SAN DIEGO, May 16, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Aira, a mission-driven company dedicated to developing smart products and services that enable blind and low vision individuals (BVI) to lead healthier and more independent lives, today announced that it has raised $12 million in a Series B funding round led by JAZZ Venture Partners and Arboretum Ventures. Other participants included existing investors Lux Capital, ARCH Venture Partners and Felicis Ventures. Strategic investors include the National Federation of the Blind.
Aira's service, which recently concluded its beta-testing phase, is now available to new users in the United States. The technology solution combines smart glasses, dedicated bandwidth from Aira partner AT&T, and AI-enabled remote human agents to help blind and low vision individuals immediately access key information that they need about their environment. This technology enables greater independence and autonomy by facilitating everyday tasks such as shopping at local retailers, navigating public transportation or reviewing menus or service offerings, which often require a sighted assistant. The remote Aira agents go through extensive professional training and are assisted by an AI-powered dashboard that continuously learns user preferences to best serve the end user.
"I am inspired by the passion that this accomplished group of investors has for our mission to further enhance quality of life for the BVI community," said Aira CEO, Suman Kanuganti. "By working together we can remove remaining barriers for BVI individuals to live with greater autonomy and confidence."
This latest round of funding builds upon a successful Series A round in 2016 that facilitated critical technology development, including establishing a 200-person "explorer class" of customers. The Series B funding will enable Aira to expand its service offerings to serve a greater number of BVI individuals. There are an estimated 20 million blind and low-vision people in the United States (according to the American Foundation for the Blind) and this number is expected to rise as the baby-boomer population ages. The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 285 million BVI individuals worldwide.
Aira also announced today that it has expanded its advisory board to include support and input from Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. He will work alongside a group of distinguished BVI individuals, including Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind individual to summit Mount Everest; Jack Chen, Google attorney; Christine Ha, Master Chef winner; and Michael Hingson, best-selling author and speaker.
"We are pleased that we can further fuel the tremendous momentum that Aira has achieved with its ground-breaking resource for the blind and low vision," said John Harris, General Partner, JAZZ Venture Partners. "Aira perfectly exemplifies our investment focus to partner with companies leveraging AI and cognitive science to extend the boundaries of human performance and optimize how we live, learn, work, and experience the world."
"We believe that Aira has developed a unique service with tremendous potential to enhance quality of life and independence for members of the BVI community. The impact Aira has had on its users is remarkable and we are proud to be a part of the growth of this company," said Dr. Thomas Shehab, Managing Director of Arboretum Ventures.
Aira is a mission-driven company dedicated to developing smart products and services for blind and low vision (BVI) people to lead happier and healthier lives. For more information, please visit www.aira.io
About JAZZ Venture Partners
JAZZ Venture Partners invests in companies developing experiential technology that improves human performance. At the intersection of digital consumer platforms, such as virtual and augmented reality, and neuroscience, these companies are impacting health, mind-body wellness, peak mental and physical acuity, accelerated learning and training, sports, and entertainment. For more information, please visit http://www.jazzvp.com.
About Arboretum Ventures
Arboretum Ventures is a venture capital firm specializing in the healthcare sector. Founded in 2002 and located in Ann Arbor, the firm manages $450 million in capital and has invested in more than 40 companies. Arboretum focuses on medical device, diagnostic, healthcare IT, and healthcare service companies that can achieve significant milestones and value creation in a capital-efficient manner. More than simply a financial resource, Arboretum is a collaborative, value-added investor actively engaging our portfolio companies in strategy, operations, recruiting, fundraising, and exit planning. Arboretum's guiding vision is to identify transformative healthcare companies that are developing improved and less costly solutions that address significant healthcare problems. For more information, please visit http://www.arboretumvc.com
About Lux Capital
Lux Capital is a venture firm based in New York City and Silicon Valley investing in counter-conventional, seed and early stage science and technology ventures. Lux manages $1.1 billion in assets across five funds. For more information please visit www.luxcapital.com or follow us on Twitter @Lux_Capital.
About ARCH Venture Partners
ARCH Venture Partners is a premier provider of seed and early stage venture capital for technology firms, with a special competence in co-founding and building firms from start-up. ARCH's mission is to deliver promising technologies from the earliest stages to successful commercial application – from concept to commerce. With a 30 year history and $2 billion in capital under management, ARCH has secured its place among the largest providers of seed and early stage capital in the U.S.