citybiz+ Helios Raises $1.9 Million from Supply Change Capital, January Ventures

Helios has closed a $1.85 million pre-seed funding round led by Los Angeles-based Supply Change Capital, with participation from Boston’s January Ventures.

The Tysons, Va.-based company, which is building tools to monitor agricultural supply chains, also announced the launch of Cersi, an AI tool with a ChatGPT-style conversational feature.

Claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, Cersi uses a large knowledge database on climate, economy, currencies and political risks, besides monitoring half a million news articles daily, to answer questions.

Productivity Gains

“Cersi brings something truly unique to the agricultural supply chain space — the ability to ask key questions about your own supply chains and receive insights in seconds,” said Francisco Martin-Rayo, co-founder and CEO of Helios. “On average, we’re seeing the teams that use Cersi increase their productivity by 40%.”

The combination of Helios’ Supplier Dashboard, which tracks hundreds of factors including weather-related disruptions and geopolitical shifts, and Cersi “makes us the most impactful solution in this space,” said Martin-Rayo, who has degrees from the Wharton School and Harvard University.

Martin-Rayo, a former Boston Consulting Group principal, was chief commercial officer at AI financial services startup Deep Labs before joining with former Google engineer Eden Canlilar in starting Helios late in 2022.

“Generative AI is helping to bridge the gap between analysts and their data in the most intuitive way possible,” said Canlilar, an AI and machine learning expert who won the 2021 Emerging Technologist Abie Award. “With Cersi, we’ve developed the most powerful application of generative AI for the supply chain to date. It’s a first-of-its-kind solution that will change the game for any Fortune 500 company that purchases agricultural commodities.”

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Bill Hovis, Coca-Cola’s former global chief procurement officer, and Una Hrnjak, who runs Sustainability Strategy and Programs for Aldi, serve as advisers to Helios.

citybiz+ Cohorts

Women-founded VC Firm
January Ventures was co-founded by two women — Jennifer Keiser Neundorfer, who previously co-founded a Midwest venture fund called Flashstarts, and Maren Thomas Bannon, previously a co-founder of LittleLane, an app to track children’s activities. Both Neundorfer and Bannon have MBA degrees from Stanford.

With $21 million raised via two funds, January Ventures has made over 30 portfolio investments. Its most recent include Treefera, Bloom Money, Pano, Gable and Oula Health.