Koch Industries’ venture capital arm, Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), has led a $108 million funding round in Israeli semiconductor company Vayyar, the developer of 4D imaging radars for industries such as automotive, smart homes, and retail.
Vayyar said Monday that the round was the first of a two-stage Series E investment, the second of which will be announced next month. The two rounds will bring Vayyar’s total capital raised altogether to over $300 million. Vayyar raised $109 million in November 2019 with a group of investors that included KDT, as well as Battery Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, More VC, Regal Four, and Claltech — all of which participated in the first part of the Series E round.
Vayyar also welcomed as new investors GLy Capital Management, a part of Chinese multinational automotive company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, and Boston-based Atreides Management.
Vayyar was first founded in 2011 as a company that set out to detect early-stage breast cancer using RF (radio frequency) technology. It has since developed a number of leading, 4D systems-on-a-chip that can sense and track movements “through” walls and objects, the company says. These technologies can provide solutions in sectors like home security, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and elder care.
The company says its solutions ensure privacy and function “in all conditions, including darkness, smoke, steam, glare, and fog.”
In the elder care sphere, Vayyar says its wall-mounted sensor systems can help detect falls and monitor the well-being of senior citizens living independently or in assisted living facilities, while doing away with cameras, emergency buttons, and wearables. The company recently signed an agreement with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant technology, to integrate with the service through the Alexa Together program for caregivers and aging loved ones.
In the home space, Vayyar developed the Walabot DIY, a device that can “see” up to four inches (10.16 centimeters) into walls to reveal pipes, wires, studs, stud centers, and even pests.
And in the automotive sector, Vayyar says its 4D imaging radar-based platforms can increase safety inside vehicles (in-cabin safety), such as the detection of a forgotten, sleeping child in the backseat. These systems can also be used as a base for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Advanced Rider Assistance Systems (ARAS), mainly in motorcycles. The company says these radars can detect and track multiple stationary and moving targets in different road conditions.
Vayyar already works with automakers from Japan and Vietnam and recently secured an agreement with Italian motorbike company Piaggio to supply its ARAS offering, the company says.
Brett Chugg, senior managing director of KDT, said the investment firm was “excited to help further Vayyar’s vision to improve the health and safety of people’s lives on a global scale. Their 4D imaging technology is transforming the medical, smart home, elder care, and automotive markets here in the US and around the world.”
Vayyar co-founder and CEO Raviv Melamed acknowledged the downturn in the global economy and in the investment and tech communities, and said, “During a challenging period for the global economy, this new funding round is a ringing endorsement of our mission and a clear vote of confidence in the strength of our technology and the strategic agility of our organization.
Vayyar said the new funding will go toward developing its capabilities, expanding geographically and fueling growth across its existing markets.
Israel is home to about 600 semiconductor and sensor companies, according to the Start-Up Nation Central finder database.
Over the past few years, multinational giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel and Nvidia have all setting up or expanding their chip design operations in Israel, cementing the country’s position as a silicon workhorse alongside its status as a tech nation.
This move has been driven by a shift toward digitalization compounded by a global shortage of chips being felt across industries, spurring chipmakers and tech firms to begin developing their own semiconductors so they can expand operations.
Intel earlier this year announced the acquisition of Israeli company Tower Semiconductor, a chip-maker based in Migdal HaEmek-based for $5.4 billion. The US chip giant also bought Israeli artificial intelligence chipmaker Habana Labs in 2019.
Nvidia, which bought Israel’s Mellanox Technologies for $7 billion in 2020, recently said it was expanding its operations in Israel.
In 2015, Amazon bought Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, absorbing the company into its AWS operations. The Annapurna Labs team, headquartered in Haifa, develops high-performance hardware and software for AWS.