Imandra, Innovapptive, Nesh, Kroger Delivery Robots & More TX Tech

Let’s catch up with the latest innovation news in Texas.

—Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners is one of three organizations that led a $5 million investment in Imandra, an artificial intelligence startup based in London, according to a press release. With the funding, Imandra says it will open a US headquarters in the Texas state capital. Other investors were AlbionVC and IQ Capital, based in London and Cambridge, England, respectively. The four-year-old startup makes AI software with tools to measure safety, transparency, and fairness. Imandra says it plans to use the funds to develop technology for the financial services industry and autonomous vehicles.

Innovapptive, which makes software to help workers in industries such as oil, gas, and energy manage plant outages and other events, has raised $16.3 million, according to a press release. The Series A round of funding was led by Tiger Global Management, based in New York. The startup says its technology connects the industry worker, back office, and company leadership to help minimize plant outages by reducing maintenance backlogs, improving inventory accuracy, workforce capacity, and data accuracy.

—Grocer Kroger (NYSE: KR) has launched autonomous robot delivery in Houston, according to a press release. The supermarket chain is working with Mountain View, CA-based robotics maker Nuro on the initiative, Kroger said. The Texas city is the second market for Kroger—it has piloted the service in Scottsdale, AZ—and is the first public self-driving fleet in Houston. Robotic delivery is available from two Kroger stores in central Houston daily and orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery. Kroger says there is no minimum order amount for deliveries, which each have a flat fee of $5.95.

—Dallas-based retailer Neiman Marcus has acquired a minority stake in Fashionphile, an e-commerce startup focused on used luxury handbags and accessories, according to a press release. Neiman’s said the partnership will enable its existing customers to access these goods while also introducing new, younger shoppers to Neiman “ahead of their peak spending years,” the retailer said in the release. Founded in 1999, Fashionphile has a digital inventory of 15,000 items.

Nesh, which makes a smart assistant for oil and gas companies, announced investment from Equinor Technology Ventures and Aristos Ventures in Dallas, according to a company blog post. Equinor Technology Ventures is an investment subsidiary of Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned oil company. Its investment in Nesh will be payment for a pilot project, says Sidd Gupta, Nesh’s co-founder and CEO. “With Nesh, users can simply ask their technical questions in a conversational way and receive the answers,” he writes in a Medium post. “Interacting with Nesh is similar to asking a colleague who is available 24×7, works weekends and doesn’t judge.” Gupta says the total investment is “slightly less than” $1 million.

—Mastercard (NYSE: MA) has acquired fintech startup Vyze, according to a press release. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Vyze connects merchants with multiple lenders in order to offer shoppers more options to “shop now and pay later,” the startup says. “Vyze adds to our ability to empower banks and other lending partners to participate in the growing trend of retail financing,” Blake Rosenthal, executive vice president of global acceptance at Mastercard, said in a prepared statement. The Austin cloud-based startup was founded in 2008 and had raised $48.1 million, Silicon Hills News reported.

Locale, an Austin-based “aparthotel” startup, has raised $2.5 million in a seed funding round led by Amplo and Susa Ventures, according to a press release. The investment is the startup’s first since it started in Austin in 2016, the company said. Locale has now expanded into Nashville and Houston, leasing more than 150 furnished apartments for short and extended stays, the startup said. Locale, which plans to expand to San Francisco, Denver, and Santa Monica, CA, says it will use the funding for technology upgrades and marketing.

Cognite, a Norwegian industrial IoT software company, has selected both Houston and Austin as co-US headquarters, according to a press release. The company said it sought to establish “deeper relationships with industrial companies” within the energy industry. “We selected Houston to be close to the oil and gas industry,” John Markus Lervik, Cognite’s co-founder and CEO. “At the same time, we are a technology company with algorithms and cloud computing as part of our collective DNA, and we view Austin as an indisputable technology hub. Being based in both locations will help us merge the best of two worlds, in the form of industry domain expertise and technology DNA.”

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