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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In February: AI Pollination, Seeing The Future And 3D-Printed Shoes

Illustration of a robot arm/wrench turning a nut in the middle of the number 5.

This is a monthly column that runs down five interesting deals every month that may have flown under the radar. Check out last month’s entry here.

February flies by pretty fast, so it’s easy to miss some of the more under-the-radar startups that are doing curious things and raising cash.

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Some of the companies that received funding last month include a predictive news platform, a crypto search engine and of course lots of AI — so let’s get into it.

AI is replacing bees

Artificial intelligence is coming for all of our jobs, so why not the bees?

That may not be happening, but we have written before about startups trying to solve the problem of the declining bee population and what that would mean for our ecosystem.

However, Israel-based BloomX is taking a very different route than many of those. The AI-driven bio-mimicking pollination company launched from stealth last month with an $8 million seed round led by Ahern Agribusiness.

The company uses its AI platform to figure out the peak times for pollination, then sends hardware out to the fields to perform the process — since honey bees can actually be inefficient at doing it.

The startup already is working with blueberry and avocado growers worldwide, and the company hopes to develop additional bio-mimicking solutions to cater to more crops.

And you thought AI was just good at creating a new sales pitch.

Predicting the news

It’s common to wonder what may be making headlines when you wake up in the morning. What if there was a platform that actually could help predict that?

Ireland-based NewsWhip is trying to do just that and closed a $13 million round from London-based AshGrove Capital last month.

The startup’s platform is designed for communication professionals and journalists, and aims to give “clarity on the chaos of digital and social media.”  The company tracks stories and narratives, figures which are gaining momentum and popularity, and predicts which ones will matter in the hours ahead.

It does that all in real-time, giving those in the communications industry a heads-up on what to pay attention to and what they may be able to ignore.

There is a lot of noise out there, and anything that can quiet some of it is greatly appreciated.

Searching for crypto

Crypto certainly is not in the same place it was a year ago, but that does not mean people don’t care about it and search out info about it.

That’s where Seattle-based Kaito comes in. The startup, which raised $5.3 million in a seed round led by Dragonfly Capital, has created an AI-powered search engine specifically for crypto.

While traditional financial markets have several tech-enabled platforms to help investors, information on crypto has been rather fragmented, especially since it is on platforms not normally aggregated by search giants.

Kaito aims to take unstructured information and make it into actionable insights for crypto investors, researchers and others.

Crypto may not be at the height of its popularity, but it also is not going anywhere.

Telling a better story

One may hope artificial intelligence doesn’t invade too much into real, genuine creativity, but that seems unlikely.

San Francisco-based Tome uses AI to help turn users’ ideas into a more compelling visual narrative. In a sense, it can replace something like a more stagnant PowerPoint presentation.

The company raised a $43 million Series B led by Lightspeed Venture Partners at a reported $300 million valuation.

The startup’s generative storytelling features allow users to create visual narratives with layouts and images.

Launched just about six months ago, Tome already has more than 1 million users, ranging from students and teachers to go-to-market teams, and it’s being used to do anything from closing new business to even raising venture capital, according to the company.

Perhaps it used it to close this round.

Printing shoes

3D printing is not new, but there occasionally is a company that springs up that uses it to do something new.

New York-based Zellerfeld is one of those — closing a $15 million seed round led by Founders Fund to further its 3D printing of footwear.

That’s right, with the new cash the company is launching its open beta and 3D-printed footwear platform with 15 exclusive designs, and new ones will be added weekly, according to the startup.

3D printing isn’t often used for things we wear, but footwear is a $500 billion industry with huge brands, D2C companies and old-time brick-and-mortar businesses, so it seems like something primed for 3D printing to disrupt.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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