SoftBank, Eldridge lead $235 million funding in Israel's AnyVision

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(Reuters) -AnyVision, an artificial intelligence-based facial recognition startup, said on Wednesday SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Eldridge led its $235 million funding round, as AI surveillance finds more takers despite ethical concerns and debates around it.

The proceeds from the latest funding round, which also saw participation from existing investors, will be used to fund growth and adoption of AnyVision's offerings, the Israel-based startup said in a statement.

Its technology integrates with surveillance cameras and helps transform them into security systems, Chief Executive Officer Avi Golan said. It uses facial recognition to open guarded points for authorized people, its website showed.

"The visual recognition market is nascent but has large potential in the Western world...we believe AnyVision is uniquely placed to redefine physical environment analytics across numerous industries," said Anthony Doeh, partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers.

To increase its market reach, AnyVision said it has formed strategic partnerships with several key partners in the space including Honeywell International Inc, Schneider Electric SE and Nvidia Corp.

Some of its users include oil giant BP Plc, Los Angeles hospital Cedars-Sinai and Macy's Inc, among others.

The company faced significant challenges last year, including laying off half of its staff and cuts to research and sales due to shrinking clients' budget as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters reported in April, citing sources. https://reut.rs/3jXokDv

The layoffs and cuts were also brought on by investor Microsoft Corp divestiture in the company based on ethical concerns of its technology, the report added.

Golan, who was previously an operating partner at SoftBank Vision Fund - a venture capital fund of Japan's Softbank Group - before joining AnyVision last year, has held key roles at Google and Intuit, among others.

Amit Lubovsky, director at SoftBank Investment Advisers, will take a seat on Israel-based AnyVision's board as part of the transaction.

(Reporting by Sohini Podder in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Rashmi Aich)

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