AWARD SPOTLIGHT: EnerTech Capital winner of NEW 2020 VC Global Dealmaker Award for Ushr, Inc.
Congratulations to EnerTech Capital for winning the 2020 VC Global Dealmaker Award for Ushr, Inc. The 2020 CVCA Awards, sponsored by HarbourVest Partners Canada, will be announced each day June 8 – June 12, 2020 on social media beginning at 11am ET.
There’s autonomous driving with sensor-based technology, and then there’s autonomous driving with sensors and high-definition maps. The development of the later by HD map technology company Ushr is what attracted Japan’s Dynamic Map Platform Co. Ltd. (DMP) to buy the Detroit-based business last year.
“The HD map helps the vehicle understand what’s coming up miles ahead on the roadway and know it well in advance of what sensors can see,” says Chris Thibodeau, CEO of Detroit-based Ushr. “That lays the foundation for a safe and secure operating premise for autonomous driving.”
DMP bought Ushr — a spin-out of the automotive mapping business unit of Hamilton-based GeoDigital — as a way to increase its foothold in the emerging self-driving car market. DMP’s customers include some of Japan’s top carmakers such as Toyota Motor, Nissan and Honda as investors, according to Reuters.
The transaction, which included Ushr’s largest financial investor, VC firm EnerTech Capital, was awarded the CVCA’s VC Global Dealmaker Award. At the time of exit to DMP, EnerTech earned an internal rate of return of 180% and a 9.0x multiple on invested capital.
“As a firm we are very proud of the USHR exit and the financial returns it has provided to our investors. The company had its origins in Canada through our investment in GeoDigital and is a testament to the world-class venture environment the CVCA has helped support in Canada” said Wally Hunter, managing director, EnerTech Capital.
The deal happened following a “tremendous amount of hard work by all stakeholders involved,” Scott Ungerer, EnerTech’s founder and managing director and ex-chairman of the board of Ushr said in the Feb. 13, 2019 announcement. “The success we’ve experienced at Ushr since inception in an extremely dynamic and competitive market environment has been rewarding and we look forward with excitement to the next chapter of growth for the combined businesses upon closing.”
EnerTech was founded in 1996 with a focus on innovation in the power, energy, and transportation sector. To date, the firm — with offices across North America — has managed more than $500M, invested in 72 companies, and delivered 42 exits.
EnerTech partially financed the spin-out of Ushr from GeoDigital in 2017. Ushr says EnerTech’s strategic vision and leadership were fundamental to the founding of the company and the deal with DMP, which provides R&D and commercialization of high-precision 3D-map data used in autonomous driving and safe-driving support systems.
Ushr’s market-leading HD map technology was first integrated into General Motors’ Super CruiseTM, which it describes as the industry’s “first true hands-free advanced driver assistance system for the highway,” which appeared in the 2018 Cadillac CT6.
Ushr says its HD maps, when combined with vehicles equipped with sensors and software in autonomous vehicles, enable self-driving cars to operate more safely on mapped roadways, “providing precise lane centering, smooth control through curves, and the ability to anticipate roadway changes.”
While GM was Ushr largest customer and investor, they needed to find a buyer to help move the company forward. Thibodeau says Ushr focused on Japan given how advanced the country is in the autonomous driving market, with a focus on safety, and its plans to bring it to the United States.
“Absolute accuracy is how we refer to our accuracy level,” says Thibodeau. He says it means the road edges are within 15 cm of their position. The next closest competitor, Thibodeau says, is a half metre.
“We are much better than the competition,” he says. “That’s where the map data becomes high quality. When you have the accuracy, you have less false positives in the data… That’s the critical piece. It can be relied on and trusted. Sensors make mistakes, but the map doesn’t have those mistakes… When we say a lane marking is there .. it can be trusted.”
Ushr says it has currently mapped about 200,000 miles of roadway across the U.S. and Canada, with an ability to go to 3 million. “There’s a huge investment opportunity that awaits,” says Thibodeau.
The company’s next move will be to raise about US$80-to-US$100M to scale the company not just in North America, but also Europe and beyond.