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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In January: Humanoids, AI Relationships And Cleaning Up Space

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 our year-end entry here.

It’s a new year and we have new interesting rounds to talk about.

Although it may be a different year, AI is still big and doing intriguing things, while humanoids are becoming more viable and space is getting cluttered. So let’s take a look at what we might have missed.

Building better AI relationships

For those wanting better, more meaningful AI interactions and connections, a startup just raised some seed funding to help with that.

CharacterX locked in $2.8 million in seed funding at a $30 million valuation from investors that included Lightspeed Venture Partners and Spark Digital Capital for its new Web3 AI social network. The Singapore-based startup aims to create “a world where human and AI interactions are seamless, enriched and democratic,” building augmented social experiences through multimodal AI, including 3D modeling.

In its post on Medium, the company asks one to “imagine traveling the world with your AI companion, who understands not just your words, but your expressions, gestures, tone, and the real-life environment. Our AI agents are being crafted for deep and proactive social interactions …”

The company already has more than 500,000 users, each spending an average of 30 minutes daily on the app.

Improving care

Normally we focus on smaller rounds in this list, but Forta’s specialized-care offering is an exception.

The San Francisco-based startup raised a $55 million Series A led by Insight Partners. The company is looking to use the new funding to apply AI to its parent-led autism therapy — to both help caregivers and improve clinical care.

A recent study published in the Cureus Journal said 76% of individuals in therapy saw an improvement in goal achievement using Forta’s tech-enabled clinical model when compared to more traditional approaches.

It can be very difficult to receive care for conditions like autism, and even once such care is located there can be wait times for the therapy. Making therapies better and more accessible will be vital moving forward.

AI and robotics

Let’s face it, robot humanoids are both cool and terrifying. That combination, however, gets you on this list

Norway-based 1X, developing the latest android tech, raised a $100 million Series B led by EQT Ventures. Last March, the company raised a Series A led by OpenAI, with participation from Tiger Global.

However, it’s not its investor that we care about — it’s Neo.

What is Neo?

Neo is the company’s second-generation android. It’s designed as a bipedal humanoid, created for what the company calls “everyday home assistance, offering versatile support for a wide range of domestic tasks in the consumer market.”

1X’s mission is to produce safe and advanced androids to help meet global labor demands. The company already has enterprise clients in logistics and security.

We know 1X is only one of several humanoid developers. Even Tesla is making them. Nevertheless, the thought of a human-like robot setting your table for dinner is the very definition of “interesting.”

Cleaning up space

Another big round makes the list because, well, it’s space.

Italian space startup D-Orbit raised more than $108 million in January led by Marubeni. The startup is basically a space logistics and debris cleanup company. It is looking to fulfill the need to move a satellite into its exact location after it is shuttled into orbit by the likes of SpaceX.

The company also is looking at ways to clean up space — it’s getting crowded up there — by helping break them up in the atmosphere or moving them farther out.

The company didn’t announce a valuation for the new round, but D-Orbit was valued at about $1.3 billion two years ago in a SPAC deal that was later killed.

Coupling up

Finances can be hard. That’s especially true when combined with a relationship.

A new startup, Tandem, is looking to help there. The Chicago-based company raised a $3.7 million seed round led by Corazon Capital and is looking to help couples manage their finances collaboratively. The app helps couples share expenses as well as grow joint savings.

Merging finances with another can be difficult, tedious and a fairly substantial commitment. The Tandem app lets users connect multiple credit cards to an account so expenses can be split equitably. It also has features that let couples jointly save for certain goals and in different buckets.

The app is already managing more than $60 million in expenses.

Finances can strain a relationship — so it’s a good idea to take advantage of anything that helps.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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