A so far missing piece of autonomous vehicles are cost-efficient laser-based 3D sensors, also known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). The Munich-based startup company Blickfeld develops such sensor systems and was now able to raise $4.25 million in a seed financing round from Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Tengelmann Ventures, und Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners.
Autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars, robots, and drones, need to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the world around them to safely navigate and operate. Blickfeld develops LiDAR systems that create high-definition, three-dimensional geometric maps. By using commercial off-the-shelf and silicon components, Blickfeld has developed and demonstrated a technology that can be produced in low-cost mass fabrication and meets the technical performance specifications required by car OEMs.
The investment will be used in order to qualify the sensor for use in series-production vehicles and to further grow the team of 18 engineers and experts. Vehicle manufacturers show great interest, as systems that have been available up to now are either significantly more expensive or cannot provide the required performance to enable autonomous vehicles to accurately perceive their environment.
Dr. Ulrich Eisele of OSRAM‘s venture capital arm Fluxunit explains: “We are convinced that Blickfeld and its innovative ray-guidance technique can be an important enabler for bringing LiDAR to the vehicle mass market.”
Dr. Florian Petit, who has founded the company together with optics expert Dr. Mathias Müller and software engineer Rolf Wojtech: “We are particularly proud of the support from both experienced venture capital investors, as well as from a large supplier to the automotive industry. On the way towards serial production, their diverse experience will help us to advance quickly. We are planning to deliver the first devices to automotive OEMs in early 2018.”
In view of the quickly growing LiDAR market, it is of paramount importance to protect inventions. Blickfeld has already filed 18 patent applications. In this regard, the support of business angel Dr. Sebastian Neusser, a patent attorney with long-lasting experience, is particularly valuable.
The close contacts between the investor consortium and the automotive industry open new doors for the team. For instance, lead investor Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners did not only invest in Europe’s leading long-distance bus company Flixbus and the car-sharing aggregator Carjump, but has also a close connection to the recently launched “Digital Hub Mobility”, a cooperation between the German government and industry players such as Audi, BMW, Daimler, IBM, Infineon and Facebook.
“Blickfeld’s innovative technological approach as well as the experienced founding team provide a unique opportunity to shape the LiDAR market and – together with the strong investor consortium – to establish a key technology provider for autonomous driving,” explains Andreas Unseld, Partner at Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners.
Similarly, the investors High-Tech Gründerfonds and Tengelmann Ventures have multiple automotive and mobility companies in their portfolios; among them Uber. In addition to industry contacts and expertise, the consortium is able to provide substantial follow-on investments in later rounds.
Company information Blickfeld
Blickfeld GmbH was founded in 2016 in Munich and pursues a novel approach to building LiDAR systems for the environmental perception of autonomous machines such as autonomous vehicles. By using commercial off-the-shelf and silicon components, Blickfeld has developed and demonstrated a unique technology that can be produced in low-cost mass fabrication and meets the technical performance specifications required by car OEMs. A high resolution and sampling rate are achieved by employing a patent-pending scanner technology which merges the best of both silicon microfabrication and already established LiDAR concepts. This advanced approach closes the gap between today’s high-cost systems and the automotive mass- market needs, and thus enables safe and affordable autonomous transportation.
Company information Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures
OSRAM, based in Munich, is a globally leading lighting manufacturer with a history dating back about 100 years. The product portfolio includes high-tech applications based on semiconductor technology such as infrared or laser lighting. The products are used in highly diverse applications ranging from virtual reality, autonomous driving or mobile phones to smart and connected lighting solutions in buildings and cities. In automotive lighting, the company is the global market and technology leader. Based on continuing operations (excluding Ledvance), OSRAM had around 24,600 employees worldwide at the end of fiscal 2016 (September 30) and generated revenue of almost €3.8 billion in that fiscal year. The company is listed on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt and Munich (ISIN: DE000LED4000; WKN: LED 400; trading symbol: OSR).
Fluxunit is the corporate venture capital arm of OSRAM. The goal of Fluxunit is to make innovative business models available for OSRAM. That is why Fluxunit forms strategic partnerships including minority shareeholdings with innovative startups.
Company information High Tech Gründerfonds
High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) is Europe’s most active seed-stage investor. With about €820 million under management, HTGF provides financing for technology-driven companies active in a wide range of fields, including robotics, IoT and energy, Medtech and Biotech, chemicals and software. The seed financing is designed to enable startups to take their ideas through prototyping and to market launch. HTGF can invest up to €3 million in total per company in follow-on financing rounds. Furthermore, startups benefit from HTGF’s team experience and expertise as well as the extensive network of investors, experts, managers and scouts.
Company information Tengelmann Venture Capital
Tengelmann Ventures (TEV) is one of Germany’s leading venture capital investors and has invested in over 50 companies over the past five years, many of which have become global players and market leaders in their particular segment. TEV focuses mainly on early- and later-stage investment in technology startups, internet marketplaces, and consumer internet companies. The team funds companies worldwide in the role as lead, co-lead or co-investor. In close cooperation with its global network of venture capitalists, professionals and consultants, Tengelmann Ventures always strives to identify promising startups and to support the development of its portfolio companies.
Company information Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners
Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners (UVC Partners) is a Munich-based early- stage venture capital firm that invests in technology-based startups in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. UVC Partners focuses on B2B business models in the areas of Industry 4.0, IoT, Manufacturing Technologies, Software & SaaS, Mobility and Smart City. Portfolio companies benefit from the extensive experience of the management team as well as from the close cooperation with UnternehmerTUM, Europe’s leading innovation and business creation center. With over 150 employees and more than 50 industry partners, UnternehmerTUM can draw from many years of experience in establishing young companies. Even though being fully independent, it enables UVC Partners to offer startups unique access to talent, industry customers, and other financial partners. The portfolio includes investments such as FlixBus, Carjump and Vimcar as well as successful sensor technology companies such as KONUX and fos4X.
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