Better safe than sorry. San Francisco-based Voxel will today announce a $15 million Series A round, with investors flocking to a company promising that new technology can dramatically reduce workplace accidents. The business applies artificial intelligence tools to live video feeds from its customers in order to prevent accidents before they happen and to identify behaviours that might lead to future health and safety difficulties.
Founded little more than a year ago, Voxel works with a growing number of industrial and manufacturing businesses, as well as retailers. Customers provide access to the feeds from the video cameras monitoring their workplaces; Voxel’s AI model then analyses what it is seeing and sounds the alert when it spots an issue.
“It is all about helping people to be proactive about safety on their sites,” says Alex Senemar, CEO and co-founder of the business. Having previously worked in the healthcare sector, founding Sherbit, an AI-powered remote health monitoring system for hospitals, Senemar had seen the potential of technology to transform care for patients. “But that happens after someone is hurt or falls sick; we wanted to prevent incidents in the first place,” he says.
Voxel’s technology can therefore be applied in two different ways. First, there is the potential for real-time interventions in order to prevent an accident. Where the technology spots a spillage that might create a slip hazard, for example, it can alert on-site personnel so they take action before the worst happens.
Second, the technology can also be used to analyse repeated behaviours that create risk. That might be anything from a forklift truck that drives too quickly around a facility to workers lifting goods in an unsafe way. Again, by providing the business with early intelligence that these are actual dangers in their workplace, employers can intervene before anyone gets hurt.
It’s a powerful idea that appears to work well in practice too. Voxel’s Series A round announcement comes less than six months after its seed round completed last September. Senemar says this rapid progression reflects the benefits that early adopters of its technology are seeing. Its first-ever customer reported not a single accident in the year after it implemented Voxel’s technology, having suffered 10 breaches over the previous 12 months. A second client saw a 72% reduction in incidents in its workplace.
“If we’re honest, we hadn’t expect to see such profound effects so quickly,” says Senemar. “It has been inspiring to see the impact of our product in the real world.”
Voxel’s growing base of customers pay for the technology through licensing fees – paying more as they add more cameras to the feed of video that the technology has to analyse. Customers often start out by installing the technology in a single site – perhaps one where they have particular safety concerns – but then add it in other locations across the business. The pay-off is reduced compensation for workers who suffer an accident or ill-health, as well as benefits such as reduced business disruption from staff absence.
Clearly, there is significant potential for rapid growth, both by selling new licenses to existing clients and through new customer acquisition. The company is also exploring new revenue models. For example, it has begun talking to insurance companies about deals that would see businesses pay lower premiums to cover their workers against workplace risk if they have installed Voxel’s solutions.
Exploring ambitions on multiple fronts will require the company to continue growing its team – staff numbers are already up from eight at the beginning of the year to around 30 today – and investing in its product, as well as in broader sales and marketing. Expansion to date has largely come about through word of mouth.
The company’s new financial strength will be crucial in that regard, with today’s investment round proving popular with potential backers. The $15 million fund raise was led by Eclipse Ventures with participation from MTech and World Innovation Labs.
Senemar’s co-founders are CTO Anurag Kanungo, who co-founded Sherbit with Senemar, and led the machine learning systems team at Uber’s self-driving unit; Harishma Dayanidhi, who developed self-driving car technology at Uber and Aurora; and Troy Carlson, former software engineer at Google.
The team is particularly pleased to have attracted Eclipse as an investor given its extensive experience in industrial technology and manufacturing. The support extends to Eclipse partner Aidan Madigan-Curtis joining the Voxel board.
“Voxel’s technology catalyses tangible results and lasting change in the safety and efficiency of their customers’ operations,” Madigan-Curtis says. “We believe Voxel’s core architecture, which takes a non-intrusive approach by leveraging existing camera infrastructure, and their cutting-edge AI applications will enable Voxel to become a category-leader in software and AI applications across a multi-trillion dollar set of physical-industry sectors.”
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