AiDash’s $50 million raise underscores its vegetation management versatility

Investors say the startup is poised for immense profitability with its AI-backed tech.

January 24, 2024
A utility pole in orange mist

Photo credit: Silas Stein / picture alliance via Getty Images

AI-backed asset management startup AiDash kicked off the new year with a $50 million Series C that will help the company accelerate its domestic growth — and potentially outstrip its European competitors.

  • The top line: The company’s latest funding round will focus on growth, including establishing a European headquarters and increasing headcount. Investors include Lightrock, SE Ventures, Shell Ventures, and National Grid Partners.
  • The nuts and bolts: AiDash’s primary offering is artificial intelligence-backed vegetation management, using satellite data combined with ground sources to provide maintenance recommendations to utilities. Its AI is trained on vegetation and climate conditions from 48 states, and can predict future rates of asset degradation.
  • The investor take: One of the biggest appeals for AiDash is its applicability beyond the relatively small utility vertical, for example to state departments of transportation and local municipalities, explained National Grid Partners vice president of investments Andre Turenne. ”We like to find startups that have technologies that can sell into multiple verticals,” he said. “I can get that company to grow faster and attract financing from other VCs, whereas if it’s just selling software that’s only usable by a utility and the grid, it’s going to be slower-growing, harder to attract capital, and we’re going to think twice about doing that investment.”

AiDash has an expanding suite of offerings, like biodiversity monitoring and encroachment management tools (utilized by natural gas developers), but its most successful product is intelligent vegetation management, Turenne told Latitude Media.

“Utilities have wanted to do this for a decade,” he said, but only in recent years have advancements in satellite resolution and artificial intelligence made it possible; National Grid’s initial trial of the software resulted in 90% accuracy.

AIDash’s success so far ultimately comes down to utilities’ desire to save money, he added.

“Software investments are all about digitizing your utility and keeping your costs down,” he said. “There are a number of different software plays that make this happen, but at a high level, software is about monitoring your assets.”

Condition-based maintenance is a more efficient and affordable way to operate, he added, compared to conducting maintenance every two years whether or not the asset needs it.

Market dynamics

Software can be a bit of a tricky space to be in, Turenne said, because it's usually a winner-take-all market.

The market for AI for wildfire detection — using satellites to spot smoke once a fire is already underway, for instance — is still relatively new, and relatively crowded. However, wildfire prevention is more mature as a market, and that's the space where AiDash operates.

Ultimately, Turenne said, most newer detection companies are going to run out of cash, leaving only a handful of companies in the field. But AiDash is above that fray. For utilities that use the company’s technology, reducing wildfires is a resulting benefit of the improved vegetation management it enables. This broader appeal have been key in enabling AiDash to grow more quickly than its wildfire detection-focused peers and capture the North American market, Turenne said.

“In Europe there’s a couple of other much smaller competitors that are a couple of years behind, and AiDash is now in the business of trying to take their customers away from them and expand in Europe — that’s why you have the European headquarters being built,” he added.

While funding for hardware and physical projects dominated 2023 raises, Turenne thinks AiDash is perfectly positioned to garner both venture capital and utility support going forward.

“I have met a bunch of these companies trying to do wildfire detection,” he said. “I think they’re interesting and that the technology would probably work, but as an investor I’m interested in companies that can get really large for a good exit — and I don’t see any of those detection companies getting very large because they’re kind of limited.”

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