EV charging platform Monta raises at $155M valuation to expand into the US

EV charging company Monta has been building out EV charging solutions to make it easier to charge electric vehicles everywhere. It started in Europe, but it just raised an additional $30 million from Energize Ventures, at a $155 million valuation, to expand into the U.S. market. The company tackles one of the biggest bottlenecks to mass-market EV adoption: EV infrastructure.

“We are aiming to fully digitalize the EV ecosystem to tackle all the immediate challenges within the industry and build toward a more transparent and flexible future. By partnering with hardware OEMs we can deliver new features straight out of the box, like our new feature that allows operators to set a percentage on top of the spot price in order to follow the market fluctuations and automatically offer a fair price for charging,” says Casper Rasmussen, Monta CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch. “The investment from Energize and our returning investors is a strong vote of confidence in our vision, team and software as the cornerstone of the mobility infrastructure of the future.”

The company is working to digitize the EV charger ecosystem, with a charging management platform. The core problem the company addresses is the fact that an estimated 3,000 new public charging points are needed every week across Europe to keep pace for the continent’s target of a million charge points by 2025. The hardware installation is one part of that; the limited customer experience for finding and accessing the charge points is another — and the latter is where Monta shines.

“When I bought my first electric vehicle (a Tesla), I discovered how fragmented and underdeveloped the charging infrastructure was. I left my job as the global CTO of a digital consultancy where I oversaw 750 engineers across my teams, and coming from a software development background, I saw an opportunity to fix a prevalent challenge plaguing the EV industry,” said Rasmussen. “Together with my co-founder, we put together the initial pieces of what would be Monta’s platform, a software layer to connect all the dots for operators and owners.”

The current fundraise was led by Energize, and takes the total investment into Monta to more than $50 million.

“We were really impressed by how much knowledge Juan Muldoon and the entire Energize Ventures team had about the EV market when we first connected. For Energize, Monta represents their third investment in digital solutions to support the buildout of EV charging infrastructure,” notes Rasmussen. “Compared to our conversations with other prospective investors, the topics were on a different level. We spoke in-depth about the challenges and opportunities with our software approach. To be honest, we had not planned on taking on a new investment, but from the beginning, we could feel that this partnership was a very good match. Even over the last few months, we are confident that our decision to work closely with electrification experts who understand the entire ecosystem is the right choice as we continue to scale.”

The company was initially reluctant to share its valuation, but eventually told me that it had raised with terms valuing the company at $155 million.

“We are going to be heads-down on product development in the near-future. As more EVs hit the roads globally, we’re planning to incorporate grid management services to facilitate the growth of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and aid in the creation of local energy markets. Right now, V2G is in its infancy stages, but allowing EV owners to sell excess power back to the grid will be critical for energy resiliency around the world — especially as we continue to battle extreme weather events. We envision a future of vehicle-to-everything, and it’s exciting to be shaping that right now,” Rasmussen outlines part of his strategy for the coming few years. “For us, it’s also important to create more transparency in the industry, both for EV drivers and charge point operators. I can relate as a first-time EV owner; I know users are still not well-informed about pricing before they start to charge and oftentimes run into charge points that are out of order for no reason. Charge point owners, on the other hand, often lack helpful insights to the problems, and therefore, are unable to fix them. At Monta, the goal is to fix that problem and make EV charging a simple and smooth process for everyone involved.”

There’s little doubt that there’s a lot of enthusiasm around the EV industry, but as anyone who’s done long road trips can attest, if you have to charge anywhere that isn’t in your usual spots, things get complicated fast. A lot of chargers are out of service, poorly maintained or you need a number of payment methods and memberships etc. to be able to charge properly. Monta is picking a fight with the lack of infrastructure availability.

“The speed at which we’re seeing the EV revolution come to life is mindblowing. However, the EV market’s growth remains dependent on the buildout of charging infrastructure — to support EV production projections, over 1.6 million public chargers and 20 million private chargers will need to be deployed across the U.S. and Europe over the next three years alone,” explains Rasmussen. “The current ecosystem of chargers is highly fragmented, with a wide variety of installers, charge point owners and OEMs at play. Today’s limits within EV charging infrastructure can prohibit adoption as range anxiety makes consumers more hesitant to purchase EVs. Because Monta’s solution is hardware agnostic, our software platform can help bridge the gaps, enabling a simpler, more accessible and reliable EV charging future.”

EV charging platform Monta raises at $155M valuation to expand into the US by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Climate-focused VC stays scorching as Buoyant Ventures targets $100M fund

Like a groundhog and its shadow, many venture capitalists see a shrinking economy and burrow away, resting their check-signing hand for better days.

But climate-focused VCs are on a hot streak lately, pumping well over a billion dollars per quarter into startups that strive to mitigate emissions as the Earth bakes.

Buoyant Ventures is one such firm building momentum for the sector. Based in Chicago, the investor told regulators this week via an SEC filing that it has locked down just over $50 million for a new fund. Buoyant declined to comment when emailed by TechCrunch, but the filing shows the firm had been raising cash for the fund since at least May 2021. So far, 75 (unnamed) limited partners have chipped in, and Buoyant is fishing for just shy of $50 million more. 

