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- A list of the 20 most valuable venture-backed companies in artificial intelligence boasts a combined valuation of some $120 billion.
- Most of the list are privately-held startups; some of them — namely Waymo and Uber Advanced Technology Group — are subsidiaries of much larger companies, but that are said to be eyeing IPOs of their own.
- Investment remains robust despite an uncertain economy, a reflection of the great potential of AI innovation, analysts say.
- Seven of the 20 make autonomous car technology, a challenging field that will require time to mature.
- Other technologies on the list include AI applications to farming, data management, hiring, and writing.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In an uncertain economy where valuations are slipping, the 20 highest-valued venture-backed companies in artificial intelligence combined are worth about a staggering $120 billion, according to PitchBook, in a reflection of the promising innovation of the sector.
To put it in perspective, these 20 young companies — many that have yet to produce actual products — are worth more than Ford, American Express, and US Steel combined.
Top startups also continue to close major fundraising rounds and command multi-billion valuations for technology ranging from automation tools to self-driving cars. And despite the economic headwinds caused by the coronavirus pandemic, expert studies and venture capitalists say the market remains steady.
“All the fundamental parts of the innovation cycle that have AI broadly employed in it are somewhat untouched by a COVID-like pandemic scenario,” said Rohit Sharma, a partner at early stage VC firm True Ventures. “We don’t really see a slowdown or any kind of impact.”
But there are obstacles ahead for even the most valuable startups. Seven of the 20 top, according to data provided by PitchBook, are builders of self-driving car technology, which experts say is a sector that demands capital and patience — two things that could be in shorter supply in a jittery recession.
“A lot of the business case assumptions and model assumptions, historically, have started to fall apart as people really started to realize just how challenging this robo-taxi problem really is,” Austin Russell, CEO of Luminar, told Business Insider’s Troy Wolverton recently.
Most of the companies on this list are relatively small, independently-held startups.
Notably, however, a few of the companies on PitchBook’s list are independent subsidiaries of larger organizations — at the top of the list is Waymo, which began as Google’s self-driving car unit, and is now reportedly mulling a public offering at some point in the future after raising venture cash all its own.
Joining Waymo is Uber’s own autonomous vehicle division – a separate entity from the ride-sharing firm with its own CEO and IPO possibilities. And Zoox may be the poster child for how challenging the market can be. Amazon reportedly bought the firm for far less than its previous valuation.
Beyond the parking lot of autonomous cars are a variety of interesting companies, all using the tech in different ways. The one thing they have in common, however, is they are backed by wealth many other of tech would envy.
Big-data company Palantir is beginning the process to go public. Other standouts on the list include AI farming startup Indigo Ag, hiring firm Checkr, and AI writing company Grammarly.
All valuation data is from PitchBook. All companies asked to verify valuation, and where they did it is noted.
Business Insider unpacked the top 20 most valuable, VC-backed AI companies below:
Waymo: $30.75 billion
Headquarters:Mountain View, California
Total funding raised:$3 billion
Last funding round:The company raised $3 billion of venture funding in a deal led by Silver Lake Management, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Mubadala Investment Company in May.
Waymo is a self-driving car company that uses integrated sensors and artificial intelligence to detect pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and road workers, enabling users to travel on-demand in autonomous vehicles. In May, Waymo raised roughly $750 million, expanding the size of its first external investment round to $3 billion. Until last spring, Waymo had been funded entirely by Google and its corporate parent, Alphabet.
Palantir Technologies: $20.33 billion
Headquarters:Palo Alto, California
Total funding raised:$3.35 billion
Last funding round:The company received $549.73 million of financing from Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Holdings on July 1.
Palantir makes a data analysis platform that integrates, visualizes, secures and sifts through information. The company helps human experts evaluate data at scale through machine-assisted analysis. Some of that data sifting has led to controversy. Activists have protested Palantir for taking big government contracts to work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fight undocumented immigration. Palantir’s creators have in turn criticized tech companies that don’t work with the US government.
The company has confidentially filed a draft version of the paperwork for a public listing of its stock. The move sets Palantir up for what could be the highest-profile market debut of the year, after the coronavirus pandemic effectively froze the market for some of the most anticipated IPOs.
Uber Advanced Technologies Group: $7.25 billion
Total funding raised:$1 billion
Valuation:$7.25 billion (Verified by company.)
Last funding round:The company raised $1 billion of venture funding from Toyota Motor, Denso and SoftBank Investment Advisers in April of 2019.
Uber Advanced Technologies Group – a separate entity from its parent company Uber – develops car technology for self-driving cars. The company’s system uses various sensors and cameras to detect and analyze driving scenarios, enabling clients to create self-driving cars that reduce human error. Self-driving is notoriously expense to develop, but autonomy is also key to Uber’s pitch to investors. The company has revealed that paying drivers is among its top expenses — removing them from the equation could help Uber reach profitability.
