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A startup spearheaded by serial entrepreneur Stan Boland plans to build a world-leading UK software powerhouse for autonomous vehicles – a hothouse of AI that manufacturers can harness to validate the safety of driverless cars.
Boland (pictured), who has a string of Cambridge technology successes under his belt, is co-founder and CEO of Five.ai which recently raised $2.7 million in a round led by Hermann Hauser’s Amadeus Capital Partners.
Three VCs weighed into the round and the company will be looking for some $35m in a further two rounds to get definitive validation technology into the marketplace by 2019 and subsequently push on with commercialisation. It expects its investor profile to become increasingly international.
Co-founder Ben Peters, who heads up marketing for Five.ai and worked with Boland at Neul in Cambridge before it was bought by Huawei, said brainpower in the golden triangle of Cambridge, London and Oxford was helping the UK lead the way in embedded software for autonomous vehicles.
“We intend to leverage the pull of their talented professors and PhDs and build a UK powerhouse for machine learning and embedded software that will be required to validate and power driverless cars,” he said.
The company currently has Cambridge offices at Barclays’ new Eagle Labs incubator and in Bristol and feels no need to make a call on an HQ location just yet. The business is currently just the six founders but two job offers are in the process of converting and Peters said headcount will ramp steadily after that.
“The current funding gives us 18 months; we will probably grow by 10 or 12 people over the next year. We will be looking for around $10-$15m in about a year’s time to see us through to 2019 and then a further $20m to really push on commercially, by which time we should be up to 60+ headcount.
“It is seriously exciting time for the business and we are lucky to have such cool offices in Cambridge. As we progress we can give talented young AI professionals who join the business an equity stake and a platform to showcase their skills.”
Peters said the technology for autonomous vehicles had moved on substantially since Google, for example, first paraded its potential in the space in 2011.
Five.ai is purely a software play. It will harness best-of-breed machine learning, embedded software and AI to ensure that makers of driverless cars can thoroughly validate their safety and efficiency before they hit the highway.
The theory is that chipmakers can buy into the software capability and that manufacturers can incorporate the proven software and chip technology into their prototypes.
Boland believes Five.ai has the edge by utilising more sophisticated machine-learning that will help a vehicle understand its surroundings without the need to constantly compare its data against ultra-precise, three-dimensional maps created by radar systems. He says a Five.ai-powered vehicle would need three to four times as many computers as Google’s driverless car. That is intended as a reassurance that safety and efficiency are paramount to the autonomous vehicle proposition and that Five.ai will not cut corners to appease manufacturers as they scramble for pole position in a red hot marketplace.
The Five.ai team is perfecting a computer-vision system and will soon be in a position to engage with vehicle manufacturers and transport companies.
Boland has an outstanding track record. He was brought into Hermann Hauser’s Acorn Computers to restore equilibrium and lay the foundations for the spin-out of ARM in 1990.
He went on to head up chip designer Element14 (acquired by Broadcom for $600 million). He then founded Icera, which made wireless modems for cell phones and sold that to Nvidia for $367m.
He also turned round wireless broadband startup Neul and moulded it into such an attractive proposition that Chinese ICT giant, Huawei acquired it and is now up to 80 people at Cambridge Science Park as a re-engineered and powerful player in the IoT marketplace.
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Shares in Cambridge UK technology company Bango have rocketed more than 30 per cent in 24 hours as the new mobile game Pokemon Go hit the UK and caused a stir in the industry globally.
Bango CEO Ray Anderson speculated that it could prove a “tens of billions of dollars” game.
What is certain is that, even taking the most conservative estimates for Pokemon Go sales, they will add many millions to Bango’s bottom line according to seasoned industry observers.
That’s because Bango’s platform is used by the world’s major players to deliver direct carrier billing (DCB) for services such as games and music downloads.
One observer blogged: “Tens of billions seems a bit far fetched. Anyway let’s take $10 billion. If Direct Carrier Bill is 10 per cent and Bango takes 40 per cent of that market that’s $400m – not far off triple Bango existing end user spend.”
