June 27, 2019

Aera Technology lands $80 million funding for AI software

Artificial intelligence could help traditional companies match supply chain decision speed of digital natives, firm says.

By Ben Ames

Business intelligence software provider Aera Technology has landed $80 million in funding and plans to scale up its marketing muscle for the firm's "self-driving enterprise" catalog of artificial intelligence (AI) tools for supply chain decisions.

The investment was led by DFJ Growth—an arm of the Silicon Valley investment giant Draper Fisher Jurvetson—alongside participation from NewView Capital, Georgian Partners, and from Aera executives and an unnamed Aera customer. The "series C" funding follows earlier rounds of $50 million in 2017 and $25 million in 2016, bringing total venture funding for the firm to $170 million.

Following the deal, DFJ co-founder John Fisher will join Aera's board of directors.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Aera says its software understands how businesses work, makes real-time recommendations, predicts outcomes, and acts autonomously. The firm's platform achieves that by applying data crawling, industry models, machine learning, and artificial intelligence tools. Aera applies this approach to complex supply chain decisions from inventory optimization and touchless planning to order management and trade promotion, the company said.

"Aera is transforming the way enterprises are run in a singularly disruptive way through original, breakthrough data modeling and proven machine learning, representing the true promise of artificial intelligence," Fisher said in a release. "Aera's Fortune 100 enterprise customers are experiencing massive increases in overall supply chain efficiency with the promise of migrating these efficiencies to other critical enterprise functions in the near future."

Since it launched two years ago, Aera has been running its "cognitive automation" software at large enterprise companies to prove their value, and will now transition to scaling up those tools for adoption by a broader range of users, Aera CEO Frederic Laluyaux said in an interview.

Many business users are feeling a sense of urgency about applying AI to their decision making, because the pace of work is accelerating but people are finding that their forecast accuracy is going down, especially around planning and optimization decisions, said Laluyaux.

"People are saying they can't predict changes in their distribution and their customer networks. And that's because some of the decisions made by Amazon and other companies are not being made by other people; they're being made by algorithms," Laluyaux said.

"The gap between digital-native and non-digital native companies is growing," Laluyaux said. "Amazon is making decisions algorithmically about what you're going to buy next week, and it's at a different level of granularity than what we saw in the past because they know you as an individual, whereas older companies are still predicting the market by studying generic panels and reading Nielsen reports."

As traditional companies rush to make up the difference with their digital competitors, a number of software vendors have sprung up to offer artificial intelligence products for various parts of that task.

In recent months, the third-party logistics providers (3PLs) NFI Industries and Transplace have partnered with San Francisco-based Noodle.ai in order to add AI to their transportation and distribution activities. Supply chain technology firm JDA Software Group Inc. has added AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities to its platform by acquiring the German tech firm Blue Yonder GmbH, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendor SAP AG says it will use AI to reach a goal of automating 50 percent of manual ERP tasks in the next three years.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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