Robotics investments recap: October 2019

The Robot Report

In October 2019, The Robot Report tracked about $1.1 billion in robotics transactions. About half of the investments, or $532 million, this past month were around autonomous vehicles, followed by healthcare, logistics, and agricultural robotics.

Investors, the major automakers, and technology companies large and small are continuing to race toward self-driving cars, trucks, taxicabs, and buses. Zoox Inc.’s $200 million funding toward a Series C round for its robotic taxis was the largest transportation transaction reported last month.

At the same time, the trend toward fewer small transactions has also continued. Exit value will likely exceed $200 billion this year, according to PitchBook. However, global venture capital funding has declined in much of the world (including the U.S.) while remaining steady in Asia, reported Deal Street Asia and Crunchbase.

The total from October’s 43 reported robotics fundings is down from 39 deals worth approximately $2.4 billion in September 2019. In comparison, there were 23 deals worth $1.2 billion in October 2018, so the seasonal totals are close. See also our roundup of the 20 largest investments in the first half of this year.

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

Robotics investments, October 2019

Company Amt. (M$) Type Lead investors, partners Date Technology
Activ Surgical Inc. 11 Series A DNS Capital Oct. 29 surgical robotics
Aerodyne Group 30 Series B Drone Fund, Gobi Partners Oct. 16 drone services
AiM Medical Robotics Inc. 0.2 equity sale Oct. 3 surgical robotics
AnotherBrain 20.7 Series A Groupe SEB Oct. 1 AI chips
Augmenta SA 2.5 seed Hardware Club, Marathon Venture Capital Oct. 8 precision agriculture
Bominwell Robotics 7 Series B Northern Light Venture Capital Oct. 30 inspection, security
Cerence Inc. IPO/spinout Nuance Communications Inc. Oct. 1 connected cars
CODE42 Inc. 25 pre-Series A Kia Motors Oct. 30 autononmous shuttles
Cognicept Systems Pte. Ltd. seed Surge Ahead Oct. 9 robot support LLC 50 pre-Series A Fosun RZ Capital Oct. 7 autonomous vehicles
Diligent Robotics Inc. 3 seed True Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures Oct. 1 hospital robot
Disperse 15 Series A Northzone Oct. 22 AI construction monitoring
EHang Holdings Ltd. 100 IPO Oct. 31 passenger drones
Fabric 110 Series B Corner Ventures Oct. 23 micro-fulfillment centers
Einride AB 24 Series A EQT Ventures, NordicNinja VC Oct. 10 self-driving trucks
Ghost Locomotion Inc. 32.7 Series C Oct. 28 autonomous vehicles
Gideon Brothers d.o.o. 2.95 seed Pentland Ventures Oct. 28 autonomous mobile robots
Hummingbird Technologies Ltd. 10 Series B BASF Venture Capital, TELUS Ventures Oct. 15 precision agriculture
Kane Robotics Inc. 0.175 equity sale Oct. 10 robotic grinding
KuanDeng Technology 14.2 Series A+ Yihang Funds Oct. 14 autonomous vehicles
Labrador Systems Inc. 2 pre-seed HAX Oct. 15 household assistive robot
Myomo Inc. 3 term loan Chic Oct. 23 wearable robotics
NetraDyne Inc. Series B Hyundai CRADLE Oct. 4 machine vision
Osaro Inc. 16 Series B King River Capital Oct. 3 industrial automation software
PATS Indoor Drone Solutions 0.278 seed UNIIQ Oct. 4 greenhouse drones
Prophesee SA 28 Series C European Investment Bank Oct. 28 vision sensors
Realtime Robotics Inc. 11.7 Series A SPARX Asset Management Oct. 16 AI for robots, self-driving cars
Robobloq Co. 1.4 seed Zhonghe Venture Capital Oct. 28 STEM
Scallog SAS seed Colruyt Group Oct. 22 warehouse robots
Shenzhen Youdi Technology Series B Oct. 9 delivery robots
SkyDrive Inc. 13.9 seed STRIVE III Limited Liability Partnership, ITOCHU Technology Ventures Oct. 4 drone taxis
Smart Radar System Inc. 4 Series A Kakao Ventures Oct. 28 sensors
SpeedBot investment Tongwei Capital Oct. 8 3D visual perception
Tactile Mobility 9 investment Porsche, Union Tech Ventures Oct. 29 vehicle sensors
TIBOT Technologies 3.3 Series A Seventure Partners, Demeter Oct. 11 poultry robotics
Titan Medical Inc. 25 stock sale Oct. 25 surgical robotics
Toggle Industries Inc. 3 seed Point72 Ventures AI Group Oct. 15 construction
Velodyne LiDAR Inc. 50 investment Hyundai Mobis Oct. 22 autonomous vehicles
Verdant Robotics Inc. 11.5 Series A Oct. 18 agricultural robotics, AI
Virtual Incision Corp. 10 securities sale Oct. 29 surgical robotics
Wide Stool Technology 14.1 Series A Easy Fund Oct. 14 HD 3D maps for autonomous vehicles
Wolkus Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Fasal) 1.6 seed Omnivore Ventures, Wavemaker Partners Oct. 30 precision agriculture
Zoox Inc. 200 Series C Oct. 22 autonomous vehicles

Seven robotics mergers and acquisitions were reported this past month, in comparison with six last month and four a year ago. The Robot Report has also compiled a list of 10 notable mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2019.

