Something like this is rare in the automotive industry: of all things, the two competitors and world's largest suppliers to the industry, Bosch and Continental, are participating in the same start-up at the same time.
Actually, an investment by one of them almost automatically excludes the other large competitors, after all, the suppliers want to be able to offer the technology of the young companies as exclusively as possible for their own customers.
But with the chip developer Recogni, everything is different this time: The American-German start-up has won both supplier groups for its second financing round.
Bosch and Continental are investing almost $ 50 million in Recogni together with the Mayfield venture capital fund and the shareholders who had already invested in the first financing round.
In addition to BMW and Toyota, two other heavyweights in the automotive industry are now among the investors in Recogni.
The start-up wants to take on some of the big players in the autonomous driving business.
Recogni is developing a processor to process the data from the sensors and cameras in self-driving cars.
So far, the competitors Nvidia and Mobileye have been considered absolute pioneers, whose technological lead can hardly be caught up.
But Recogni and the investors believe that they have found an advantage over powerful competitors: the power consumption of the processor.
The idea is clear: The autonomous cars of the future will probably almost always be electrically powered, so you want to use as little energy as possible for processing the sensor data and images of the surroundings, because that would then be lacking in the range of the vehicles.
According to Recogni, the processor developed by the company creates 1000 so-called TOPS per ten watts of energy consumption.
TOPS stands for the number of arithmetic operations and means "trillion operations per second".
"Even in their next generations, the products of the competitors create significantly less," says Thomas Andrae, Managing Partner at Linden Capital, which is also invested in Recogni.
"The extraordinarily high performance efficiency of Recogni's solution has the potential to fundamentally change the current processor landscape for automated driving," believes Ingo Ramesohl, Managing Director at Robert Bosch Venture Capital.
No strategic US auto investor involved
Recogni is already valued at a three-digit million figure after the second round of financing - although the chip is not yet on the market.
But investors particularly like the idea of getting an alternative to the powerful competitors Nvidia and Mobileye.
Recogni therefore consciously relies on what is known as an open architecture, so that the processors can be integrated into the systems of the manufacturers and suppliers, while most competitors can only buy the entire package.
“The Germans are finally forming,” Andrae comments on Bosch and Continental's entry.
Recogni is therefore to be deliberately positioned as an alternative for German industry, so far no strategic US investor from the automotive industry has been involved in the company.
And this despite the fact that the headquarters and around two-thirds of the employees are based in San Jose, California in Silicon Valley.
However, artificial intelligence for the recognition chip is also being worked on in Munich.
A small center for research on self-driving vehicles has developed in the Bavarian capital.
In addition to the BMW development center, there is also a Volkswagen research unit for artificial intelligence in Munich.
And Apple is also rumored to be working on the autonomous iCar in Bavaria.
At least the US company has just moved into new office space in Munich, where research is said to be carried out on the “Titan” project, as the iPhone manufacturer's car project is called internally.
Investors believe that Recogni could become a sought-after takeover candidate in the next few months to defend itself against new competitors such as Apple or the Google subsidiary Waymo.
VW is considered a hot candidate, but the Wolfsburg-based company is currently not involved.
Investor Andrae assumes that the price for a takeover of Recogni should rise to more than one billion dollars in the next 18 months.
You wouldn't just get the know-how for this.
Recogni has also already secured the production capacities for the chips at the Taiwanese contract manufacturer TSMC.
A good selling point given the chip manufacturing bottlenecks that are currently crippling the auto industry.