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Mitsubishi Leads $7M Series A For IIoT Startup Litmus Automation

'As we start scaling up, it will be more important for us to have system integration partners with different skill sets,' Litmus Automation co-founder John Younes tells CRN of the industrial IoT startup's channel strategy.

Japanese conglomerate Mistubishi Corp. is leading a $7 million Series A funding round for industrial Internet of Things startup Litmus Automation, which is seeking to grow its edge computing platform through OEMs like Hewlett Packard Enterprise as well as channel partners.

The San Jose, Calif.-based startup said the new investment, announced Wednesday, brings its total funding to $12.6 million and will help the company expand its sales and marketing efforts, namely though new hires who will join its team of roughly 40 employees.

[Related: Sony's VC Arm Invests In IIoT Startup Sight Machine]

John Younes, co-founder and COO of Litmus Automation, told CRN that Mitsubishi is a strategic investor, which means that the company is already selling the startup's edge computing software through one of its subsidiaries, a machinery distributor that has five employees dedicated to Litmus Automation.

"They have other companies that they own that could give exposure to Litmus, too," he said.

According to Younes, the startup has around 50 customers, more than half of which are Fortune 500 companies. They include Renault, Nissan, Flex, Saint Gobain and Parker Hannifin. The startup also has more than 20 partners, which includes Ingram Micro and Arrow for distribution as well as HPE, Siemens and Intel on the hardware side and Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud on the cloud side.

Takao Shinohara, general manager at Mitsubishi, said the company invested in Litmus Automation because its edge computing platform "fills a huge gap in the market."

"We are confident in their excellent team and their ability to help companies realize the value of Industry 4.0 quicker and more effectively than any other provider," Shinohara said in a statement. "They already have key customers and OEM channels in place and we look forward to helping them expand."

Litmus Automation's edge computing platform, LoopEdge, helps companies fetch data from a variety of disparate industrial assetss, which is then normalized for running analytics, event processing, machine learning algorithms and 45 applications on its marketplace.

"Companies have created these vertical siloes of information and data in their own systems, so it's all been very closed systems, and there has been no homogeneous way to collect the data," Younes said.

The software, which can run offline on gateways and industrial PCs, can remotely turn off assets, update a variable in an asset or alert a maintenance person if, for instance, a rule-based workflow or machine learning algorithm detects the asset is starting to break down, according to Younes.

Litmus Automation allows companies to manage these edge deployments through its cloud platform, Loop, which comes with device lifecycle management capabilities such as over-the-air updates, mass device configuration and device onboarding. The platform, which runs in the cloud or on-premises, supports visualizations and analytics through the LoopInsights application. It also supports integrations with third-party enterprise and big data applications such as SAP and Tableau.

"It's that orchestration platform to manage all the data," Younes said.

Litmus Automation works with a variety of partners, including OEMs, independent software vendors, cloud service providers, system integrators, value-added resellers and distributors — partnerships that will now be managed by Christine Frank, a Dell and HPE veteran who was recently hired as the startup's director of channel and OEM sales, according to Younes.

Younes said the company's current focus is on OEMs such as HPE, who bundle their gateways with Litmus Automation's software and can drive lot of sales volume as a result. But over time, the executive added, the startup will put a greater focus on system integrators and VARs.

"As we start scaling up, it will be more important for us to have system integration partners with different skill sets," he said.

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