Lead Ventures expands to industry 4.0, investing in a progressive Czech start-up

INVEN CAPITAL, a ČEZ Group investment fund together with Budapest based venture capital firm LEAD VENTURES backed by MOL Group and Hungarian Eximbank have acquired a minority interest in Neuron soundware, the Czech based market leader in industrial machine diagnostics based on acoustic analysis. The company develops and markets advanced hardware and software for predictive maintenance, enabling timely detection of failures and optimisation of operations. As a result of the transaction Neuron soundware raised 5.75million Euros to further expand its business activities. The former investor, J&T Ventures also joined the current investment.

Neuron soundware was founded in February 2016 in Prague. It currently employs twenty experts and its revenues amounted to almost half-million Euro last year. It delivers smart diagnostic solutions based on the acoustic analysis of machines in several industries including the energy sector. The solution uses artificial intelligence to recognise impending mechanical problems in machines, thereby preventing breakdowns of critical manufacturing equipment.

Today, systems supplied by Neuron soundware are being implemented into operations of several large global corporations, such as Daimler, BMW, Innogy, E.ON, Airbus, and LG. In the energy sector, Neuron soundware has a sizeable implementation with a fleet of more than 20 large combined heat and power units for several customers in the Czech Republic.

"Neuron is one of a few companies in acoustic emission analysis which is able to compete with top class Israeli and US companies. During its short existence it has developed an unique database of sounds which are used for training of its proprietary neural networks," says Petr Míkovec, managing director of INVEN CAPITAL.

"We are passionate about the Neuron story and the team. Predictive maintenance is a hot topic for many complex industrial systems, however, practical solutions are still hard to find. The Neuron technology could be a game changer in this space, having substantial impact on industry efficiency across several verticals." - says Abel Galacz, CEO of Lead Ventures.

"We know exactly how pumps, gearboxes, cylinders, electromotors, or compressors should sound. The sounds of all regular components of a machine are stored in a database. But that is not enough, our artificial intelligence software is able to distinguish problem noises from regular process hum and surrounding sounds, giving the customer the certainty that the machine will not pull off any unpleasant surprises," says Pavel Konečný, founder and CEO of Neuron soundware, revealing the secrets of his know-how.

Over its more than four years in business and investing in energy start-ups, INVEN CAPITAL has acquired the reputation of a qualified and capable investor that supports start-up companies in the smart energy sector. Great management team, the portfolio of its invested companies, the fund's performance, and successful due diligence were behind the decision of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to form a joint investment structure with INVEN CAPITAL, in which EIB undertook to entrust EUR 50 million in INVEN CAPITAL's management.

Lead Ventures, a Budapest-based venture capital firm, invests via its Enter Tomorrow Europe fund backed by MOL Group and Hungarian Eximbank. With EUR 100 million under its management Lead Ventures is actively seeking scale-up investment opportunities in the CEE region with unique stories having outstanding growth potential and global reach.

"Start-ups from Central Europe, which have already been tested, have great potential to break through in global markets. As part of our strategy, we are looking for innovative solutions that can increase effectivity of technical processes in industrial services. Like our recent entry into Slovak GA Drilling, our entry into Czech Neuron Soundware is an example of a successful connection of small start-ups with a strong international company for further growth,"said Oszkár Világi, MOL Group Chief Innovation Officer.

Neuron soundware is now focusing on scalability of successful use cases and deployment of pre-trained AI algorithms to monitor large quantities of machines like engines, compressors, pumps, turbines, robots etc. This strategy is supported by provision of easy-to-implement monitoring solution that can be up and running in just weeks and financed via an affordable monthly fee charged per machine, i.e., solution as a service. To maintain the international expansion, Neuron soundware is now hiring for a number of new positions for its Prague main office and it also expects the need for building sales and support business unit in Germany to serve better local major clients like Airbus, BMW or Siemens. Besides direct sales, Neuron soundware will continue to build its partnership network, in Europe, but also in the Middle East and Asia. Mainly due to Brexit, Neuron soundware has recently established a new business entity NeuronSW SE, headquartered in Prague, the Czech Republic, which will take over all business activities and liabilities and eventually fuse with the current major entity Neuron SW Ltd., headquartered in London, United Kingdom.

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