Microsoft Corp\'s venture fund M12 leads extended Series A funding in NextBillion AI
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NextBillion AI, which operates an artificial intelligence-based enterprise platform focused on hyperlocal solutions, has raised $6.25 million (Rs 45 crore) in its extended Series A round of funding from M12, formerly known as Microsoft Ventures. 

The company had received $7 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Falcon Edge Capital in Series A funding in June last year. 

“As a high-growth company, working with the right VC was vital for us. In the M12 team, we have found a long-term champion that is helping us scale and expand to North America and other global markets,” said Ajay Bulusu, co-founder of NextBillion AI. 

NextBillion AI was launched early last year by Bulusu, Gaurav Bubna and Shaolin Zheng. All three were part of the key technological team at multinational ride-hailing company Grab. 

The startup says it aims to be a leader in the AI-powered hyperlocal solutions space. This includes AI-based areas such as mapping, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), content moderation and facial recognition. It currently has a presence in Singapore, China and India. 

The company claims to have scaled to supporting 15 customers across 20 countries. 

“Globally, companies spend over $6.7 billion a year on their mapping stack, and this spend is growing faster than ever. NexBillion AI is leading the disruption of geospatial data with great customer traction and a world class team,” said Abhi Kumar, partner at M12. 

M12 has invested in over 70 startups in areas including cybersecurity, AI, business software-as-a-service and industrial drones. 

In April last year, the venture fund led a Series D round in RoboticWares Pvt Ltd, which runs logistics management startup FarEye. Prior to that, it backed health-tech startup Innovaccer in its first India investment. 

It had also said that partner Rashmi Gopinath will lead India investments. However, she left M12 to join B Capital, an investment firm set up in 2015 by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and Silicon Valley-based Indian-origin investor Raj Ganguly. 

Companies in the AI space have raised cheques of various sizes in recent months from both institutional and strategic investors. These include data analytics firm Tredence Inc, marketing cloud startup Pyxis and medical records platform HealthPlix Technologies Pvt Ltd.

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