South Africa’s DataProphet closes $10 million to scale its AI-as-a-service platform for manufacturers TechCrunch

Manufacturing facilities or factories take raw materials and add value through a sequence of unit processes before a product is shipped. Now this process must follow a recipe. There are a number of instructions for products such as cars; in these instructions, a list of parameter values, specific temperature for iron melting, specific pressure for mold casting… and the list goes on.

These factories, such as those in the automotive industry, perform all the quality inspections, in-line and end-of-line, to ensure that the cars are in good shape; if not, they are scrapped or reworked, and capacity and effort are lost for the factories. Employees hired to keep these processes in check can make mistakes; Therefore, such factories also depend on software to evaluate their experiences, change parameters if necessary and ensure that the car reaches the end-of-line as high quality as possible.

DataProphet is one such company. The South African firm, founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff, provides AI-as-a-service software in the manufacturing sector and announces the completion of its $10 million Series A round.

Cronje, the company’s CEO, told TechCrunch on a call that DataProphet’s focus on providing end-to-end prescriptive AI for manufacturing plants to improve yields began in 2017. The company provides prescriptive advice and suggested changes to manufacturers’ recipes to avoid making defects causing their products to be scrapped or reworked. The company said its flagship AI solution, PRESCRIBE, has helped its customers experience a significant and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing non-quality costs by an average of 40%.

Manufacturers use DataProphet at various points on their digitization journeys; data collection and centralization are essential to kick-start them. The first product in DataProphet’s stack, CONNECT, enables manufacturers to extend their data infrastructure and bring data from where they have been using it for compliance in the production area to a point where they can use it for optimization. The company currently ingests around 100 million unique data points daily on its platform. With this data, PRESCRIBE can make informed decisions to reduce defects, scrap or non-quality processes and improve manufacturers’ yields.

Cronje says DataProphet takes a hands-on approach, where it continuously monitors data streams and sends advice and feedback to the operations floor, ensuring customers follow them. And in cases where customers do not follow the advice DataProphet provides, the company contacts the customer to understand their concerns.

“Typically, when we talk about reducing defects, scrap or rework on average, we do about a 40% reduction when the customer follows our advice,” said Cronje, who has a degree in management consulting and statistics. “It’s a fantastic application of AI and manufacturing because it’s a deep application of theory to realize practical, meaningful impact for our customers and their ROI.”

The 50-strong team serves customers mainly from the automotive, semiconductor, rubber and foundry industries, distributing the solution to manufacturing facilities based in Japan, China, India, Europe, South Africa, the US and South America. Some of the competitors – which are international, not local – include Braincube and Seebo.

“I think the way we differentiate ourselves is that we approach this from a holistic factory control where implementing our PRESCRIBE solution can enable a customer to realize this end-to-end site optimization,” Cronje commented on DataProphet’s unique selling proposition. “And there’s another aspect: The solution we have to enable customers to realize ROI is an end-to-end solution. What I mean by that is that it has the capacity to integrate some of the lowest levels of data in factories. And we don’t see that with our competitors.” The CEO also mentioned that, unlike other players, DataProphet does not rely on its customers to have employees with data science capabilities, which defeats the purpose of providing an AI-as-a-service platform that thrives on orchestrating the data infrastructure self.

Knife Capital led the Series A round. The South African venture capital firm had originally invested in DataProphet in early 2018 via the KNF Ventures Section 12J funding vehicle. This latest round is the first investment made by Knife Fund III, the targeted $50 million fund it launched last year to support the international expansion of its portfolio companies.

“Accelerating the international expansion of DataProphet, given the leading edge of the technology, is exactly the mandate of our new fund – and it could not be a better fit for our first investment to be a follow-on investment from our existing group,” comments Keet van Zyl, co-founder and partner in Knife Capital about the investment.

Other investors in the round include South Africa’s IDC and Norican, one of the world’s largest suppliers of equipment for the preparation and finishing of metal surfaces. According to a statement, DataProphet says the added capital will help it further invest in its industrial AI product suite while facilitating targeted growth in select geographies and product verticals.

“That’s where we’re going to use a lot of this fund: to support international sales,” Cronje added. “And they will support functions needed in markets away from the major engineering hub, South Africa. So part of the investment will be used to develop a European sales office and then a US-based sales office to support customers and partners overseas. »

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