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China, Israel investors back Innoviz for automotive lidar ramp

26 Mar 2019

$132M in first tranche of series C financing to support production ramp needed for BMW deal.

The Tel Aviv–based automotive lidar developer Innoviz Technologies says it has raised $132 million in new venture finance, cash that will support a production ramp needed to meet anticipated demand from key partner BMW.

Largely provided by a combination of institutional investors in China and Israel so far, the series C funding round remains open for further investment. It marks the entrance of major new investors in the form of China Merchants Capital, Shenzhen Capital Group, and New Alliance Capital. Innoviz had raised $9 million and $65 million in earlier rounds.

Israeli institutional investors in the series C effort include Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services, and Phoenix Insurance Company. “Given demand from additional investors, the Series C round will remain open for a second closing to be announced in the coming months,” noted the firm.

Massive scale needed
“This significant raise will support Innoviz’s commercialization of its leading InnovizPro and InnovizOne solid-state lidar solutions and address growing demand for cutting-edge autonomous vehicles technologies worldwide,” announced Innoviz, which last year engaged with key partner BMW via the German car giant’s deal with the automotive parts company Magna International.

“The company is focusing expansion efforts in key automotive markets including the US, Europe, Japan, and China,” added Innoviz, which also plans to expand its research and development efforts in both the hardware and software realms, with an eye on cost reductions and improved performance.

Omer Keilaf, the Innoviz CEO and a co-founder of the company alongside alumni from the technologically influential Israel Defense Forces intelligence corps, said in a release:

“We’ve experienced significant growth over the past year to meet increased demand for solid-state lidar. This fundraising enables many of the substantial commitments it takes to bring this technology to market at a massive scale - the scale required by Tier 1 suppliers and automakers leveraging lidar to deliver autonomous vehicles to the masses by 2021.”

The large tranche of cash will support a transition of production, manufacturing and research and development efforts into the company’s next phase, Keilaf added.

“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,” said the CEO. The company has previously told optics.org that it thinks the price of its sensors could fall below $100 if manufactured in sufficient volumes.

Supply chain partners
Among Innoviz’ key partners within the automotive supply chain are original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers in the form of Magna, HARMAN, and HiRain Technologies. Another major manufacturing partner is Jabil Optics. Those industry connections are seen as critical, with analyst Sam Abuelsamid from Navigant Research quoted in the Innoviz release saying:

“Among the dozens of lidar startups that have popped up in recent years, only a small handful have progressed far enough and demonstrated the capability to get to volume production and be selected for new vehicle programs, including Innoviz.

“Sensor companies that can develop partnerships with established automotive suppliers that understand the integration, validation and production requirements to ensure automotive levels of product reliability and safety will also have an advantage in achieving scale.”

The partnership with Magna, which also participated in the series C round, proved key to Innoviz’ sensors being selected by BMW for series production of vehicles that is expected to begin in 2021.

Innoziv says that the BMW deal, announced in April 2018, represented an industry-first design win for solid-state lidar that has “defined a path” for the photonics technology to enter the automotive sector.

“Innoviz’s new funding will assist in bringing this program, as well as additional automotive OEM design wins, to production at scale, as well as provide overall support for the expected company growth,” announced the firm.

Although the emerging market for self-driving cars remains the priority, Innoviz says that it will also ramp production to meet demand for its InnovizPro product in a variety of other applications.

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