Led by Electronic Arts and Energize Ventures alum Amy Francetic and former Accenture executive Allison Myers, Buoyant’s first deal dates back to the summer of 2020. That’s when it backed Raptor Maps, which aims to help solar farms squeeze more juice from the sun by spotting issues—like panel damage and shading—via drones and sensors.

Buoyant said in 2021 that it’s focused on “solutions for the industries contributing the most to carbon emissions,” including power, transportation, agriculture and buildings. Since then, it has funded at least four other early-ish stage startups, including FloodFlash, StormSensor and others seeking to cash in on emissions mitigation or climate adaptation.

Several other noteworthy climate (and climate-adjacent) VC fundraises have crossed our desks in recent weeks, including Fifth Wall‘s $500 million fund, Climentum Capital ($157 million), Systemiq Capital ($70 million) and Equal Ventures ($56 million).

Zededa lands a cash infusion to expand its edge device management software

Factors like latency, bandwidth, security and privacy are driving the adoption of edge computing, which aims to process data closer to where it’s being generated. Consider a temperature sensor in a shipyard or a fleet of cameras in a fulfillment center. Normally, the data from them might have to be relayed to a server for analysis. But with an edge computing setup, the data can be processed on-site, eliminating cloud computing costs and enabling processing at greater speeds and volumes (in theory).

Technical challenges can stand in the way of successful edge computing deployments, however. That’s according to Said Ouissal, the CEO of Zededa, which provides distributed edge orchestration and virtualization software. Ouissal has a product to sell — Zededa works with customers to help manage edge devices — but he points to Zededa’s growth to support his claim. The number of edge devices under the company’s management grew 4x in the past year while Zededa’s revenue grew 7x, Ouissal says.

Zededa’s success in securing cash during a downturn, too, suggests that the edge computing market is robust. The company raised $26 million in Series B funding, Zededa today announced, contributed by a range of investors including Coast Range Capital, Lux Capital, Energize Ventures, Almaz Capital, Porsche Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Juniper Networks, Rockwell Automation, Samsung Next and EDF North America Ventures.

“There were two main trends that led to Zededa’s founding,” Ouissal told TechCrunch in an email interview. “First, as more devices, people and locations were increasingly being connected, unprecedented amounts of data were being generated … Secondly, the sheer scale and diversity of what was happening at the edge would be impossible for organizations to manage in a per-use case fashion. The only successful way to manage this type of environment was for organizations to have visibility across all the hardware, applications, clouds and networks distributed across their edge environments, just like they have in the data center or cloud.”

Ouissal co-founded Zededa in 2016 alongside Erik Nordmark, Roman Shaposhnik and Vijay Tapaskar. Previously, Ouissal was the VP of strategy and customer management at Ericsson and a product manager at Juniper Networks. Nordmark was a distinguished engineer at Cisco, while Shaposhnik — also an engineer by training — spent years developing cloud architectures at Sun Microsystems, Huawei, Yahoo and Cloudera.

Zededa’s software-as-a-service product, with works with devices from brands like SuperMicro, monitors edge installations to ensure they’re working as intended. It also guides users through the deployment steps, leveraging open source projects designed for Internet of Things orchestration and cyber defense. Zededa’s tech stack, for example, builds on the Linux Foundation’s EVE-OS, an open Linux-based operating system for distributed edge computing.


Image Credits: Zededa

Zededa aims to support most white-labeled devices offered by major OEMs; its vendor-agnostic software can be deployed on any bare-metal hardware or within a virtual machine to provide orchestration services and run apps. According to Ouissal, use cases range from monitoring sensors and security cameras to regularly upgrading the software in cell towers.

“The C-suite understands that digital transformation is critical to their organization’s success, particularly for organizations with distributed operations, and digital transformation cannot happen without edge computing. The ability to collect, analyze and act upon data at the distributed edge makes it possible for businesses to increase their competitive advantage, reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, open up new revenue streams and operate within safer and more secure environments,” Ouissal said. “As a result of this, edge computing projects are accelerating within organizations.”

Some research bears this out. According to a June 2021 Eclipse Foundation poll, 54% of organizations surveyed were either using or planning to use edge computing technologies within the next 12 months. A recent IDC report, meanwhile, forecasts double-digit growth in investments in edge computing over the next few years.

Zededa’s customers are primarily in the IT infrastructure, industrial automation and oil and gas industries. Ouissal wouldn’t say how many the company has currently but asserted that Zededa remains sufficiently differentiated from rivals in the edge device orchestration space.

“In terms of the ‘IT down’ trajectory, we are complementary to data solutions from the likes of VMware, SUSE, Nutanix, Red Hat and Sunlight, but these solutions are not suitable for deployments outside of secure data centers. From the ‘OT up’ standpoint, adjacent competitors include the likes of Balena, Portainer and Canonical’s Ubuntu Core. However, these solutions are more suitable for ‘greenfield’ use cases that only require containers and lack the security required for true enterprise and industrial deployments,” Ouissal argued. “Despite the economic downturn, the strategic and transformative potential of edge computing to create new business opportunities is leading investors across verticals to increase their commitment, at a time when they may be more reluctant to invest in other avenues.”

