citybiz+ Grotech Ventures, Felton Group Join $3M Seed Round for Caju AI

Norfolk, Va.-based Caju AI has raised $3 million from Grotech Ventures and Felton Group, the family office of Charlottesville, Va.-based hedge fund manager Jaffray Woodriff, and angel investors in a seed funding round.

The startup runs a platform powered by generative artificial intelligence that helps companies effectively engage with customers, with the additional promise of raising workforce productivity and gleaning business insights.

“Most enterprises do not have visibility into digital conversations or understand all customer interactions across their organization, either for business insights or risk protection,” said Caju AI co-founder and CEO Otavio Freire, who teaches at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School and the School of Engineering.

Freire, who earned an engineering degree from his native Brazil, has previously founded and led AI cybersecurity firms. At Caju AI, he has assembled an experienced team, and added the likes of Microsoft executive Seth Patton and former T-Mobile financial chief Cody Sanford to the company’s advisory board.

‘Transformative Potential’

“Caju AI is at the forefront of a tech revolution that empowers organizations to harness the full potential of generative AI, while ensuring compliance and security,” said Grotech partner Steve Fredrick, a 19-year veteran at the Baltimore-based venture firm. “We are thrilled to support their journey and witness the transformative impact they will have on customer interaction.”

Woodriff, 59, is an alumnus of the University of Virginia. He shot to fame and riches, after co-founding and running the hedge fund Quantitative Investment Management. The firm uses a so-called “black box” statistical approach to make investing decisions. In 2019, Woodriff pledged $120 million to establish a data science school at University of Virginia.

Founded in 1984, Grotech Ventures has raised over $1.4 billion, and made over 150 portfolio investments, while completing 40-plus exits. It eyes opportunities to invest between $500,000 and $5 million in cybersecurity, fintech, supply chain, logistics and software startups.

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Industry veteran Lawson DeVries has served as Grotech’s managing general partner since 2020. He has been closely associated with a number of Grotech portfolio companies that have been acquired, among others, by giants such as Cisco and Oracle.

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Starting his career with equity research at Deutsche Bank, DeVries later managed sales at Buckingham Research Group. He has a BA in English literature from Harvard University and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Grotech’s recent portfolio investments include Base Operations, Yardstik, Vali Cyber, Cognota and Datasembly. Grotech’s notable exits include Perishable Shipping Solutions, of Youngstown, Ohio; Urjanet, of Atlanta, Ga.; and Youreka, of Baltimore.