BOSTON— Neurala, the software company that has invented The Neurala Brain, a deep learning neural networks platform that is making smart products like toys, cameras and self-driving cars more autonomous, interactive and useful, today announced the closing of a $14 million series A funding round.
The round was led by Pelion Ventures, with participation from Sherpa Capital, Motorola Ventures, 360 Capital Partners, Draper Associates Investments, SK Ventures, and Idinvest Partners through its Electranova Capital II Fund and in partnership with Ecomobility Ventures. Both 360 Capital Partners and Draper Associates also provided seed funding. Neurala will use the capital to accelerate servicing of its rapidly increasing customer demand, as well as to revolutionize additional application areas by adding built-in intelligence and autonomous behavior.
“The Neurala Brain was designed from the beginning to transform industries,” said Massimiliano “Max” Versace, co-founder and CEO of Neurala. “Bio-inspired brainpower can be built right into drones, cars, toys, cameras, and other devices found in the home so that they can learn, see and act. This is essential for applications like drones and self-driving cars, where reaction time is critical and where you can’t always get fast network access. It’s also an endearing capability when built into toys that recognize their young owners by sight and give them a smile without communicating with a server.”
Neurala pioneered the development of deep learning neural network software for NASA to use in planetary exploration, where processing power, battery life and communications are limited. Instead of designing deep learning neural networks for super computers, as other companies do, The Neurala Brain was designed to work where the decisions need to be made. Today, Neurala has customers deploying a broad range of applications, including autonomous drones and cars. Neurala’s current customers include Motorola Solutions, Parrot and Teal Drones.
Neurala’s neural network software uses a bio-inspired approach to mimic the way the human brain learns and analyzes its environment. This software enables a variety of smart products—from self-driving cars and industrial drones to toys, consumer electronics and smart cameras—to learn, adapt and interact in real time. With The Neurala Brain, toys can learn to identify their owners, security cameras can identify specific threats, drones can “learn” how to diagnose problems at the tops of cell towers, saving humans considerable danger and drudgery, and self-driving cars can be safer and learn to avoid obstacles.
One significant differentiator of Neurala’s deep learning software is that it scales from embedded hardware to powerful servers. Neurala calls this an “Anywhere Brain.” By operating “on the edge” and locally on the device, toys can entertain without communicating personal information to a third party, and applications like self-driving cars need not rely on the internet—which can be slow or unavailable—to avoid accidents.
Neurala’s software development kit (SDK) supports industry-standard NVIDIA, ARM and Intel processors, so teams can develop for the processor that is best for their product instead of being forced to select a high-priced proprietary processor.
“Almost every application on earth can benefit from becoming smarter,” said Tim Draper, well-known venture capitalist and founder of Draper Associates. “Neurala is the only platform that enables products to see and react in their worlds, with fast, local, real-time learning. It’s already driving innovative new intelligent hardware applications even as it makes current ones more efficient, with greater financial feasibility.”
“Pelion is a firm that believes in a future in which automobiles, robots, drones and other mobile hardware devices will need to navigate the world autonomously and safely, and we believe that Neurala has the right solution to enable that future,” said Senior Associate Ben Lambert of Pelion Ventures. “Neurala's executives have a deep technology background and have been leading development efforts in this industry since 2006. As a result, the company is far ahead of its competitors and is at the forefront of the deep learning and computer vision space.”
“Neurala technology is already achieving great traction in Europe. We will be able to help the company’s founders build upon that momentum to accelerate growth,” said Idinvest Director Julien Mialaret. “Our fund sponsors have ideas for ways to deploy Neurala's exciting technology.”