Robotics investments recap: November 2019

The Robot Report
Robotics investments recap: November 2019

Alibaba invested $3.3 billion in Cainaio, whose warehouse robots are shown here, in November 2019. Source: Alizila.com

In November 2019, The Robot Report tracked a total of about $4.7 billion in robotics transactions. Aside from one large investment in logistics, several of the reported investments this past month were in autonomous vehicles, followed by sensors and other components.

In October 2019, robotics transactions totaled about $1.3 billion, and The Robot Report recorded $693 million in transactions in November 2018.

While developers of self-driving cars are competing with other robotics companies for talent, they’re getting a major share of venture capital, with $448 million in funding in November 2019. Component makers were involved in $460 million worth of transactions last month.

In November 2019, 28 companies received a total of $4.4 billion in funding for everything from battery technologies and aerial drones to robots for food preparation and assisting surgeons. In comparison, The Robot Report tracked 43 investments in the previous month. See also our roundup of the 20 largest investments from the first half of this year.

The table below lists investments in millions of U.S. dollars, where amounts were publicly available:

Robotics investments November 2019

Company Amt. (M$) Type Lead investor, partner Date Technology
Advanced Navigation 13 Series A Main Sequence Ventures, CSIRO Innovation Fund Nov. 26 navigation systems
AMP Robotics Corp. 16 Series A Sequoia Capital Nov. 14 recycling robots and AI
Assisted Surgical Technologies investment Russian Direct Investment Fund Nov. 9 surgical robots
Bumblebee Spaces Series A NTT Venture Capital Nov. 21 robotic furniture
Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd. 3300 investment Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Nov. 8 automation
Diagnostic Robotics 24 Series A Accelmed Growth Partners, Mivtach Shamir Holdings Nov. 13 emergency room robotics
Dive Technologies Inc. 3 equity sale Nov. 20 undersea robotics
Draganfly IPO Nov. 5 drone inspections
DroneDeploy 35 Series D Bessemer Venture Partners Nov. 13 drone mapping, analytics
Extreme Vision Series B Qualcomm Ventures Nov. 29 AI, machine vision
Galen Robotics Inc. investment Verte Opportunity Fund Nov. 6 surgical robots
Group14 Technologies 18 investment Amperex Technologies Ltd., Showa Denkoo, Cabot Corp., BASF Venture Capital, OVP Venture Partners Nov. 21 lithium-ion batteries
iSee 15 Series A Funders Fund Nov. 11 autonomous trucks
Metawave Series A Denso Corp. Nov. 5 radar sensors for AVs
Miso Robotics 30 equity crowdfunding Nov. 7 hamburger flipping robot
Pensa Systems 10 seed Signia Venture Partners, ATX Venture Partners Nov. 20 drone inventory
Picnic 5 seed Creative Ventures Nov. 19 pizza-making robot
Reckon Point Robotics 1.5 seed Notes We Buy LLC Nov. 1 indoor mapping
Renu Robotics Corp. 2.9 equity Nov. 15 robotic tractor
Rocsys 0.22 investment Uniiq Investment Fund Nov. 11 EV refueling robots
Skydweller Aero Inc. investment Leonardo Nov. 11 solar-powered drones
Smart Robotics investment VC Innovation Industries, Mirai Creation Fund II Nov. 11 collaborative robot software
Vayyar Imaging Ltd. 109 Series D Koch Disruptive Technologies Nov. 20 4D radar sensors
Volt14 Solutions 0.95 investment 500 Durians Nov. 19 nanotech, batteries
Wayve 20 Series A Eclipse Ventures Nov. 17 self-driving car AI
XACT Robotics Ltd. 36 Series D Chasing Value Asset Management Inc., Corindus Vascular Robotics Nov. 13 surgical robots
Xpeng Motors 400 Series C Xiaomi Nov. 13 autonomous vehicles
Zume Inc. 375 equity sale SoftBank Vision Fund Nov. 1 pizza-making robot

There were five automation-related mergers and acquisitions in November 2019, compared with seven in October and four in November of last year. See also our list of 10 notable mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2019. Here are the past month’s acquisitions:

Robotics acquisitions November 2019

Company Amt. (M$) Acquirer, partner Date Technology
Bal Seal Engineering Inc. 330 Kaman Corp. Nov. 5 engineering
REI Automation Inc. The HAHN Group GmbH Nov. 1 systems integrator
Ruhrbotics GmbH The HAHN Group GmbH Nov. 5 robot programming
Smart Ag Raven Industries Nov. 1 autonomous tractors
Tru-D SmartUVC LLC PDI Inc. Nov. 7 UV disinfection robot

Logistics and transportation stay on top

Even as the major automakers and some large technology firms have postponed their predictions of when fully autonomous vehicles will be available, the potential market size and hopes for spinoff benefits for robotics startups are attractive to investors.

The largest single investment of November 2019 was Alibaba’s $3.3 billion stake in Cainiao, which works on logistics, Internet of Things, and supply chain technologies such as mobile robots. Smart Robotics didn’t specify the amount of its funding for software to configure collaborative robots.

Chinese electronics company Xiaomi Corp. led the $400 million Series C for electrical and autonomous vehicle maker Xpeng Motors.

