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Agtech startup Agrilyst is now Artemis, raises $8M Series A

Artemis, the ag-tech startup formerly known as Agrilyst, today announced that it has raised an $8 million Series A funding round. The round was co-led by Astanor Ventures and Talis Capital, with participation from iSelect Fund and New York State’s Empire State Development Fund. With this, the company, which won our 2015 Disrupt SF Battlefield competition, has now raised a total of $11.75 million.

When Agrilyst launched, the company mostly focused on helping indoor farmers and greenhouse operators manage their operations by gathering data about their crop yields and other metrics. Over the course of the last few years, that mission has expanded quite a bit, though, and today’s Artemis sees itself as an enterprise Cultivation Management Platform (CMP) that focuses on all aspects of indoor farming, including managing workers and ensuring compliance with food safety and local cannabis regulations, for example.

The expanded platform is meant to give these businesses a single view of all of their operations and integrates with existing systems that range from climate control to ERP tools and Point of Sale systems.

Compliance is a major part of the expanded platform. “When you look at enterprise operations, that risk is compounded because it’s not just that risk across many, many sites and many acres, so in 2018, we switched to almost entirely focusing on those operations and have gained a lot of momentum in that space,” Kopf said. “And now we’re using the funding to expand from mainly focusing on managing that data to help with profitability to using that data to help you with everything from compliance down to the profitability element. We want to limit that exposure to controllable risk.”

With this new focus on compliance, the company also added Dr. Kathleen Merrigan to its board. Merrigan was the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama administration and is the first Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University . She is also a venture partner at Astanor Ventures .

“Technology innovation is rapidly transforming the agriculture sector. Artemis’ approach to using data as a catalyst for growth and risk management provides the company a significant advantage with enterprise-level horticulture operations,” said Merrigan.

Cannabis, it’s worth noting, was not something the company really focused on in its early years, but as the company’s CEO and founder Allison Kopf told me, it now accounts for about half of the company’s revenue. Only a few years ago, many investors were also uncomfortable investing in a company that was in the cannabis business, but that’s far less of an issue today.

“When we raised our seed round in 2015, we were pitching to a lot of funds and a lot of funds told us that they had LPs that can’t invest in cannabis. So if you’re pitching that you’re going to eventually be in cannabis, we’re going to have to step away from the investment, ” Kopf said. “Now, folks are saying: ‘If you’re not in cannabis, we don’t want to invest.’”

Today, Artemis’s clients are worth a collective $5 billion. The company plans to use the

Market map: the 200+ innovative startups transforming affordable housing

How founders are taking on housing costs worldwide

In this section of my exploration into innovation in inclusive housing, I am digging into the 200+ companies impacting the key phases of developing and managing housing.

Innovations have reduced costs in the most expensive phases of the housing development and management process. I explore innovations in each of these phases, including construction, land, regulatory, financing, and operational costs.

Reducing Construction Costs

This is one of the top three challenges developers face, exacerbated by rising building material costs and labor shortages.

Unshackled Ventures has $20M to invest exclusively in immigrant founders

Unshackled Ventures isn’t like other venture capital funds.

The firm invests in immigrant founders and helps them secure visas so they can ditch their corporate job and launch the startup of their dreams. Today, Unshackled is announcing its sophomore fund of $20 million, topping its debut effort by $15.5 million.

“The point is to take the burden off of founders because they are not immigration experts, they are experts at building satellites or extracting protein from plants,” Unshackled founding partner Nitin Pachisia told TechCrunch. “These are people that if you go to a workspace, you’ll see them show up on nights and weekends because they want to build something but they can’t.”

Immigrants looking to start their own businesses face a huge barrier. Take Jyoti Bansal for example. He famously waited seven years before launching AppDynamics, a business that later sold to Cisco for $3.7 billion days before its initial public offering. Why? Because as an Indian immigrant with H-1B visa status, he could work for startups but wasn’t legally allowed to start his own. It wasn’t until receiving an employment authorization document (EAD), a part of the green card process, that Bansal could finally found AppDynamics. If Bansal had the opportunity to pitch to Unshackled, which provides bespoke immigration solutions to each founder, he could have launched AppDynamics years prior.

Immigrant founders, according to a 2018 study by the National Foundation for American Policy, are responsible for 55 percent of U.S. billion-dollar companies, or “unicorns,” as they are known. Uber, SpaceX, WeWork, Palantir Technologies, Stripe, Slack, Moderna Therapeutics, Robinhood, Instacart, Houzz, Credit Karma, Tanium, Zoox and CrowdStrike all count at least one immigrant co-founder.

“The difference between success and failures is oftentimes who you know and when,” Unshackled founding partner Manan Mehta told TechCrunch. “We can bring those resources at just 1/200th the size of Andreessen Horowitz to immigrants at day zero.”

“We’re creating the best place for immigrants to start their companies,” he added. “And guess what? We’re keeping American innovation in America.”

Unshackled Ventures portfolio company Lily AI.

