Temasek leads $40m Series B funding in NZ’s AI company Soul Machines

FILE PHOTO - A Temasek logo is seen at the annual Temasek Review in Singapore July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Singapore’s state investor Temasek has led a $40-million investment in New Zealand-based Soul Machines, an AI company developing digital avatars to help businesses engage with customers.

The round was joined by European VC Lakestar, Salesforce Ventures as well as existing investors Horizons Ventures, University of Auckland Inventors Fund and others, the company said in a statement.

It added that the funding will be used to focus on R&D and expanding its global footprint.

In 2016, the company raised a $7.5 million Series A round led by Horizons Ventures.

Soul Machines was founded in 2016 by Mark Sagar, an Academy Award winner and director of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, and New Zealand serial entrepreneur Greg Cross.

The company blends AI and computational brain models with experiential learning to develop “lifelike digital humans” that can talk to people face-to-face. Its products HumanOS platform and Digital Heroes have been trusted by global brands such as Procter & Gamble, Mercedes-Benz, The Royal Bank of Scotland, ANZ and Sony.

“Brands now have the opportunity to create a digital version of their ambassadors or an entirely digitally employee, like a service agent, to more effectively interact with their fans and customers in meaningful ways,” Soul Machines said.

The company will soon unveil initiatives in the education and healthcare fields.

“We’re proud to announce Salesforce Ventures’ investment in Soul Machines because it has an obsessive focus on improving customer experience by using artificial intelligence technology in new ways,” said Rob Keith, head of Australia at US-based Salesforce Ventures.

For Temasek, it has added several investments in AI companies since it funded Chinese unicorn SenseTime – the world’s most valuable AI startup. The investments, either directly made or through affiliates and joint ventures, include UK-based Prowler.io, US-based SparkCognition, Singapore’s BasisAI and Advance.ai, among others.

Temasek’s unit ST Telemedia last year launched Leap, a startup that helps Asian companies adopt AI-enabled technologies, with an initial focus on Southeast Asia.

Also through Vertex Holdings, Temasek is targeting AI companies in China and India with the VC extension’s $730 million Vertex Master Fund. The fund has recently fully closed with the backing of other limited partners such as Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, Marubeni, ABeam Consulting and the Development Bank of Japan.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.