2023: Calibrate’s Portfolio Companies Made Huge Strides in Applied AI

December 18, 2023 / Jason Schoettler and Kevin Dunlap

As investors in AI for over a decade, we can unequivocally say that 2023 was the year it reached an inflection point. Everyone, it seems, finally realized the power of AI to transform society. As we look back over a game-changing year, the entire Calibrate Team has a lot to be grateful for – and a lot to be excited about as we look forward to 2024. 

In January, Calibrate Managing Partner Jason Schoettler wrote an article for Crunchbase News predicting that 2023 would be a year of reckoning for AI in the enterprise, with companies racing to test and deploy it. That of course turned out to be true. Yet real change will take a strong commitment to apply AI deeply into the tech stack, and many companies aren’t quite there yet. This is a refrain we heard directly from F500 attendees at the second annual EON event we organized. Attendees spoke not just of the promise of AI, but of several non-technical barriers holding back full deployment. AI developers, academics, and business practitioners said they still lacked full trust in AI, feared losing control of data, and worried about picking the wrong system in such a nascent and crowded market. 

Clearly, AI still has some kinks to work out, but 2024 will see most companies moving from testing the waters to full deployment. We were thrilled to see many of our portfolio companies raise follow-on funding this year to make real progress toward integrating AI into established industries.

In April, Calibrate co-led an $8 million seed financing in aiXplain, the first no-code/low-code integrated AI development platform that will allow companies to start building impactful AI tools right away, even without a large data science and ML team. Throughout 2023, aiXplain scaled rapidly among high-growth technology companies and global enterprises.

AI is the backbone of both software and hardware automation, and in July, our portfolio Cobot, which we first backed in its seed round, raised a $30 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital. We were happy to participate again, backing this innovative company building AI-powered autonomous collaborative robots for use in large industries, including logistics and manufacturing.

The legal profession is being transformed by AI more quickly than others–and Trellis is leading the charge to make lawyers’ lives easier. Their AI-powered legal intelligence platform provides access to millions of state court documents to help guide their litigation strategy. In August, Calibrate participated in Trellis’ $15 million Series B, following our 2021 investment in their $10 million Series A.

Our portfolio companies reached other milestones this year, too, including a big exit. In November, TruckLabs was acquired by the multibillion-dollar manufacturing company ConMet. TruckLabs grew its revenue more than 250% in 2023, gaining traction for its TruckWings aerodynamic device for semi-trucks that automatically deploys at highway speeds to close the gap between cab and trailer. TruckWings increases fuel efficiency, reduces costs, and lowers emissions.

Built Robotics showed how its AI-powered robotic construction equipment is working hard on job sites, while FarmWise was named to the Forbes AI 50 List of the most promising AI-driven companies for its AI-enabled weeding tractors used by farmers across the U.S. West. Howso spoke to U.S. Senators and was covered in The New York Times for its explainable AI engine, a trustworthy alternative to “black-box” AI. GrayMatter Robotics, whose AI-powered industrial sanders are used to finish car, plane, and boat parts, was named a Built In LA 2023 Best Place to Work

At Calibrate, we partner with technical founders applying AI to make an impact in the next 2-3 years, and we delved deep into how to do this at EON in September. We discussed ways AI could solve business and industrial challenges to spur innovation and empower humanity–and walked away inspired to get to work. Calibrate Managing Partner Kevin Dunlap investigated some of the ways AI is already changing our daily work lives in this blog post. This year’s EON was sold-out and we are already planning EON 2024!

Finally, we welcomed two new senior advisors, Dr. Henrik Christensen and Don Barnett this past year. Their deep business and technical expertise has already been a boon to the Calibrate investment team and to all the founders in our portfolio.  

From everyone at Calibrate, we wish all the entrepreneurs, partners, and friends in our network a wonderful holiday season and a fruitful New Year.