UiPath: $10.2 billion
Total funding:$1.2 billion
Last funding round:The company just raised $225 million in Series E funding in mid-July, adding to the $568 million raised through the combination of Series D-1 and Series D-2 venture funding in a deal led by Coatue Management in April of 2019.
UiPath makes robotic automation software that performs tedious and redundant tasks. The company says it can help companies adapt to new needs with a configurable software platform that controls robotic machinery. The coronavirus pandemic could accelerate UiPath’s plans to go public, CEO Danile Dines has said, predicting his firm “will have one of the biggest IPOs of 2021.”
Automation Anywhere: $6.8 billion
Headquarters:San Jose, California
Total funding:$840 million
Last funding round:The company raised $290 million of Series B venture funding in a deal led by Salesforce Ventures in November of 2019.
Automation Anywhere makes robotic process automation (RPA) software to augment the human workforce by automating repetitive business processes. The company’s solution provides a platform for building and executing software bots powered by artificial intelligence, which the company says reduces costs and programming errors. The firm says stiff competition from Microsoft has forced it to invest more in research and development, and last spring it announced 100 new R&D open positions.
Databricks: $6.2 billion
Total funding:$897.36 million
Valuation:$6.2 billion (Verified by company.)
Last funding round:The company raised $400 million of Series F venture funding in a deal led by Andreessen Horowitz in October.
Databricks makes an analytics platform that simplifies evaluation of big data. The company’s cloud and machine learning platform unifies data science, engineering and business, enabling data science teams to work faster and more securely. Databricks, which rolled out a new strategy last month, has a stockpile of more than $500 million to ride through the recession to an IPO thanks to disaster preparedness by its cautious CEO.
Samsara: $5.4 billion
Total funding:$930 million
Last funding round:The company raised $700 million of Series F venture funding from Dragoneer Investment Group, Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic in May.
Samsara makes Internet of Things sensors and cameras designed to increase efficiency, safety and sustainability. The company’s suite of technology works in an integrated, real-time platform, enabling businesses to improve the safety and quality of business operations. Last year Samsara said it more than doubled its customer base to 10,000, and expanded into 10 new countries, while growing revenue at over 200% annually.
Tempus Labs: $5 billion
CEO: Eric Lefkofsky
Total funding: $620 million
Valuation: $5 billion
Last funding round: The company closed on $100 million of Series G venture funding from Novo Holdings, New Enterprise Associates and Baillie Gifford in March.
Tempus Labs makes a healthcare data-analytics platform that helps physicians to deliver personalized care for patients through an interactive analytical and machine learning platform. Since launching in 2015, the oncology-focused startup has stocked up a bank of clinical data and architected a system that uses machine learning, genomic sequencing, and other AI tech to enhance clinician understanding of patients’ cancer and tailor effective treatments.
Indigo Ag: $3.45 billion
CEO: David Perry
Total funding: $1.12 billion
Valuation: $3.45 billion
Last funding round:The company raised $500 million of Series F venture funding through a combination of debt and equity in June.
Indigo Ag provides agricultural services to predict which microbes are most beneficial to the health of crops and supply seed coatings that enable farmers to reduce risk and increase profitability. The fast-growing firm has picked up speed during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing some analysts to predict acquisition or an initial public offering in the near future.
C3.ai: $3.3 billion
CEO: Tom Siebel
Headquarters: Redwood City, California
Total funding: $355.74 million
Valuation: $3.3 billion
Last funding round:The company raised an estimated $50 million of Series H venture funding from BlackRock in September.
C3.ai’s cloud software uses machine learning to expedite the integration and analysis of enterprise data to provide companies with predictive maintenance, fraud detection, and energy management to improve operations. CEO Tom Siebel recently said his hot AI startup did $160 million in revenue last year, but that it won’t go public until the economy is fully recovered.
Aurora: $3.07 billion
CEO: Chris Urmson
Headquarters: Palo Alto, California
Total funding: $765.6 million
Valuation: $3.07 billion
Last funding round:The company raised $69.51 million of Series B1 venture funding from Hyundai, Kia Motors and Millennium Technology Value Partners in September of 2019.
Aurora makes an autonomous car technology that uses advanced machine learning software and hardware to power self-driving cars. Founded in 2017 by veterans of Google, Tesla, and Uber’s self-driving car projects, the startup plans to act as a supplier to automotive, tech, or logistics companies.
Pony.ai: $3 billion
CEO: James Peng
Headquarters: Fremont, California
Total funding: $726 million
Valuation: $3 billion
Last funding round: The company raised $462 million of Series B venture funding in a deal led by Toyota Motor in February.