In any case, Zededa, which has a roughly 100-person team spread across the U.S., Germany and India, is actively hiring and plans to expand its R&D, sales and marketing teams within the year, Ouissal said. To date, the eight-year-old startup has raised a total of $55.4 million in venture capital.

“[We aim to increase] the use cases and integrations that we support. Within our product, we will continue to focus on innovation to improve ease of use and security. As the edge computing market evolves and matures,” Ouissal said. “We are also focused on enabling applications including updating legacy applications and bringing new solutions to the market that simplify technologies like AI and machine learning.”

Energize Ventures raises $330M to fund energy, mobility and climate resiliency technology

Energize Ventures, an early and growth-stage venture fund, has announced the closing of its second fund with total capital commitments of $330 million. Fund II will be used to help scale and commercialize software across renewable energy, mobility, cybersecurity, battery storage, critical infrastructure and climate resiliency.

The fund, which is worth exactly double what Energize raised for its first fund, is backed by anchor investors such as Invenergy, CDPQ, SE Ventures, GE Renewable Energy and Hannon Armstrong. Credit Suisse, Xcel Energy, American Electric Power and Equinor Ventures also participated.

“Since we first launched Energize five years ago, we have seen the energy and industrial sectors undergo a massive digital transformation,” said John Tough, managing partner of Energize Ventures, in a statement. “The transition towards a more renewable and sustainable future is outpacing all expectations, and market participants are digitizing operations to address this new, emerging scale.”

To date, Energize has deployed capital from Fund II into three investments, including Munich-based predictive battery analytics software TWAICE, Columbus, Ohio-based IoT device company Finite State and New York-based critical infrastructure cybersecurity company Urbint, according to the firm.

Fund II is targeting 15 or more early-stage digital-first startups that are raising Series A, B or C rounds in the energy and sustainable industry sectors. Typically, Energize Ventures invests around $10 million to $20 million and prefers to lead the round.

The firm’s first round invested in 14 software-based companies, including the now-public EV charging solution Volta, cloud manufacturing startup Fast Radius and solar software company Aurora Solar.

“Energize exclusively invests in digital solutions,” a spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch. “That means no hardware, no moonshots that require untold amounts of capex to get off the ground – just technologies at the software layer at commercialization. Part of that comes from the firm’s investment strategy; the team leans on its LPs (including well-known corporates such as GE and Schneider) to identify the challenges facing the sectors today, and then finds solutions that overcome those barriers to decarbonization.”

Finite State lands $30M Series B to help uncover security flaws in device firmware

Columbus, Ohio-based Finite State, a startup that provides supply chain security for connected devices and critical infrastructure, has raised $30M in Series B funding. 

The funding lands amid increased focus on the less-secure elements in an organizations’ supply chain, such as Internet of Things devices and embedded systems. The problem, Finite State says, is largely fueled by device firmware, the foundational software that often includes components sourced from third-party vendors or open-source software. This means if a security flaw is baked into the finished product, it’s often without the device manufacturers’ knowledge. 

“Cyber attackers see firmware as a weak link to gain unauthorized access to critical systems and infrastructure,” Matt Wyckhouse, CEO of Finite State, tells TechCrunch. “The number of known cyberattacks targeting firmware has quintupled in just the last four years.”

The Finite State platform brings visibility to the supply chains that create connected devices and embedded systems. After unpacking and analyzing every file and configuration in a firmware build, the platform generates a complete bill of materials for software components, identifies known and possible zero-day vulnerabilities, shows a contextual risk score, and provides actionable insights that product teams can use to secure their software.

“By looking at every piece of their supply chain and every detail of their firmware — something no other product on the market offers — we enable manufacturers to ship more secure products, so that users can trust their connected devices more,” Wyckhouse says.

The company’s latest funding round was led by Energize Ventures, with participation from Schneider Electric Ventures and Merlin Ventures, and comes a year after Finite State raised a $12.5 million Series A round. It brings the total amount of funds raised by the firm to just shy of $50 million. 

The startup says it plans to use the funds to scale to meet the demands of the market. It plans to increase its headcount too; Finite State currently has 50 employees, a figure that’s expected to grow to more than 80 by the end of 2021.  

“We also want to use this fundraising round to help us get out the message: firmware isn’t safe unless it’s safe by design,” Wyckhouse added. “It’s not enough to analyze the code your engineers built when other parts of your supply chain could expose you to major security issues.”

Finite State was founded in 2017 by Matt Wyckhouse, founder and former CTO of Battelle’s Cyber Business Unit. The company showcased its capabilities in June 2019, when its widely-cited Huawei Supply Chain Assessment revealed numerous backdoors and major security vulnerabilities in the Chinese technology company’s networking devices that could be used in 5G networks. 

Read more: