Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd said on Wednesday it has agreed to invest $16 million (Rs 108 crore) in NetraDyne Inc, a US tech startup that is creating a platform based on the Internet of Things to process visual inputs.
NetraDyne, which is yet to start commercial operations, is developing deep learning solutions and vision-based analytics targeted at industries such as fleet management, automotive, security and surveillance, Reliance said in a stock-exchange filing.
“There are potential synergies with telecom and digital business initiatives of RIL… apart from commercialization benefits in India,” the company said.
Reliance, which operates the country’s biggest private-sector refinery and has a large retail business, is close to launching operations of its telecom arm Reliance Jio Infocomm that will offer high-speed data services across India. The company has also started selling handsets as part of its telecom strategy.
Reliance said it invested half the amount in NetraDyne on 31 May 2016 and will put in the remaining by 31 March 2017. The investment will give RIL a 40% stake in NetraDyne on the basis of current fully diluted share capital.
The Indian company is investing in the US startup through wholly owned unit Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Ltd.
The San Diego, California-headquartered NetraDyne was founded in September 2015 by Avneesh Agrawal and David Julian. Agrawal, a Stanford University graduate, was senior vice president of technology and business at Qualcomm for over 10 years. He was also president of Qualcomm India & South Asia, responsible for the company’s business, sales and marketing operations in the region.
Julian co-founded Mountain View Analytics, a financial investment startup, and later worked as principal engineer in Qualcomm Research for 12 years before launching NetraDyne. Julian has also worked at US space agency NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the past.
Reliance has been actively investing in startups through its venture capital arm Reliance GenNext Ventures. In a recent interaction with VCCircle, Vivek Rai Gupta, managing partner at Reliance GenNext Ventures, said the company planned to back five or six of the second batch of 11 companies that graduated out of its four month-accelerator programme and that it was actively looking for early-stage ventures outside its own mentorship programme.
GenNext looks to invest up to $10 million in a startup though it has not set a limit. It has a stage-agnostic approach towards early-stage investments. It has invested in four companies so far, including enterprise software firm Covacsis and surveillance solutions company Videonetics.
Speaking at the launch of Digital India Week last year, chairman Ambani had said that Reliance Industries would invest over Rs 250,000 crore in the digital space, including rollout of wireless broadband infrastructure and manufacturing of mobile handsets.