gains to a factory!” he says.

Already revenue-generating, Flexciton has customers in the textiles, food, automotive and semiconductor sectors. “We love to work with particularly complicated factories. Here the planning problem is the hardest and this is where we add the most value,” says Potter.

To back this up, Flexciton has recruited a number of experts in the field of industrial optimisation and AI. The current Flexciton team has published over 140 peer-reviewed academic papers, which focus on the practical application of this technology in eight different industrial use cases. To boot, Flexciton’s senior optimisation scientist, Dr. Giorgos Kopanos, has even published a book on the subject.

The AI market is growing, but how quickly is tough to pin down

If you work in tech, you’ve heard about AI: how it’s going to replace us, whether it’s over-hyped or not and which nations will leverage it. Our interest? How much money is going into startups?

If you work in tech, you’ve heard about artificial intelligence: how it’s going to replace uswhether it’s over-hyped or not and which nations will leverage it to prevent, or instigate, war.

Our editorial bent is more clear-cut: How much money is going into startups? Who is putting that money in? And what trends can we suss out about the health of the market over time?

So let’s talk about the state of AI startups and how much capital is being raised. Here’s what I can tell you: funding totals for AI startups are growing year-over-year; I just don’t know precisely how quickly. Regardless, startups are certainly raising massive sums of money off the buzzword.

To make that point, here are just a few of the biggest rounds announced and recorded by Crunchbase in 2018:

  • SenseTime, a China-based startup that is quite good at tracking your face wherever it may be, raised a $1 billion Series D round. It was the largest round of the year in the AI category, according to Crunchbase. But what’s more mind-blowing is that the company raised a total of $2.2 billion in just one year across three rounds. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a face is worth billions of dollars.
  • UBTech Robotics, another China-based startup focusing on robotics, raised an $820 million Series C. Just a cursory look at its website, however, makes UBTech appear to be a high-end toy maker rather than an AI innovator.
  • And biotech startup Zymergen, which “manufactures microbes for Fortune 500 companies,” according to Crunchbase, raised a $400 million Series C.

Now, this is the part I normally include a chart and 400 words of copy to contextualize the AI market. But if you read the above descriptions closely, you’ll see our problem: What the hell does “AI” mean?

Take Zymergen as an example. Crunchbase tags it with the AI marker. Bloomberg, citing data from CB Insights, agrees. But if you were making the decision, would you demarcate it as an AI company?

Zymergen’s own website doesn’t employ the phrase. Rather, it uses buzzwords commonly associated with AI — machine learning, automation. Zymergen’s home page, technology page and careers page are devoid of the term.

Instead, the company focuses on molecular technology. Artificial intelligence is not, in fact, what Zymergen is selling. We also know that Zymergen uses some AI-related tools to help it understand its data sets (check its jobs page for more). But is that enough to call it an AI startup? I don’t think so. I would call it biotech.

That brings us back to the data. In the spirit of transparency, CB Insights reports a 72 percent boost in 2018 AI investment over 2017 funding totals. Crunchbase data pegs 2018’s AI funding totals at a more modest 38 percent increase over the preceding year.

So we know that AI fundraising for private companies is growing. The two numbers make that plain. But it’s increasingly clear to me after nearly two years of staring at AI funding rounds that there’s no market consensus over exactly what counts as an AI startup. Bloomberg in its coverage of CB Insights’ report doesn’t offer a definition. What would yours be?

If you don’t have one, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Professionals constantly debate what AI actually means, and who actually deserves the classification. There’s no taxonomy for startups like how we classify animals. It’s flexible, and with PR, you can bend perception past reality.

I have a suspicion there are startups that overstate their proximity to AI. For instance, is employing Amazon’s artificial intelligence services in your back end enough to call yourself an AI startup? I would say no. But after perusing Crunchbase data, you can see plenty of startups that classify themselves on such slippery grounds.

And the problem we’re encountering rhymes well with a broader definitional crisis: What exactly is a tech company? In the case of Blue Apron, public investors certainly differed with private investors over the definition, as Alex Wilhelm has touched on before.

So what I can tell you is that AI startup funding is up. By how much? A good amount. But the precise figure is hard to pin down until we all agree what counts as an AI startup.

Following a record year, Illinois startups kick off 2019 on a strong foot

Illinois’s startup market in 2018 was very strong, and it’s not slowing down. Let’s take a quick look at the state of venture in the Land of Lincoln.

Illinois’s startup market in 2018 was very strong, and it’s not slowing down as we settle into 2019. There’s already almost $100 million in new VC funding announced, so let’s take a quick look at the state of venture in the Land of Lincoln (with a specific focus on Chicago).

