Boston’s ClearMotion funded by Nio Capital to switch on in-car metaverse in China

U.S.-China decoupling is expected to discourage cross-border investments between the two superpowers as investors shy away from sanctions and geopolitical risks. But in some areas, Chinese investors and American tech firms continue to find happy marriages.

ClearMotion, a Boston-based company that aims to make car rides less bumpy and more fun, just raised $39 million led by Nio Capital, a mobility-focused venture capital fund established by William Li, the founder of Chinese electric vehicle upstart Nio.

Getting backed by Nio Capital is a critical step in ClearMotion’s China expansion, the car suspension tech company’s CEO Christian Steinmann told TechCrunch.

“It was like seek and find together,” said the executive when asked how he encountered the fund. “Nio Capital itself is very strong in supporting [global] companies in getting a footprint in China.”

“For next-era smart vehicles, ClearMotion will accelerate the transformation of auto from transportation tool to mobile living space,” Ian Zhu, managing partner at NIO Capital, said in a statement.

ClearMotion built its name by using software-controlled actuators to replace traditional shock absorbers for cars. Working with vehicle sensors, its software system can predict road surface conditions, which in turn informs its flagship product, an electrohydraulic unit, to counteract disturbances on the road.

After working on external motion cancellation for over a decade, ClearMotion is now introducing in-car 4D motions that coordinate with the vehicle’s infotainment system. The solution, the CEO said, creates an “immersive in-car entertainment experience by integrating with movies, games, and the metaverse” — imagine being able to enjoy a 4D movie with coordinated motion from the car and high-quality, immersive sound, all while your vehicle is charging.

“Charging can suddenly become a cool experience,” Steinmann remarked.

China, the world’s largest auto market, is “way more accelerated” in people’s demand for in-cabin experiences, the CEO suggested. “But the wow factor isn’t currently delivered by the industry.”

Nio Capital’s funding is meant to help ClearMotion “industrialize” its products in China. The American company is setting up a plant to assemble its actuators around Shanghai, a major auto manufacturing hub in China. The plan is to start mass producing in China by the end of 2024, a timeline that’s considered “very aggressive” in the auto industry, the CEO admitted. The company has started hiring in China for engineering, software development, hardware, and customer relationship roles.

Other investors from ClearMotion’s latest funding round include BAI Capital, Franklin Templeton, NewView Capital, and Acadia Woods Partners. To date, the company has raised over $300 million from investors including J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Microsoft, and Qualcomm.

Boston’s ClearMotion funded by Nio Capital to switch on in-car metaverse in China by Rita Liao originally published on TechCrunch

Gluware raises $43M for ‘RPA’ tech that automatically detects and fixes anomalies in network configurations

Facebook’s network meltdown earlier this month — an outage that initially stemmed from a configuration error — was a huge pain for many users (and a big cost to Facebook). For enterprises, it also served as a poignant reminder about a salient fact of networks: The complexity and interdependency of systems today mean that when something doesn’t work between two entities — be it apps, servers or something else — the effects can be disastrous, unless those overlaps can be detected and mitigated ahead of a live deployment, or found and fixed quickly even if they are already out in the wild.

Today, a startup called Gluware that has built a platform that aims to do just that — specifically by providing network orchestration and automation tools that identify and automatically fix when something is about to go awry on a network, described by the CEO to me as “RPA” for network ops — is announcing $43 million in funding to continue building out its business, in a growth round led by Bain Capital with participation from Acadia Woods Partners and other unnamed existing investors.

Gluware is not disclosing its valuation but from what we understand it is around $700 million, notable considering how little it’s raised to date (just under $47 million in the last 10 years, according to PitchBook data, and bootstrapped before that). It’s also notable for being based in California but not the Bay Area: it’s HQ is in Sacramento, apparently a newly-emerging location for people leaving more established tech enclaves.

In a period where a number of enterprises have put the gas on network growth and operations to handle both increased traffic but also new working architectures for its people, Gluware said its ARR growth in the last year has been 400% (it does not disclose actual figures).

Gluware got its start originally as a Cisco shop, inking a strategic deal with the company early on to build orchestration and automation systems that ran specifically on its servers, specifically a software-defined wide-area network controller to work with Cisco kit. As networks evolved and became continually more complex, the opportunity changed and became about working in multi-vendor networks and for a variety of different enterprises that might not be the typical Cisco service provider customers. Its services now integrate, by way of APIs, to cover network operations across more than 30 different platforms and operating systems. Gluware’s CEO and co-founder Jeff Gray estimates that Gluware’s coverage currently points to a $10.8 billion addressable market.

Currently, and in keeping with changing use cases and architectures, Gluware’s sweet spot up to now has been working with larger enterprises in highly regulated sectors like healthcare or finance that are heavily dependent on cloud or hybrid network architectures that bring in many disparate operations, may lack large enough in-house teams to build and operate their own automation and orchestration solutions, but have a lot of requirements to stay operational and protect user data in the process. The list is heavy of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 names, with Mastercard, EY and Merck among them.

Large tech companies — web scalers, as Gray described them — were out of Gluware’s sights simply because they typically build and operate those tools in-house, and the idea was that Gluware was building tools for the rest of the market that performed just as well. However, as Gray put it, incidents like Facebook’s definitely change the game.

“We haven’t been targeting the web scalers, and we presented ourselves as an alternative to DIY. Traditionally I have always said that if you are a Google, a FB or a Goldman Sachs, you could pour a tremendous amount of resource into scripts and build you own automation software,” he said. “But Facebook’s audit tool issued a rogue command and broke its network, at scale. So  even the large web scalers of the world are not immune. I think we could be a great fit.”

The company’s focus on network operations has a natural synergy with security operations, since many, but not all, outages covering, say, border gate protocol or domain name server errors have been linked also to data breaches, and that lays the groundwork for how Gluware sees its role in the network operations IT stack. Its tools can be applied to device management, operating system management, configuration modeling, workflows and more to minimize downtime, speed up operations, to meet compliance requirements, and more.

That long list, and Gluware’s traction to date in meeting its demands, are what have attracted investors. “As enterprises continue to struggle with network automation progress, Gluware’s unique platform delivers enhanced network security and agility while creating real business value and outcomes for customers,” said Olof Bergqvist, a Managing Director at Bain Capital, in a statement. “We are excited to support Gluware’s next phase of growth and accelerate the company’s innovative technology and mission-critical solutions to continue meeting the modern needs of enterprises while strengthening its value-proposition to its customers, suppliers and partners.”