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Thread raises $15m to manage utility assets
- October 16, 2023
- Steve Rogerson
North Dakota-based Thread, formerly Airtonomy, has closed a $15m series A funding round to help it become the first practical turnkey asset performance management (APM) platform for the energy and utilities industry.
Since its inception, Thread has proven its ability to automate data capture of utility assets via robotic inspection across wind, oil and gas, and now linear – transmission and distribution – at scale. The company works across the fleets of several Fortune 500 customers including Xcel Energy and with asset protection companies such as Mistras.
This round of funding accelerates Thread’s horizontal expansion across asset types and enables the company to continue developing its Uniti platform.
“We recognise the challenges our customers face in today’s dynamic utility sector,” said Josh Riedy, CEO of Thread. “The aging of the world’s critical infrastructure, disconnected workflow integrations between traditional software and shiny object vendors, and a depleting skilled workforce in operations and maintenance [O&M] continue to be major issues in data collection, which makes it increasingly difficult for stakeholders to make data-driven decisions. This series A funding allows us to better service our customer’s needs by bridging the gap between legacy one-off inspections and real-time asset performance data, bringing the industry into the digital age. We are enabling our customers to cut inspection workstreams from days into hours, using Uniti as a single point for collaborative decision-making and O&M spend prioritisation.”
The $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law for new energy infrastructure has elevated industry demands for a more robust way to monitor the health of its critical assets.
The round was led by Badlands Capital with participation from an early utility partner of Thread’s, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Generational Partners, Rosecliff Ventures, Excell Partners, Homegrown Capital and Kevin O’Leary’s Wonder Fund North Dakota.
“Uniti by Thread is cementing its position as the industry standard,” said Blaine Crissman, general partner at Badlands Capital. “Thread empowers its customers to make more data-driven decisions around inspection and maintenance through digital representation and autonomous upkeep of their assets.”
Asher Kraut, partner at Generational Partners, added: “For nearly a decade, utility operators have been disappointed by unkept promises of low-cost, on-demand drone inspections. Thread has not only fully automated the inspection process, but they’ve also built a turnkey platform that empowers its customers to make operations and maintenance decisions based on real-time data across their entire fleet of assets. Thread is a prime example of an emerging business that is leveraging well-understood technologies once considered deep tech to solve today’s most crucial customer challenges. What’s more, they’re achieving this in a safety-critical industrial environment that will define the next generation of founders and investors.”
Thread also announced the expansion of its relationship with Xcel Energy, one of its earliest customers and co-development collaborator. This work will advance the development of Uniti to ensure its viability for deployment at scale across all asset types in the utility industry globally. This relationship, which is the first-of-its-kind for Xcel Energy, puts both organisations at the forefront of transforming the way energy and utility operators use automation, robotics and business intelligence to drive asset performance.
“When Xcel Energy began automated wind inspections in-house, we changed the dynamic of how we work on a day-to-day basis, as well as how we manage our data and assets,” said Thomas Stegge UAS programme manager at Xcel Energy. “What we have learned from this transition is flowing into changing asset management strategies across the entire company.”
Thread (thread.one) is looking to streamline and transform critical infrastructure lifecycle management. Leveraging its proprietary, data-driven and robust technology, Thread embeds unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and robotics with a suite of applications to automate enterprise inspection workflows and to create an inspection-based digital asset catalogue. Digital asset information becomes far more valuable to many stakeholders within the enterprise while also being easier and more efficient to maintain up-to-date information.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Xcel Energy (xcelenergy.com) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight western and mid-western states.