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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In June: AI Eye Checks, Voice Diagnoses And New Social Media ‘Friends’

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.

Summer is here and the time is right to maybe read a little less tech news and have some fun.

If that’s the case, you may have missed some intriguing capital raises this month. No worries, we have you covered with what caught our eye — starting with an eye-related startup.

Check your eyes

Usually when we talk about healthcare and AI, it relates to a biotech using the technology to refine therapeutics or help with the clinical trial process.

However, Eyebot locked up $6 million this month led by AlleyCorp and Ubiquity Ventures for a different business model. The Boston-based startup is looking to build out a network of AI-powered kiosks that provide 90-second vision exams

Yes, self-serve, rapid eye tests with no optometrist. Hey, we scan our own groceries, why not be your own eye doctor? The prescription the kiosk spits out actually is finalized by a teledoctor, but it still eliminates the need for a traditional eye appointment — which might be good considering the optometry labor shortage.

The startup is looking to roll out its kiosks — which look like old-school arcade machines — in places such as shopping centers and pharmacies in October in the Northeast before scaling next year.

Keep an eye out!

Voice clues

Now moving from seeing to speaking, Canary Speech is next on the list after it raised a $13 million Series A funding round led by Cortes Capital.

The Provo, Utah-based AI-powered voice biomarker healthtech startup uses patented vocal analysis to screen for mental health and neurological disorders.

Canary’s vocal biomarker tech can actually capture and analyze speech data within seconds to identify irregularities in behavioral and cognitive changes — besting current clinical screening standards and before experiencing noticeable symptoms for illnesses like anxiety, depression and dementia.

Canary’s ambient listening tools can not only assess a patient’s health, but also simultaneously evaluate physicians’ health — something more important than ever with the American Medical Association reporting that at the end of 2021 nearly 63% of physicians experienced symptoms of burnout.

AI for social media

Ever been lonely on social media and needed a friend?

Well, now you can just create one — or at least an AI one.

Butterflies.AI locked up a $4.8 million seed round led by Coatue In June. The Bellevue, Washington-based startup is creating a social media platform where humans and AI can “co-exist,” by letting users create AI friends.

The platform relies on AI models to help users create a new “friend” in just minutes. The AI persona’s are fully fleshed out with a profile, backstory and even emotions. They then can create and interact with other people and AI personas on the platform.

To be honest, we don’t completely get the idea. Isn’t the point of social media to argue with people who don’t think like you? Not to make/create friends.

Moving outside the echo chamber

How people digest news and where they get their information from is something that has evolved significantly in just the last decades.

Many news outlets are gone and newspapers are all but dead. People seem very happy to get their news delivered only in the way they want with the opinions they share.

That’s why news-reader startup Particle.News caught our eye this month. The Northern California-based startup is looking for partnerships with publishers where its AI wouldn’t merely summarize the news, but actually help the reader look deeper into stories and understand different angles by using artificial intelligence to summarize stories from a variety of publishers.

The business model received some notice from investors this month, locking up a $10.9 million Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

It also signed a deal with Reuters to be a source of news content for its service.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. Many are under the impression people just want to read the news in their own echo chamber. Perhaps there’s more to it.

It’s (not) a tire fire

We’ve all driven past a tire yard, with all that used rubber just creating an eyesore.

Well, LDCarbon locked up $28 million in a Series C to help deal with just that. The new round was led by Toyota’s growth fund, Woven Capital.

The Seoul, South Korea-based company has developed technologies to recycle end-of-life tires and other automotive parts into recovered carbon black and pyrolysis oil.

Those products, in turn, can be used to create new automotive parts and tires — and the cycle continues. The company is trying to solve  a major pollution issue that comes from incinerating old cars and tires — while also helping automakers hit sustainability goals and regulatory requirements.

The company is in the process of building Asia’s largest tire pyrolysis plant, and says its pyrolysis and material recovery process provides nearly 100% recovery of waste tires.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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