South African AI startup DataProphet raises $6m for international expansion

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South African startup DataProphet, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help manufacturers autonomous their operations, has raised a US$6 million Series A funding round to help it expand internationally.

DataProphet was formed in 2014 when two friends at the University of Cape Town, Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff, decided to use their knowledge of AI to start their own business.

That business has developed into an impressive one, with the company’s AI-as-a-service, DataProphet PRESCRIBE, proactively prescribing changes to a manufacturing plant’s control plans to continuously optimise production without the expert human analysis typically required. 

DataProphet first secured VC funding in 2016, from Yellowoods Capital, before a further round, led by Knife Capital, was raised in 2018. Knife Capital is a follow-on investor in this latest round, a US$6 million Series A that also features the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) and Norican Group, a leading foundry engineering and equipment company. 

The funding will be used to strengthen the operational footprint of DataProphet internationally and fast-track the strategy of growing through and with their strategic partners across geographies and industry verticals.

Earlier this year a partnership between Norican and DataProphet was announced to accelerate the adoption of AI in the foundry industry. This partnership followed a number of joint innovation projects carried out with Norican brand DISA. 

“Applying AI to the foundry industry will reduce energy consumption, increase yield and reduce waste. What started as a commercial cooperation with DataProphet, developed into a partnership, and now we will also become a shareholder,” said Anders Wilhjelm, chief executive officer (CEO) of Norican Group. 

“We know foundries and how they work, DataProphet really knows AI, so we are truly excited about what DataProphet and we can achieve together.”

Frans Cronje, CEO and co-founder of DataProphet, said South Africa would remain the startup’s engineering and operational hub, as it provided access to great talent.

“DataProphet however, is an international business, with hubs located around the world. This funding round will enable DataProphet to develop locally located sales and support for customers and partners across the world,” he said.

Christo Fourie, head of new industries at the IDC, said at the core of the future state of Industry 4.0 was the capacity to collect, process and use data to improve the speed and quality of operational decision-making. 

“Combining the AI capabilities of DataProphet with the vast number of manufacturers the IDC has funded and have access to, could fast-track the company’s growth while also extracting efficiencies from within our current investment portfolio,” he said.

Knife Capital managing partner Andrea Bӧhmert said her company was excited to continue to support DataProphet in this funding round. 

“Since our initial investment in 2018, DataProphet has emerged as a global thought leader in its field and as such is a prime example of the kind of cutting edge technologies South African entrepreneurs are capable of developing with global relevance in a fast-growing market. The expansion capital allows DataProphet to prove out their offering on a global stage,” she said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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