By Connie Loizos for Techcrunch.com
Zendrive, a startup that uses smartphone sensors to measure drivers’ behavior, has raised $13.5 million in Series A funding led by Sherpa Capital, with participation from Nyca Partners, Thomvest Ventures, and earlier backers First Round Capital, BMW i Ventures, Fontinalis Partners. Tad Montross, who’s the chairman and CEO of General Re Corporation, also joined the round.
If you haven’t heard of Zendrive before, the 2.5-year-old, 35-person, San Francisco-based company targets enterprise customers like on-demand services and trucking companies that have large fleets of cars and trucks on the road, charging them licensing fees for its safety insights. (Its software development kit is free for up to four drivers. Between five and 99 drivers, the company charges $4 per driver per month. Beyond 99 drivers, it’s necessary to call the company for a quote.)
Zendrive is hardly alone in offering safety tools to customers in both emerging and established transportation industries. Just one of its competitors is a four-year-old hardware and software company called Automatic that sells what it calls a smart driving assistant. Another flavor of company selling telematics tools and services is 18-year-oldOmnitracs, which sells fleet management software.
Investors have plainly been won over anyway, including by some of Zendrive’s new features for making fleets safer at a large scale, like its Automatic Collision Detection feature. Developed with one of its investors, BMW, and tested at BMW’s crash-test facilities, the technology detects collisions in real time, allowing any car containing a smartphone to notify a call center or emergency contact, thereby reducing the time required to deliver a first response.
Zendrive’s new funding will be used to double its team by year end, and to hone its technology further still.
The company will also presumably use the funding to draw a bigger distinction between itself and its direct competitors, many of which are using hardware devices.
It argues, for example, that because Zendrive is measuring data on mobile devices versus the vehicle itself, it will become increasingly relevant to on-demand services, where there may be more than one driver per vehicle.
The company further notes that on-board diagnostics ports (as employ both Automatic and Omnitracs) have been demonstrated to create security weaknesses that can allow hackers to remotely take control of cars, while smartphones don’t pose the same kind of cybersecurity threat.
Zendrive has now raised $15 million altogether.