Bango’s platform is being used by all the world leaders in the space – chiefly Google, Amazon, Samsung and Microsoft – and is in mass-saturation territories such as Indonesia – where it has the DCB monopoly – the US, Australia, India, Canada and others – all prime territories for Pokemon Go.
While Google is banned in China, that country is another massive market which Bango can exploit through other partners. I also understand that Bango is about to conquer the huge Mexican market.
Once children start signing up for the game under pre-paid and secured licences under strict parental guidance, Anderson’s estimate of a tens of billion dollars revenue haul for Pokemon Go creator, American corporation Niantic, might move centre screen.
Pokemon Go was available in the States, Australia and some areas of Europe and gamers found a way of opening up the UK market. Now – according to information received by Business Weekly today – the enormous Chinese marketplace has caught the bug and young people are already using it there.
Bango’s share price has gone from 60p at the time it acquired American business BilltoMobile in May to 77p a share at the time of writing. It shot up 30.69 per cent to 75.80 yesterday and continued heading north to 77p today.
Anderson has previously told Business Weekly that it has created big-name partnerships with world leaders that will massively increase revenues.
The acquisition of BilltoMobile, the US-based carrier billing services of Danal Inc, for an initial consideration of $3.5m, could add as much as $80m to the bottom line.
That will be dwarfed if Pokemon Go sales evolve the way Anderson believes they will.
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Another star is twinkling brightly in Cambridge UK’s world-leading galaxy of product design consultancies – providing innovation for global science & technology market leaders.
Coalesce Product Development, headed up by former Sagentia man Dave Ahern, has expanded into significant office and laboratory space at Edinburgh House on the St John’s Innovation Park. The business incubated within St John’s Innovation Centre and has now agreed a five-year lease for space at Edinburgh House totalling 3,796 sq ft in a deal negotiated by Savills.
Cambridge has created a cluster of tech product design consultancies that even the US cannot match. In fact US, Asian and European clients beat a path to Cambridge’s door to turn raw IP into prototypes and marketable products.
Coalesce specialises in drug delivery devices. Engineer Ahern splits his time between working on projects and running the business and has assembled a strong team of engineers. His particular expertise is in respiratory drug delivery devices, built up while working on and managing dry powder inhaler projects for, amongst others, Dey Pharmaceuticals, Chiesi, Novartis and Vectura.
He began his career designing bespoke bomb-disposal robots and then mice and trackballs for high volume manufacture in the Far East. From Logitech, he moved into consultancy with Scientific Generics (now Sagentia) and his focus changed mainly to the medical sector and eventually to drug delivery devices.
Over the past two decades, both as an independent consultant and then at Coalesce Product Development, he has worked on a variety of medical devices, ranging from a gamma knife for Elekta, thoracic surgery equipment for Covedien, an arthroscopic surgical device for Gyrus Medical and a hand-held magnetic probe for sentinel node biopsy procedures for Endomag.
Science Group plc, Sagentia’s parent company, is meanwhile hiring experienced operator Andrew Diston from fellow Cambridge consultancy Medicom Innovation Partner. Diston was also formerly at Cambridge Consultants and has been appointed group science & technology director and a member of the group executive board with effect from September.
He is currently executive VP at Medicom, where he has had global responsibility for the commercial development of the Danish and Cambridge based business. Medicom specialises in designing and developing advanced drug delivery and connected health systems. Prior to Medicom, he spent most of his career at Cambridge Consultants – ultimately as head of the medical technology design and development business.
Science Group comprises four operating businesses, the original and largest being Sagentia, the Cambridge-based science and technology consulting company.
Recent acquisitions by the group have expanded operations into additional vertical markets providing new opportunities for growth. The role of group science & technology director engages the science, engineering and innovation capabilities of the operating businesses to open up new market opportunities.
