TMT
By 30 July, 2018
Japanese investment firm backs AI startup AntWorks
Asheesh Mehra, Founder and Group CEO(left) with Govind Sandhu, Co-Founder and CFO, AntWorks

AntWorks, a firm which offers artificial intelligence (AI) and automation products and solutions, has raised $15 million (around Rs 103 crore at current exchange rates) in a Series A round of funding from Japanese investment firm SBI Investment Co.

The valuation of the company and the terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

In a statement, AntWorks said it will use the fresh capital to boost growth by expanding its marketing and sales channels apart from entering new geographies. The company, which has bases in Singapore and Mumbai, will also invest in research and development.

SBI Investment, a subsidiary of financial services firm SBI Holdings, and AntWorks will also form a joint venture to tap opportunities in the emerging AI space in Southeast Asia.

AntWorks was founded in 2015 by Asheesh Mehra (chief executive officer) and Govind Sandhu (chief financial officer). The company focuses on robotic process automation (RPA).

“The dream was to create a company that would serve as a catalyst for enterprises on their digitisation journey,” Mehra said.

AntWorks provides a code-free RPA product. Its cognitive machine reading (CMR) engine is rapidly replacing optical character recognition (OCR), the company said.

OCR is a vital component for any automation, RPA or digitisation journey for enterprises as it is capable of reading any data type – structured, unstructured, inferred, or image data, the statement added.

The company claims to have more than 450 customers in four countries. It said that it had recorded three-digit revenue growth, but did not divulge further details.

“We look forward to their [AntWorks’] growth in the Asian region through our joint venture, as well as globally,” said Yoshitaka Kitao, representative director, president, and CEO of SBI Holdings Inc.

AI and automation
RPA as a sector has been increasingly attracting investors and enterprises across the world.

Earlier this month, Silicon Valley-based RPA firm Automation Anywhere, which has Indian-origin founders, had raised $250 million in one of the largest-ever Series A rounds. The company received a post-money valuation of $1.8 billion.

New York-based RPA firms UiPath and WorkFusion are among the top RPA startups. There are other several marketing and sales automation companies that have raised funding recently.

Last year, Bengaluru-based Open Financial Technologies, which automates collections and payouts for small businesses, raised pre-Series A funds in a round led by Unicorn India Ventures and Japan’s Recruit Group.

In March this year, Appiyo Technologies Pte. Ltd, a business-to-business software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup which offers enterprise workflow automation services, raised 500,000 Singapore dollars ($3,83,000 or Rs 2.48 crore) in a seed round led by Axilor Ventures.

Japan’s SBI Group

SBI Investment Co is a subsidiary of Japan’s SBI Holdings Inc., which in turn is the investment and venture capital arm of SBI Group. It was earlier an investment subsidiary of Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank, which has since cut ties with the SBI Group.

SBI Holdings has other interests in the Indian venture capital ecosystem, mostly through its equity investments in other funds. It had jointly formed a private investment in public equity (PIPE) fund along with Edelweiss in 2012.

The Japanese investment firm had also invested in VC fund Nirvana Venture Advisors the same year.

More recently, the SBI-FMO Fund and others invested $18 million in Bengaluru-based fintech firm Innoviti Payment Solutions Pvt. Ltd in July last year.

The SBI-FMO Fund is a joint venture between SBI Holdings and Dutch development bank FMO and it invests in financial technology companies.

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