In the chart below, we’ve plotted venture capital deal and dollar volume for Illinois as a whole. Reported funding data in Crunchbase shows a general upward trend in dollar volume, culminating in nearly $2 billion worth of VC deals in 2018; however, deal volume has declined since peaking in 2014.1

Chicago accounts for 97 percent of the dollar volume and 90.7 percent of total deal volume in the state. We included the rest of Illinois to avoid adjudicating which towns should be included in the greater Chicago area.

In addition to all the investment in 2018, a number of venture-backed companies from Chicago exited last year. Here’s a selection of the bigger deals from the year:

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that 2018 was the best year for venture-backed startup acquisitions in Chicago “in recent memory.” Crunchbase News has previously shown that the Midwest (which is anchored by Chicago) may have fewer startup exits, but the exits that do happen often result in better multiples on invested capital (calculated by dividing the amount of money a company was sold for by the amount of funding it raised from investors).

2018 was a strong year for Chicago startups, and 2019 is shaping up to bring more of the same. Just a couple weeks into the new year, a number of companies have already announced big funding rounds.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more notable deals struck so far this year:

Besides these, a number of seed deals have been announced. These include relatively large rounds raised by 3D modeling technology company ThreeKit, upstart futures exchange Small Exchange and 24/7 telemedicine service First Stop Health.

Globally, and in North America, venture deal and dollar volume hit new records in 2018. However, it’s unclear what 2019 will bring. What’s true at a macro level is also true at the metro level. Don’t discount the City of the Big Shoulders, though.

  1. Note that many seed and early-stage deals are reported several months or quarters after a transaction is complete. As those historical deals get added to Crunchbase over time, we’d expect to see deal and dollar volume from recent years rise slightly.

Startups Weekly: Squad’s screen-shares and Slack’s swastika

We’re three weeks into January. We’ve recovered from our CES hangover and, hopefully, from the CES flu. We’ve started writing the correct year, 2019, not 2018. Venture capitalists have gone full steam ahead with fundraising efforts, several startups have closed multi-hundred million dollar rounds, a virtual influencer raised equity funding and yet, all anyone wants to talk […]

We’re three weeks into January. We’ve recovered from our CES hangover and, hopefully, from the CES flu. We’ve started writing the correct year, 2019, not 2018.

Venture capitalists have gone full steam ahead with fundraising efforts, several startups have closed multi-hundred million dollar rounds, a virtual influencer raised equity funding and yet, all anyone wants to talk about is Slack’s new logo… As part of its public listing prep, Slack announced some changes to its branding this week, including a vaguely different looking logo. Considering the flack the $7 billion startup received instantaneously and accusations that the negative space in the logo resembled a swastika — Slack would’ve been better off leaving its original logo alone; alas…

On to more important matters.

Rubrik more than doubled its valuation

The data management startup raised a $261 million Series E funding at a $3.3 billion valuation, an increase from the $1.3 billion valuation it garnered with a previous round. In true unicorn form, Rubrik’s CEO told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden it’s intentionally unprofitable: “Our goal is to build a long-term, iconic company, and so we want to become profitable but not at the cost of growth,” he said. “We are leading this market transformation while it continues to grow.”

Deal of the week: Knock gets $400M to take on Opendoor

Will 2019 be a banner year for real estate tech investment? As $4.65 billion was funneled into the space in 2018 across more than 350 deals and with high-flying startups attracting investors (Compass, Opendoor, Knock), the excitement is poised to continue. This week, Knock brought in $400 million at an undisclosed valuation to accelerate its national expansion. “We are trying to make it as easy to trade in your house as it is to trade in your car,” Knock CEO Sean Black told me.

Cybersecurity stays hot

While we’re on the subject of VCs’ favorite industries, TechCrunch cybersecurity reporter Zack Whittaker highlights some new data on venture investment in the industry. Strategic Cyber Ventures says more than $5.3 billion was funneled into companies focused on protecting networks, systems and data across the world, despite fewer deals done during the year. We can thank Tanium, CrowdStrike and Anchorfree’s massive deals for a good chunk of that activity.

Send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Fundraising efforts continue

I would be remiss not to highlight a slew of venture firms that made public their intent to raise new funds this week. Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures filed to raise $350 million across two new funds and Redpoint Ventures set a $400 million target for two new China-focused funds. Meanwhile, Resolute Ventures closed on $75 million for its fourth early-stage fund, BlueRun Ventures nabbed $130 million for its sixth effort, Maverick Ventures announced a $382 million evergreen fund, First Round Capital introduced a new pre-seed fund that will target recent graduates, Techstars decided to double down on its corporate connections with the launch of a new venture studio and, last but not least, Lance Armstrong wrote his very first check as a VC out of his new fund, Next Ventures.