Science Group has just posted interim results for the six months to the end of June and increased revenue to £17.7 million from £14.1m in the first half of 2015. The adjusted operating profit of £2.5m compared to £2.4m last time. The company reports net cash and freehold property assets of £31.3m, ahead of this stage last year.
Coalesce Product Development – drug delivery devices
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Edinburgh House on St John’s Innovation Park
Coalesce Product Development – drug delivery devices
Owlstone Medical in Cambridge has closed a $7 million fundraising to commercialise its disease breathalyser.
The business was spun out of parent company, Owlstone Inc, by co-founder Billy Boyle to develop and commercialise the breath test for use in clinical diagnostics and precision medicine with applications in cancer, inflammatory and infectious disease.
The investment round was led by UK-based Medtekwiz Advisory and will be used to fund ongoing clinical trials of the breathalyser in lung and colon cancer screening.
Owlstone Medical was created to leverage proprietary and proven Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS) technology for the advancement of the breath test device.
FAIMS measures volatile organic compound (VOCs) metabolites in patient’s breath or bodily fluids which are specific to disease. Measurement of VOC biomarkers allows diagnosis of disease at a very early stage, to enable more effective treatment and better patient outcomes.
Owlstone Medical is managed by a highly experienced team and supported by world-renowned experts in lung cancer diagnosis. Billy Boyle, the CEO, is an engineering graduate from Cambridge University and one of the original co-founders of Owlstone Inc, which was spun out of the university in 2004 and has raised $28 million in investment and won over $25m in engineering grants – largely from the US Military.
Boyle said: “Securing this funding is further validation of our technology, and we are excited to progress our vision to revolutionise the detection and diagnosis of cancer, infectious and inflammatory diseases.
“The breathalyser we are developing provides clinicians with a highly sensitive, non-invasive diagnostic, which will enable early detection and improve patient outcomes.
“We are also working with pharma partners to develop non-invasive companion diagnostics to better match patients to treatment for emerging personalised therapies.”
Regius Professor Christofer Toumazou, advisor to Medtekwiz and recently appointed to the Owlstone Medical Board, said: “I am delighted to have joined the board and to be involved at such a milestone in the development of the Company.
“With the investment, I look forward to seeing a step change in the way serious disease can be diagnosed and monitored – particularly for colon and lung cancer, which are two of the biggest cancer killers worldwide.”
The potential of the technology to enable rapid detection of disease, without the need for costly, invasive medical procedures, saw Owlstone Medical win the Business Weekly Astra Zeneca-MedImmune Life Science Innovation award. That was mid-March and in the previous month the company won an NHS contract for STRATA, adapting the breathalyser technology for precision medicine and companion diagnostics.
Prior to that, it received a $1.4 million NHS contract for LuCID (Lung Cancer Indicator Detection) to use FAIMS technology in the early detection of lung cancer.
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Billy Boyle
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Cambridge UK communications technology business Sepura has backed a thumping set of full-year results by revealing that it has conditionally raised £65 million through a placing of shares.
The share placing raises £15m more than Sepura felt it might seek when it announced liquidity issues in April.
It will ease cashflow but also help underpin bold expansion plans, notably in the United States. The fundraising was clearly nailed before the shock Brexit vote. CEO Gordon Watling said: “The fundraising announced today will significantly strengthen our balance sheet and provide the right capital structure to support our growth strategy.
“We see significant opportunities to build on recent success in the global transport sector such as New York City Transit, as well as grow our business in North America – the world’s largest PMR market. We also expect FY17 and beyond to benefit from our recent investment programmes.
“We have revised our business model and our financial focus is firmly now on cash conversion, improving operating margins and increasing our revenue visibility with contracted and recurring business. The board believes that the group is well positioned to exploit key growth markets.”
Sepura group revenue was hoisted by €58.5m to €189.7m, which included a €44.7 million contribution from the acquired Teltronic business which has substantially boosted sales in the US and Latin America.
