Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd has made a follow-on investment of $8 million (around Rs 58 crore at current exchange rates) in US-based artificial intelligence firm Netradyne Inc, which focuses on driver and fleet safety.
The investment has potential synergies with the digital services and communication initiatives of Reliance Industries and its subsidiaries, the energy-to-telecom conglomerate said in a stock-exchange filing.
Reliance Industries has made the investment through its wholly-owned subsidiary Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Ltd.
Reliance Industries had previously invested $16 million in Netradyne’s Series A round of funding in 2016.
With the completion of the latest transaction, it now holds 37.4% stake in Netradyne, which has a technology innovation centre in Bengaluru.
A subsequent statement from Netradyne said Reliance’s investment was part of a $21-million Series B round of funding led by M12, the venture capital arm of tech giant Microsoft.
Early-stage venture capital fund Point72 Ventures also contributed to the investment, Netradyne added.
The company will use the fresh capital to make sizeable investment in artificial intelligence and deep learning within the commercial vehicle space and in new industry segments such as dynamic 3D/HD mapping, data analytics, and insurance.
Netradyne has built Driveri, a vision-based driver recognition and fleet safety platform that provides commercial fleet managers with insights into positive driving and identifying opportunities for individual coaching.
Netradyne recently started commercialising its technology with select partners across the globe, Reliance Industries said.
“The follow-up funding underscores our commitment to Netradyne’s engineering talent working on cutting-edge technologies in the fields of AI and machine learning,” Mathew Oommen, president-network at Reliance Jio Infocomm said in the statement.
The San Diego, California-based Netradyne was founded in September 2015 by Avneesh Agrawal and David Julian.
Agrawal, a Stanford University graduate, was senior vice president of technology and business at chipmaker Qualcomm for over 10 years. He was also president of Qualcomm India & South Asia, responsible for the company’s business, sales and marketing operations in the region.
Julian worked as principal engineer in Qualcomm Research for 12 years before launching NetraDyne. He also worked at US space agency NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the past.
NetraDyne recorded a turnover of $400,000 in the financial year 2017-18.
Reliance Industries, which derives the bulk of its revenue from its energy business, re-entered the telecom sector in India in 2016 with the launch of unit Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. It went on to shake up the mobile-phone industry with its cut-throat tariffs, triggering a wave of consolidation. Reliance Jio is now among the top three telecom operators in the country.
As part of its expansion, Reliance Industries is acquiring the telecom towers, spectrum, optic fibre network and media convergence nodes of Reliance Communications Ltd, the company led by Mukesh's younger brother, Anil Ambani https://www.vccircle.com/reliance-jio-to-acquire-rcoms-telecom-towers-spectrum/.
The conglomerate has made a number of investments in the technology space in the recent past.
In June, Reliance Industries had agreed to acquire Radisys Corporation, a US-based open telecom platform solutions provider, for $75 million (Rs 510 crore) in cash.
A month before that, it agreed to merge music streaming service JioMusic with rival Saavn and said that it would invest around $100 million to expand the platform.
Also in March, Reliance Retail picked up a 16% stake in US-based KaiOS Technologies, which provides operating system for its internet-enabled mobile handset JioPhone.