More money goes toward scooters

In case you were concerned there wasn’t enough VC investment in electric scooter startups, worry no more! Flash, a Berlin-based micro-mobility company, emerged from stealth this week with a whopping €55 million in Series A funding. Flash is already operating in Switzerland and Portugal, with plans to launch into France, Italy and Spain in 2019. Bird and Lime are in the process of raising $700 million between them, too, indicating the scooter funding extravaganza of 2018 will extend into 2019 — oh boy!

Startups secure cash

  • Niantic finally closed its Series C with $245 million in capital commitments and a lofty $4 billion valuation.
  • Outdoorsy, which connects customers with underused RVs, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.
  • Ciitizen, a developer of tools to help cancer patients organize and share their medical records, has raised $17 million in new funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Footwear startup Birdies — no, I don’t mean Allbirds or Rothy’s — brought in an $8 million Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Slow Ventures and earlier investor Forerunner Ventures.
  • And Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth $125 million with new funding.

Feature of the week

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine introduced readers to Squad this week, a screensharing app for social phone addicts.

Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I marveled at the dollars going into scooter startups, discussed Slack’s upcoming direct listing and debated how the government shutdown might impact the IPO market.

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Whyd now helps companies create their custom voice assistant

Y Combinator-backed startup Whyd is pivoting from hardware to software. The startup had been working on a connected speaker with a voice-control interface specifically designed for music. But a couple of years later, it’s clear that subsidized voice assistant devices from Google and Amazon have taken over the market. Whyd is only keeping its own […]

Y Combinator-backed startup Whyd is pivoting from hardware to software. The startup had been working on a connected speaker with a voice-control interface specifically designed for music. But a couple of years later, it’s clear that subsidized voice assistant devices from Google and Amazon have taken over the market.

Whyd is only keeping its own software platform and partnering with other companies. In other words, if you’re working on an app, a website or a skill for the Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can create your own voice assistant to interact with your content.

This way, your users get the same experience across all platforms and you don’t have to rely on Amazon’s or Google’s services.

“We let you integrate with a database of millions of items, create a custom agent and release it,” Whyd co-founder and CEO Gilles Poupardin told me. You can think about it as a sort of Algolia for voice queries. Instead of limiting yourself to basic queries (“play my favorite playlist”), you can handle complicated queries (“I want to dance on electronic music”).

In particular, Whyd focuses on the cloud infrastructure behind your voice assistant. The company doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and lets you use any speech-to-text SDK. But Whyd can then interpret your query and give you results in little time.

The startup has already worked with 8tracks on its voice assistant. You can now search for music playlists in the mobile app using a voice assistant now. Whyd has developed different models for other verticals. You can imagine a voice assistant for video on demand, e-commerce and other services.

This is what happens between your database and your front end when users interact with their voice:

SimplyCook dishes up £4.5M Series A for its subscription-based flavourings and recipe service

SimplyCook, the recipe kit service that focuses on flavour ingredients, has closed £4.5 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Octopus Investments. Unlike other recipe or meal kits, such as HelloFresh, Gousto and Marley Spoon, U.K.-based SimplyCook doesn’t send all of the fresh ingredients required to turn its recipes into food on […]

SimplyCook, the recipe kit service that focuses on flavour ingredients, has closed £4.5 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Octopus Investments.

Unlike other recipe or meal kits, such as HelloFresh, Gousto and Marley Spoon, U.K.-based SimplyCook doesn’t send all of the fresh ingredients required to turn its recipes into food on your table. Instead, the subscription service consists of recipe cards and what SimplyCook calls “ingredients kits,” which are herbs, spices, sauces and other extras needed to cook each meal.

It’s not only a product that potentially has better margins than fresh food recipe kits — by negating the need to manage such perishable goods — SimplyCook founder and CEO Oli Ashness argues that SimplyCook’s flavour kits have broader mass-market appeal, too.

“Flavour products are used by over 50 percent of consumers weekly,” he says. “Whereas fresh food delivery still caters for maybe 0.25-0.5 percent of evening meals in the UK. Flavour already works as a way to get people cooking. Fresh Meal Kits are fairly unproven”.

“I am actually a fan of how some fresh food players are run and their founders, however, I am still not convinced fresh food meal kits will ever be mass market like us due to the level of monthly commitment. Getting people to spend [less than] £10 per month is much easier than asking them to spend £120-£200 per month, in my opinion. It’s going to be much easier for us to build a big base in customer numbers”.