Pony makes an autonomous driving technology intended for the manufacturing of automated vehicles. The company’s platform takes advantage of artificial intelligence and algorithms to accurately perceive the vehicle’s surroundings in order to predict the surrounding drivers’ actions and maneuver accordingly.
Convoy: $2.75 billion
CEO: Dan Lewis
Total funding: $668 million
Valuation: $2.75 billion
Last funding round:The company raised $400 million of Series D venture funding in a deal led by Generation Investment Management and T. Rowe Price in November.
Convoy makes an efficient digital freight network that connects shippers and carriers. The company’s technology and data help solve the problem of waste and inefficiency in the trucking industry by matching trucking companies with shippers that need to move freight. The Jeff Bezos-backed trucking startup also raised money from Al Gore’s fund in an effort to dominate the digital-freight market.
Nuro: $2.7 billion
CEO: Jiajun Zhu
Headquarters: Mountain View, California
Total funding: $1.03 billion
Valuation: $2.7 billion
Last funding round:The company raised $940 million of Series B venture funding from SoftBank Investment Advisers in February of 2019.
Nuro makes a suite of robotics that include autonomous vehicle programs that help to transport goods quickly, safely and affordably. The delivery startup was the first self-driving vehicle company to get permission from the US government to ditch side mirrors and windshields on its delivery vehicles – which experts say could be a precedent for streamlining designs due to greater trust in vehicle safety.
SambaNova Systems: $2.5 billion
CEO: Rodrigo Liang
Headquarters: Palo Alto, California
Total funding:$460.6 million
Valuation: $2.5 billion
Last funding round:The company raised $250 million in a Series C round of venture funding in a deal led by BlackRock in February.
SambaNova Systems makes an advanced systems platform and hardware designed to power machine learning and data analytics, enabling manufacturers with AI-powered hardware to create faster and more efficient algorithms. The tech is based on the research of its two former Stanford professor cofounders. The third cofounder, Christopher Ré, was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for his work in data analysis.
Grammarly: $2.3 billion
CEO: Brad Hoover
Headquarters: San Francisco
Total funding: $200 million
Valuation: $2.3 billion
Last funding round: The company raised $92 million of Series 2 venture funding in a deal led by General Catalyst in October.
Grammarly goes beyond just an automated grammar-checker, dictionary, and thesaurus. It uses the linguistic branch of AI called natural language processing to help people write more clearly and effectively by aiding with word choice and tone. In 2018, Grammarly expanded its use to Google Docs, and can be downloaded in beta form.
Uptake: $2.3 billion
CEO: Bradley Keywell
Total funding: $293 million
Valuation: $2.2 billion (Verified by company.)
Last funding round:The company raised $117 million of Series D venture funding in a deal led by Baillie Gifford in November 2017.
Uptake makes a predictive analytics platform that collects and interprets sensor data, enabling businesses to improve uptime, streamline operations and spot growth opportunities. The company says it boasts 1.3 million industrial machines monitored, 2.4 billion hours of machine learning, and failure data from more than 800 different systems.
Quanergy: $2.27 billion
CEO: Kevin J. Kennedy
Headquarters: Sunnyvale, California
Total funding: $325 million
Valuation: $2.27 billion
Last funding round: The company raised an undisclosed amount of venture funding in a deal led by Rising Tide Fund on April 1, 2020. Reshape Holdings and other undisclosed investors also participated in the round.
Quanergy makes sensors for self-driving cars. The company’s sensors help high-definition mapping data and object detection, tracking and classification. The firm’s light detection and ranging technology senses and sizes the location of objects to monitor and detect real-time movement within an indoor space.
Checkr: $2.2 billion
CEO: Daniel Yanisse
Headquarters: Sunnyvale, California
Total funding: $309.74M
Valuation: $2.2 billion (Verified by company.)
Last funding round:The company raised $160.63 million of Series D venture funding in a deal led by T. Rowe Price in September.
Checkr makes an enterprise platform enabling businesses to hire at scale, improve compliance and streamline operations. The background check software startup has a program that helps delivery services and other essential companies hire new employees on the same day they apply.
Zoox: $1.2 billion
Headquarters: Alpharetta, Georgia
Total funding: Not disclosed
Valuation: Amazon will pay a reported $1.2 billion to acquire Zoox; PitchBook reports its last private valuation in 2018 at $3.2 billion after a Series C round.
Last funding round:The company raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding in June of 2018.
Zoox makes an autonomous mobility ecosystem that includes self-driving vehicles, control systems, AI and a ride-sharing service to improve urban mobility. This summer Amazon announced that it plans to buy Zoox for $1.2 billion — a fraction of its previous private valuation — in a move which industry experts told Business Insider is a sign of how competitive this sector is becoming, and how there could be more consolidation to come.