One of the biggest challenges to self-driving cars is the creation of systems that can understand their surroundings and make decisions in real time. Wayve raised $20 million as it works to improve the artificial intelligence for self-driving cars.

Similarly, MIT spinoff iSee, which raised $15 million, is applying deep learning to autonomous trucks. Advanced Navigation raised $13 million for lean, AI-based navigation offerings.

Whether it’s pumping gasoline or plugging in electric vehicles, somebody needs to flip the switch. Rocsys raised $220,000 for autonomous systems to charge electric vehicles.

Component makers get cash in November 2019

In November 2019, Kaman Corp. acquired Bal Seal Engineering for $330 million. In addition, suppliers of sensors, engineering, and services for robots and vehicles raised $129 million in funding.

Koch Disruptive Industries led a $109 million Series D round for Vayyar Imaging, which is developing “4D” radar sensors. Metawave raised an unspecified Series A, led by automotive supplier Denso, for its own radar for autonomous vehicles.

In battery technologies, Group14 Technologies raised $18 million, and Volt14 Solutions raised $955,000. Both are working on nanotechnology to add energy-storage capacity beyond that of conventional lithium-ion batteries. (Group14 is named after a group on the periodic table that includes carbon, silicon, and other elements with two electrons in their outermost orbits.)

Qualcomm Ventures led Series B funding for machine vision startup Extreme Vision, while Reckon Point Robotics, which is developing indoor mapping software, raised $1.5 million in seed funding.

HAHN Group acquired programming provider Ruhrbotics and systems integrator REI Automation. HAHN acquired Rethink Robotics’ intellectual property around its Sawyer collaborative robot last year.

Surgical, ER robots have modest month

As we look ahead to next week’s Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, it’s worth noting that November 2019 was relatively quiet for this sector, with about $60 million in transactions.

XACT Robotics raised $36 million for its hands-free needle-steering system, and Diagnostic Robotics raised $24 million for robots that use AI to assess the urgency of cases in an emergency room.

In other surgical robotics fundraising, Baltimore-based Galen Robotics raised an unspecified amount, as did Russia-based Assisted Surgical Technologies.

PDI acquired True-D SmartUVC, which makes a robot that disinfects hospital environments with ultraviolet light.


The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and register now!


Food and service robots give thanks

Service robot companies raised $400 million in November 2019. One of the largest robotics investments of the past month was the $375 million equity sale by Zume, whose pizza-making robot got support from the SoftBank Vision Fund. (The sale occurred on Oct. 17 but was reported on Nov. 1.)

Also in pizza making robots, Picnic, a.k.a. Vivid Robotics, raised seed funding of $5 million.

Miso Robotics turned to equity crowdfunding for its Flippy burger-flipping robot. It hopes to raise up to $30 million.

Bumblebee Spaces raised an unspecified Series A, including investment from Toyota AI Ventures, for robotic furniture.

At the end of the product lifecycle, the U.S. recycling industry is struggling to make up for Chinese restrictions. AMP Robotics, which has raised $16 million in Series A funding, has designed its high-speed Cortex system is to facilitate sortation.

The one failure this month was France-based Hease Robotics, mainly due to a fire. However, its customer-service robots illustrated some of the ongoing challenges facing social robots.

Smart tractors and drones get funding in November 2019

Renu Robotics, which is working on a robotic mowers, hopes to raise $2.9 million in an equity round that’s still open. Raven Industries acquired autonomous tractor company Smart Ag for an unspecified amount.

Drone mapping and analytics provider DroneDeploy raised $35 million, and drone inventory provider Pensa Systems raised $10 million in seed funding in November 2019.

Drone inspection firm Draganfly, which had previously raised $5.3 million (U.S.), had its initial public offering. Skydweller Aero, which is building solar-powered drones for long-duration flights, raised an unspecified amount in November 2019.

In addition to the field robotics firms above, Dive Technologies raised $3 million in equity sale for its undersea exploration robots, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).


Editors’ note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify them with some degree of rigor. To make investment analyses consistent, repeatable, and valuable, it is critical to wring out as much subjectivity as possible during the evaluation process. This begins with a definition of terms and a description of assumptions.

Investors and investing
Investment should come from venture capital firms, corporate investment groups, angel investors, and other sources. Friends-and-family investments, government/non-governmental agency grants, and crowd-sourced funding are excluded.

Robotics and intelligent systems companies
Robotics companies must generate or expect to generate revenue from the production of robotics products (that sense, analyze, and act in the physical world), hardware or software subsystems and enabling technologies for robots, or services supporting robotics devices. For this analysis, autonomous vehicles (including technologies that support autonomous driving) and drones are considered robots, while 3D printers, CNC systems, and various types of “hard” automation are not.

Companies that are “robotic” in name only, or use the term “robot” to describe products and services that that do not enable or support devices acting in the physical world, are excluded. For example, this includes “software robots” and robotic process automation. Many firms have multiple locations in different countries. Company locations given in the analysis are based on the publicly listed headquarters in legal documents, press releases, etc.

Verification
Funding information is collected from a number of public and private sources. These include press releases from corporations and investment groups, corporate briefings, industry analysts such as Tracxn, and association and industry publications. In addition, information comes from sessions at conferences and seminars, as well as during private interviews with industry representatives, investors, and others. Unverifiable investments are excluded.

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Source: therobotreport

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