He also makes the valid point that SimplyCook builds on the success of traditional flavour brands, such as Old El paso, Dolmio, Knorr, and Schwartz, “[that] have got millions cooking”.

Related to this, as well as selling subscriptions online, the company has launched SimplyCook recipe kits in physical retail stores. This is seeing it pursue a hybrid online/offline model that Ashness likens to healthy snack company Graze. (Notably, HelloFresh tried selling into grocery stores in the U.K., before cooling on the idea).

Meanwhile, SimplyCook says its Series A funding will be used to invest in technology and sales & marketing, in order to drive continued growth across the U.K. and beyond.

“We also expect this funding round to fuel international launches,” adds the SimplyCook CEO, [and to] provide working capital for the retail business and allow us to invest in technology to aid our operations. These investments we’ll make over the next 2 years”.

Flash, the stealthy e-scooter and ‘micro-mobility’ startup from Delivery Hero founder, raises €55M Series A

Flash, the stealthy mobility startup from Delivery Hero and Team Europe founder Lukasz Gadowski, is de-cloaking today, with news that the Berlin-based company has raised a whopping €55 million in Series A funding. Despite rumours that multiple VC firms would be involved, the bulk of the new funding comes from Target Global via its mobility […]

Flash, the stealthy mobility startup from Delivery Hero and Team Europe founder Lukasz Gadowski, is de-cloaking today, with news that the Berlin-based company has raised a whopping €55 million in Series A funding.

Despite rumours that multiple VC firms would be involved, the bulk of the new funding comes from Target Global via its mobility fund, which led this round and was already an existing backer of Flash. Others participating in Flash’s Series A include Idinvest Partners, Signals Venture Capital and a number of unnamed angel investors.

Notably, Gadowski is listed as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Target Global, and has been broadly working in the mobility space for the past two years. Rather quietly, he is also an investor in Grin, the Mexico City-based electric scooter company backed by Y Combinator.

In a call with Gadowski, he filled in many of the blanks relating to his new venture, including positioning Flash as a “micro-mobility” company that wants to solve the last-mile transportation problem. The startup is initially entering the e-scooter rental space, but this is just the beginning, he says. More broadly, the way he and his team think about Flash is that it is “unbundling” the car, with new forms of transport.

“In a few years time, micro-mobility will look very different from today,” says Gadowski, revealing that before founding Flash last year, he also took a hard look at new forms of aviation.

Even though it is still very early days for Flash, the startup already boasts a current team of more than 50 full-time employees, recruited from the likes of Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb. Alongside Gadowski, the other Flash co-founders are Carlos Bhola (Corp. Development) and Tim Rucquoi-Berger (Supply & Operations).

“This is not a scooter” – Flash branding in stealth mode

Notably — and definitely quietly — Flash is already operating in Switzerland and Portugal, with plans to launch into France, Italy and Spain in spring 2019, and in the rest of Europe in summer 2019.

The existing launches have been soft-launches, to say the least, with Flash e-scooters not initially carrying the company’s branding, instead sporting the label “This is not a scooter,” part in-house word play, part a statement of intent. Not just another scooter company might be an even more apt label if Gadowski’s longer-term ambitions are realised.

Perhaps more of a product-market-fit trial than anything else, Flash has initially used off-the-shelf e-scooters at launch, whilst simultaneously developing its own hardware and technology. The startup is headquartered in Berlin, but Gadowski tells me the team was first posted in China, establishing a supply chain and other partnerships that he believes can help give Flash the edge.

I put to him a common belief amongst some VCs that the e-scooter space in Europe is heading for a bloodbath that will continue to see a huge amount of venture capital pumped into the space, and subsequently many losers and a lot of money lost.

Recent raises by European e-scooter startups include Wind Mobility ($22 million), VOI ($50 million and Tier (€25 million). Meanwhile, Taxify has also announced its entrance into e-scooter rentals, and Bird and Lime have received substantial investment from three of Europe’s top venture capital firms. Index and Accel have backed Bird, and Atomico has backed Lime.

Gadowski appears for the most part unfazed by the swelling of competition coffers, although he does concede that the current “land grab” is forcing Flash to move slightly faster than it might have done otherwise. In some ways, he would have preferred to continue a more staggered, cautious roll-out, describing the startup as “product-first and multi-vehicle,” and says its customers are not just users of the service but local residents more broadly and the authorities with which it needs to coordinate. “Mistakes can be a lot more serious than at Delivery Hero, safety is involved,” he cautions.

The size of recent funding rounds in the space has also surprised him. However, he doesn’t think this is a “Facebook scenario,” where there will only be a single winner. Several micro-mobility companies can happily co-exist, he says, and the early movers are helping to pave the way for others, including Flash.

