The four years that Apex.ai spent rewriting — and then safety certifying — the robot operating system to give automakers and other mobility companies a toolkit to integrate software applications into vehicles has paid off.
The startup founded by Bosch veterans and automated systems engineers Jan Becker and Dejan Pangercic has attracted a number of new strategic and private investors, including suppliers Continental and ZF in a Series B $56.5 million fundraising round led by Orillion. AGCO, Canaan, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Airbus Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures and others participated in the round. Apex has raised a total of $74 million to date, a figure that includes previously announced investments from Volvo Group Venture Capital, Toyota Ventures and HELLA Ventures. Notably, ZF is taking a 5% stake in Apex.
Investor appetite for companies like Apex has increased, as with the development of autonomous vehicles, and as the automotive industry has sought to build so-called “software-defined” vehicles that can deliver to drivers and passengers digital services capable of updating the software wirelessly — like a smartphone. As vehicles have become more complex, demand for a safety certified software development kit grows. Or at least that is what Apex and its many investors are betting on.
“Apex.AI has cornered a unique market by making it easier for manufacturers to implement safety-critical software into mobility systems,” said Ahmed Sallam, partner at Orillion, who is also joining the board. “We also invested in Apex.ai because we see significant potential to expand the market for their operating system beyond the automotive industry and into other markets such as agriculture, robotics and internet of things (IoT).”
Apex.ai has focused on giving automakers and mobility companies a way to seamlessly and safely integrate software applications into vehicles. The startup, which has offices in Palo Alto, Berlin, Stuttgart and Munich, have developed two products. Apex.OS is a software development kit for autonomous driving software and other safety-critical mobility applications. Apex.OS received certification earlier this year by the TÜV NORD for functional safety according to the highest level of ISO 26262. This means the software is verified to be used in production vehicles, which expands the market potential for Apex.ai.
More recently, the company has been working on an enterprise middleware product, called Apex.middleware, that integrates various protocols to improve communication between software applications.
The fresh capital will be used to ramp up Apex in just about every way possible. Becker told TechCrunch the company plans to double its workforce from about 70 today to 140 by the end of next year, expand into Asia and commercialize its existing products and develop new ones in areas adjacent to the automotive industry, including agriculture, mining, industrial automation and internet of things (IoT). Former Panasonic executive Tavis Szeto will lead the Asia expansion.