The firm was founded by Pachisia, the son of immigrants, and Mehta, an Indian immigrant, in 2015. Since then, the duo have written pre-seed checks to 31 companies with a 100 percent success rate in procuring visas to keep talent working in the U.S. Startups in its portfolio include the very recent Y Combinator graduate Career Karma, Starsky Robotics, Plutoshift, Togg, Hype, Lily AI and more.

“I didn’t think it was possible to start a company on a visa in the U.S., let alone scale one to hit the next major milestone so quickly,” Plutoshift founder Prateek Joshi said in a statement. “That all changed when we met the Unshackled team.”

Mehta and Pachisia say its startups have gone on to raise $54 million in follow-on investments from top investors like First Round Capital, NEA and Shasta.

In addition to supporting companies based in Silicon Valley, the investors search far and wide for aspiring immigrant founders, as well as respond to every single cold email they receive. Recently, they joined the Rise of the Rest tour, a trip hosted by Steve Case and JD Vance that showcases startups in underrepresented geographies, and they make frequent visits to college campuses across the U.S.

Unshackled’s limited partners include Bloomberg Beta, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures and Emerson Collective.

“I think the name represents the feeling that you’re a little bit shackled to a framework or a policy that doesn’t necessarily encourage entrepreneurship,” Mehta said. “When if you take a step back, immigrants are probably more entrepreneurial than native-born people.”

The robot-recruiter is coming — VCV’s AI will read your face in a job interview

With remote working becoming more of a norm than ever before, remote interviews have, in turn, become a necessity. But how can you truly assess someone from these? In addition, it’s easy to miss great candidates just because you don’t have time to interview all the candidates.

A number of startups have appeared to try and address the problem. HireVue,
which has raised $93M, has tried to address with an AI-driven ‘Hiring Intelligence’ platform. AllyO, which has raised $19M, is trying to make hiring more efficient by addressing the traditional inefficiencies of lost applicants and conversions due to poor candidate experience. And Arya is a seed stage start-up which uses machine learning to identify successful sourcing patterns and draws potential candidates out of online profiles.

Another player is applying algorithms to the hiring process.

VCV.AI, has now raised $1.7 million to automatically screens job candidates using facial and voice recognition. Yes, it looks like another episode of Black Mirror is on its way…

The investment comes from Japanese VC Will Group, Talent Equity Ventures, 500 Startups and angel investors, including Masahiro Takeshima of Indeed. The funding will help VCV continue to develop its technology and strengthen its position, and will also see it opening an office in Tokyo, Japan.

VCV claims it can help eliminate human bias from the hiring process with preliminarily screening of candidates, automated screening calls, and by conducting these robo-video interviews with voice recognition and video recording.

Through VCV, potential candidates can record a video using a computer or smartphone on iOS or Android. This functions like a real interview, as candidates don’t have the ability to prepare for the questions in advance. Additionally, facial and voice recognition identifies a candidates’ nervousness, mood, and behavior patterns to help recruiters assess whether a person is a good cultural fit for the company.

VCV says this doesn’t replace the job of a recruiter but enhances their toolset so they can find and screen a greater number of candidates more efficiently. The startup says this AI-led approach helps companies save over 20 hours of work with recruiting bots working 24/7 to find, chat, and interview potential candidates.

Clients already include PWC, L’Oreal, Danone, Mars, Schlumberger, and Citibank .

Arik Akverdian, founder and CEO of VCV.AI, said: “AI can improve and streamline the hiring process, while also helping to remove corrosive biases that all humans have. There’s no reason technological innovation shouldn’t transform this area of business—especially considering human talent is an organization’s most important asset.”

We will see how those biases play out once all our hiring is via AI…

PathAI raises $60 million for its computer vision-based pathogen detection technology

With a clinical version of PathAI‘s computer vision-based pathogen detection service still at least one year from coming to market, the diagnostic technology developer has snagged $60 million in its latest round of financing.

The company’s tech is used by doctors to analyze cell samples taken from patients to determine the presence or absence of bacterium, viruses, cancerous cells or other disease-causing agents.

These days, PathAI’s technology is used less in hospitals for patient care and more by pharmaceutical companies developing new drugs, according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Dr. Andy Beck.

Our biggest focus today is a research platform; we use it to examine new therapeutics for serious diseases,” Beck says. “We see that as a really important problem for patients… accelerating how we get safe and effective medicines to patients.”

That’s an attractive market, given that pharmaceutical companies have more money than hospitals to spend on new technology.

When the company does work with pathologists, they’re using the technology for research purposes, says Beck. Any clinical diagnostic work would have to go through trials and be approved by regulators, he says.

“For this direct clinical use it’s in the one to two-year time frame,” he says. 

General Atlantic led the company’s latest round, with additional capital coming from previous investors General Catalyst, 8VC, DHVC, REfactor Capital, KdT Ventures and Pillar Companies.

PathAI has grown its staff to more than 60 employees in the past year, and the company has signed partnerships with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis .

As a result of the financing, General Atlantic managing director Dr. Michelle Dipp will take a seat on the company’s board.

“PathAI’s work could radically improve the accuracy and reproducibility of disease diagnosis and support the development of new medicines to treat those diseases,” said David Fialkow, managing director at General Catalyst, in a statement.