I suggest that the e-scooter land grab at its current pace also has a high chance of provoking a backlash amongst consumers and/or authorities, perhaps after a more serious safety accident or other source of reputational damage. Gadowski concedes this is definitely a “short-term” risk, but says there is so much determination by governments and local authorities to solve congestion and the last-mile problem, he doesn’t believe it will be a long-term one.

Finally, I asked Gadowski if he is considering acquiring smaller e-scooter startups in Europe (or perhaps elsewhere), as part of a roll-up strategy that would help the company leapfrog competitors. He declined to rule out acquisitions entirely — Delivery Hero was very effective in this regard — but said it doesn’t make much sense right now as hype in the space has pushed valuations way up. A more likely scenario, he says, is investing in or acquiring startups that can help with other aspects of the business, such as in the supply chain.

Slack’s product chief is out ahead of direct listing

Slack’s chief product officer April Underwood is stepping down to focus on investing full time.

Slack is losing its chief product officer April Underwood ahead of a direct listing expected in 2019.

Underwood joined Slack, the provider of workplace communication tools, in 2015 as its head of platform after a five-year stint as Twitter’s director of product. She was promoted to the chief product role about 10 months ago. Underwood is also a founding partner of #Angels, an investment collective that pushes to get more women on startup cap tables.

In a Medium post announcing her departure from Slack, Underwood said she planned to focus on investing full time.

“One common story you hear when you talk to founders is that their idea ran as a background process for many years until it moved into the foreground and became a calling too loud to ignore,” Underwood wrote. “And now, I can truly empathize with founders — because that’s happened for me. Investing, which started as a side hustle for me and my #Angels partners, has emerged as the pursuit too inspiring and energizing to be relegated to my spare time.”

During her tenure, Underwood had a hand in crafting Slack’s investment fund — a pool of capital supported by Accel, Index Ventures, KPCB, Social Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Spark Capital that has invested in 49 projects building on top of Slack to date.

Slack, led by founder and chief executive officer Stewart Butterfield, is said to be preparing for a direct listing, meaning it will go public without listing any new shares, with no lockup period and no intermediary bankers. Valued at roughly $7 billion, Slack has raised more than $1 billion to date from GV, IVP, T. Rowe Price, SoftBank, Kleiner Perkins, Accel and others.

Slack did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SeeTree raises $11.5M to help farmers manage their orchards

SeeTree, a Tel Aviv-based startup that uses drones and artificial intelligence to bring precision agriculture to their groves, today announced that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A funding round led by Hanaco Ventures, with participation from previous investors Canaan Partners Israel, Uri Levine and his investors group, iAngel and Mindset. This brings the […]

SeeTree, a Tel Aviv-based startup that uses drones and artificial intelligence to bring precision agriculture to their groves, today announced that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A funding round led by Hanaco Ventures, with participation from previous investors Canaan Partners Israel, Uri Levine and his investors group, iAngel and Mindset. This brings the company’s total funding to $15 million.

The idea behind the company, which also has offices in California and Brazil, is that in the past, drone-based precision agriculture hasn’t really lived up to its promise and didn’t work all that well for permanent crops like fruit trees. “In the past two decades, since the concept was born, the application of it, as well as measuring techniques, has seen limited success — especially in the permanent-crop sector,” said SeeTree CEO Israel Talpaz. “They failed to reach the full potential of precision agriculture as it is meant to be.”

He argues that the future of precision agriculture has to take a more holistic view of the entire farm. He also believes that past efforts didn’t quite offer the quality of data necessary to give permanent crop farmers the actionable recommendations they need to manage their groves.

SeeTree is obviously trying to tackle these issues and it does so by offering granular per-tree data based on the imagery gathered from drones and the company’s machine learning algorithms that then analyze this imagery. Using this data, farmers can then decide to replace trees that underperform, for example, or map out a plan to selectively harvest based on the size of a tree’s fruits and its development stages. They can then also correlate all of this data with their irrigation and fertilization infrastructure to determine the ROI of those efforts.

“Traditionally, farmers made large-scale business decisions based on intuitions that would come from limited (and often unreliable) small-scale testing done by the naked eye,” said Talpaz. “With SeeTree, farmers can now make critical decisions based on accurate and consistent small and large-scale data, connecting their actions to actual results in the field.”

SeeTree was founded by Talpaz, who like so many Israeli entrepreneurs previously worked for the country’s intelligence services, as well as Barak Hachamov (who you may remember from his early personalized news startup my6sense) and Guy Morgenstern, who has extensive experience as an R&D executive with a background in image processing and communications systems.