The 250,000 devices shipped in the year was up 15 per cent on the previous 12 months; the company has a record-breaking order backlog of €75 million. The pre-tax loss of €19m compared to a 2015 profit of €16.7m as a result of an aggressive acquisition strategy in the past 12 months.
Watling said the company and its lending banks have also agreed to make certain commercial and other amendments to its existing facilities agreement which will be implemented conditional on completion of the capital raising.
A general meeting of the company has been convened for July 15 to ratify the fundraising.
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One of the most novel technology ventures in Cambridge’s distinguished business history is flying high on the wings of goodwill and innovation. e-Go aeroplanes has gone into serial production of its ultra-lightweight, hi-tech single seater plane after a high profile launch at its Conington headquarters north west of Cambridge.
It has designed and is now manufacturing very lightweight, hi-tech aircraft using the new freedoms from regulation offered by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Investors and supporters gathered at a launch event where CEO William Burnett (pictured above) officially became the first buyer of the aircraft. Now the young company is targeting potential customers on both sides of the Atlantic. Cambridge investors have been instrumental in supporting the project to date including lead backer Herman Hauser, the Cambridge Capital Group and The Angel CoFund with British Business Bank backing. SyndicateRoom support resulted in crowdfunding investment.
Business Weekly understands that e-Go aeroplanes will be seeking to raise an additional £1 million growth capital in the not-too-distant future, hopefully from existing investors but if necessary dipping into a pool of new backers who have flagged up their potential interest.
e-Go aeroplanes is promoting a distinct usp in that the aircraft is fun to fly with very low cost of ownership – just £15 per flying hour when the accepted norm is £150 for leisure aircraft.
Previous rounds of funding allowed the company to build a prototype, which first flew in October 2013. Additional funding was raised to complete over 100 test flights and refine the aircraft prior to production.
Under a strict testing regime, the design has been honed to meet industry and self-imposed standards, the latter with an eye on the Light Sports Aircraft category in the US.
Tooling and jigs have been created, and the first production e-Go aeroplanes aircraft is in the hands of William Burnett as the first customer. With Research & Development complete, a significant milestone has been reached.
Following what had been a staged and measurable approach, e-Go aeroplanes will shortly be looking for additional investment to allow it to enter the next phase – full production.
The aircraft is unusual; it is breathtakingly simple in design, meeting an exacting specification in the Single Seat De-Regulated (SSDR) microlight aircraft category that is both exciting and attracting worldwide attention.
The market niche for e-Go aeroplanes, which sits between high-end and budget, is readily identifiable. The aim is not to compete head on with other aircraft that follow the more traditional 2-seat, side-by side design but to be different – to use materials such as pre-impregnated carbon fibre, processes, and technologies that have been well developed and refined in other fields such as automotive and Formula 1 and apply them to aviation.
Powered by a UK manufactured Wankel rotary engine of just 30hp, and using standard un-leaded petrol, the aircraft is economical and can be transported in its own trailer for owners who do not wish to pay for hangarage at a local airfield.
Concentrating initially on the 60,000 pilots licensed to fly in the UK, the aim is to sell aircraft into the US market which has over 10x as many pilots. US certification will also facilitate sales opportunities elsewhere in the world. Significant UK interest has already been shown from individual pilots and those seeking to share an aircraft in a syndicate.
The aircraft is marketed as a ’fun flying machine’, and those pilots who have had the opportunity to fly the prototype truly enjoy the experience and are thrilled by its performance.
The chief test pilot, Keith Dennison, demonstrated the agility and manoeuvrability of the aircraft at the recent launch of the first production aircraft. He said: “‘I have had the pleasure to fly many types of aircraft around the world – but this is really a fun flying machine. It has a fighter-like feel with a turn rate that’s more fun than a fast jet.”
e-Go aeroplanes – ultra-lightweight hi-tech single seater plane
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e-Go aeroplanes – ultra-lightweight hi-tech single seater plane