Robot Investments Weekly: Robot Makers Harvest New Funding

Robotics Business Review

As we hit the middle of the autumn season, many startups in the robotics and artificial intelligence space are reaping the harvest of additional funding for their products and services. Over the past week, more than $616 million has been invested in companies building robots, autonomous systems, components, software, and services.

Today, we’re highlighting 19 recent robotics and AI transactions. If you’ve missed some other transactions from the past months, you can track them in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type.

If you’re an RBR Insider, don’t forget to check out the Q3 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investments from July through September 2018. It’s free for Insider subscribers to Robotics Business Review.

Funding growing, but distributed to less

Before we get into this week’s big transactions and funding news, there were a few interesting items around the startup and venture capital landscape. The Wall Street Journal this week reported that while the average seed round of funding has gone up, the number of companies receiving the funding has decreased by more than 40%. That can be tricky for companies aiming to get started down their funding journey started, if they have to compete with other companies getting larger slices of the funding pie.

In another article, Forbes wrote about the results of a study of European startups, which indicated that the best way for companies to achieve Series A funding is to make sure they have the right amount of seed money. For many companies, getting that seed round of funding is a nice start, but the road is still a very long one to Series A and beyond.

Robot companies harvest investments across markets

After several weeks where companies within the AI space or software space earned much of the headlines, we saw a week where robotics hardware systems around the world earned some investor love. Don’t worry, there were still plenty of software and AI investments, but it’s nice to see some companies making physical robots raising money.

IAM Robotics DB Schenker collaboration

IAM Robotics develops a mobile piece-picking robot for e-commerce and warehouse operations.

IAM Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based company that developed the Swift robot for logistics companies, scored $20 million in funding this week. The company aims to accelerate production of its robot, which can move around a warehouse and also grab products off shelves, known as mobile manipulation. You can read more in our interview with IAM Robotics CEO Joel Reed.

Another Pittsburgh-based company, RoadBotics, announced it secured $3.9 million in funding to expand its road inspection vision system, which can help municipalities and others inspect flaws in roadways and other infrastructure.

Robotics Plus apple packer system

Source: Robotics Plus

Over in New Zealand, agricultural startup Robotics Plus announced an $8 million investment for its apple-packing and other robotics-based automation systems. The funding was provided by Yamaha Motor, which has now invested a total of $10 million into Robotics Plus. You can read more here.

In Singapore, Sesto Robotics announced raising $2.9 million in Series A funding to expand its mobile robot systems beyond its client base in Singapore and China. The robots are aimed to handle materials in manufacturing facilities, particularly in the semiconductor space. The funding also involves the company spinning out from its parent company, Hope Technik, which develops industrial and commercial equipment, including emergency response vehicles.

In Germany, metal 3D printing maker AIM3D announced $1.58 million in funding to further development for making parts in the automotive industry through additive manufacturing. The funding comes from High-Tech Gründerfonds, automotive supplier Brose Group, and my new favorite company name, Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft MV.

In Switzerland, Flyability secured an $11 million Series B round to continue work on its indoor autonomous inspection drone systems. The company’s products and services are aimed at the power generation, oil & gas, mining and chemical industries, using its collision-tolerant drone, Elios, to prevent human exposure to hazardous environments and reducing downtime and inspection costs.

Autonomous vehicle investments include ride-hailing, sensors

Moving from drones to vehicles, we continued to see funding for companies developing autonomous vehicles, but also the ride-sharing systems that many of these vehicles will likely start in.

Ridecell announced it expanded its Series B equity investment round, raising an additional $32 million to bring its total investment to $60 million for this round. The company said the new funds will be used to continue developing its mobility and operation platforms for car-sharing and completely autonomous ride-hailing services.

AdaSky Vegas thermal imaging example harvest article

Source: AdaSky

Israel-based AdaSky announced a $20 million investment to further development of its thermal sensor for self-driving vehicles (see photo, above). The company makes a far-infrared (FIR) sensor for autonomous vehicles, and plans to use the funding to work on research & development, projects and trials with OEMs and add additional features. The funding was led by Sungwoo Hitech, and is part of a larger investment round, AdaSky said.

In China, Sequoia Capital China invested an undisclosed amount in PlusAI, which aims to bring autonomous vehicle capabilities to trucks.

Large investments in RPA software firms

While we don’t often write a lot about the robotics process automation (RPA) market, it’s hard to ignore it when investors pour lots of money into the space. Two large investments happened this week, including:

For an overview of the RPA space, check out this primer by Jim Nash.

AI Corner: Moves in healthcare, semiconductors, and supercomputing

As always, we saw investments in companies creating software and services that utilize machine learning or artificial intelligence components.

  • Standard Cognition announced it had secured $40 million in funding for its AI-based retail self-checkout system, in which customers can grab items off shelves, with payment occurring without needing to go to a cashier.
  • Pryon emerged from stealth this week with an “augmented intelligence” offering, raising $4.5 million in an initial funding round. The augmented intelligence concept has AI focusing on an assistive role and augmenting, rather than replacing, human workers.
  • LeanTaaS raised $15 million to expand its machine learning platform for the healthcare industry. The company provides web-based software aiming to innovate how hospital and infusion center operations work.
  • Israel’s Habana Labs secured $75 million from Intel Capital and others in an oversubscribed Series B round. The company is developing AI processors.
  • In Canada, the government announced it would spend $1.9 million to help create an AI supercomputing facility at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
  • South Korea’s Looxid Labs raised $4 million to further develop its “emotion AI” system, aimed at detecting users’ emotions through VR systems for marketing and healthcare purposes.
  • U.K. firm Renalytix AI raised $29 million through a public offering on the London Stock Exchange to help advance its AI diagnostic system that can help detect kidney disease.
  • Savi Technology announced raising $7.5 million for its data analytics system aimed at the logistics market. The system uses machine learning and other techniques to deliver live streaming data and insights on the location, condition, and security of in-transit goods. It’s aiming offerings at the shipping, carriers, third-party logistics providers, and governments to help them reduce costs and inventory, while improving service.

That’s it for this week! We’re on a two-week hiatus due to next week’s Thanksgiving holiday (gobble, gobble!). So expect a very long column on Nov. 30!

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