Here are the mergers and acquisitions of the past month:

Robotics mergers & acquisitions, October 2019

Company Amt. (M$) Acquirer, partner Date Technology
Altius Space Machines Voyager Space Holdings Oct. 23 satellite servicing
Aria Insights Inc. FLIR Systems Inc. Oct. 2 tethered drones
AutoGuide Mobile Robots 58 Teradyne Inc. Oct. 21 mobile robots
DeepScale Inc. Tesla Inc. Oct. 1 computer vision
Keihin Corp., Showa Corp., Nissin Kogyo Co. Hitachi Automotive Systems Oct. 30 autonomous vehicles
Onshape 470 PTC Inc. Oct. 23 CAD software
SUALAB Cognex Corp. Oct. 16 machine vision

Transportation hauls in more money

After Zoox’s Series C, drone maker EHang Holdings’ initial public offering, worth $100 million, was the next largest deal in autonomous vehicles. China-based EHang is working on autonomous air taxis, as is Japan-based SkyDrive, which raised $14 million.

More down to earth, Hyundai Mobis invested $50 million in partner and sensor maker Velodyne LiDAR, while raised $50 million in pre-Series A funding for its robotic taxis (see also our table of automotive funding for September).

Ghost Locomotion raised $32.7 million in Series C funding as it develops its suite of cameras and computing to make existing cars self-driving. Meanwhile, CODE42 plans to use its $25 million in pre-Series A funding to continue developing its Urban Mobility Operating system and create a “global autonomous transportation-as-a-service ecosystem.”

Einride, which is working on self-driving trucks or delivery “pods” raised $25 million led by Kia Motors to expand in the U.S.

Investors and engineers are recognizing high-definition mapping as a significant challenge for autonomous vehicles. KuangDeng Technology raised $14.2 million, and Wide Stool Technology raised $14.1 million. Both are in China.

Self-driving cars also need to perceive the world around them and then compare that with various maps. Tactile Mobility, also known as MobiWize, raised $9 million from Porsche and others for its tactile sensing and data analytics systems. Tesla, which itself borrowed $700 million from China Merchants Bank in October 2019, acquired computer vision company DeepScale for an unspecified amount.

Japanese automakers Honda and Hitach last month said they are merging Hitachi Automotive Systems with Honda affiliates Kehin, Showa, and Nissin Kogyo. Hitachi Automotive Systems has been testing autonomous and connected vehicles in North America and Japan.

Hyundai CRADLE invested an unspecified amount in NetraDyne, which uses AI, vision-based dashcams, and fleet management software for safety. Hyundai said it expects to use the technology to improve Level 3 advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

Conversational artificial intelligence company Nuance Communications spun out Cerence Inc., which is working on speech recognition, natural language processing, and acoustic modeling for the automotive industry.

Healthcare robots reach for funding in October 2019

Robot-assisted surgery and other healthcare companies raised $52.2 million last month. Titan Medical bounced back from the news that it had to delay its submission of the Sport device to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) partly because of a lack of funding by offering $25 million in stock.

MassRobotics resident Activ Surgical closed $11 million in Series A funding for its ActivSight system. Virtual Incision, which is working on a miniaturized robotic surgical assistant, raised $10 million (see also our list of surgical robotics transactions to date).

AiM Medical Robotics raised $200,000 in an equity sale, according to an SEC filing. It is working on a robot for neurosurgery that can be used while a patient is in an MRI scanner.

Beyond surgical robots, wearable robotics company Myomo obtained a $3 million term loan, and Diligent Robotics raised $3 million in seed funding as it launched the Moxi hospital robot.

The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 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 registration is now open.

Logistics robotics gears up

With the holiday shopping season approaching — and some retailers putting out Christmas displays before Halloween — the need for robots in the supply chain is clear. Fabric, previously known as CommonSense Robotics, raised $110 million as it builds micro-fulfillment centers across the U.S.

North Reading, Mass.-based Teradyne, which already owns collaborative robot leader Universal Robots, logistics robot maker Mobile Industrial Robots, and integrator Energid, just acquired AutoGuide Mobile Robots for $58 million.

Osaro raised $16 million in October 2019 for its picking and vision systems, while Gideon Brothers raised $2.95 million and partnered with European logistics leader DB Schenker to deploy its vision-driven autonomous mobile robots.

Scallog raised an unspecified amount in seed funds to build more warehouse robots, and Shenzhen Youdi Technology raised Series B funding for its delivery robots.

Agbots reap new funds in October 2019

Agriculture has long been mechanized, and the trend will only intensify with agbots, say analysts. The global market for agricultural robots or agbots will grow from $16.8 billion in 2020 to $75 billion by 2025, predicts Market Research Engine. According to Markets and Markets, it will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.34%, from $4.1 billion in 2017 to $25.2 billion in 2025.

Verdant Robotics reaped $11.5 million in Series A funding, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Hayward, Calif.-based company’s agbots use computer vision and AI for fruit cultivation.

Hummingbird Technologies raised $10 million for its on-demand combination of remote sensing, AI, and data analytics for precision farming. France-based TIBOT Technologies raised $3.3 million for robots to improve poultry operations.

In precision agriculture, Augmenta raised $2.5 million in seed funding, and Wolkus Technology Solutions, also known as Fasal, raised $1.6 million in seed funding.

Greenhouse Drone provider PATS Indoor Drone Solutions raised $278,000 as it develops aerial drones for insect control.

Agbots, autonomous vehicles reap funding in October 2019

Small drones fight insects in a Dutch greenhouse. Source: PATS Indoor Drone Solutions

Infrastructure inspection on the rise

The individual transactions around construction and inspection robots and drones in October 2019 may be relatively small. However, like agbots, they represent a growing set of commercial applications, thanks to improving sensors and communications.

Aerodyne Group raised $30 million in Series B funding for its drone services. Disperse garnered $15 million for its system, which uses AI to monitor construction sites.

Speaking of aerial drones, security robotics provider FLIR Systems acquired the intellectual property and operating assets of tethered drone maker Aria Insights, formerly known as CyPhy Works.

Shenzhen, China-based Bominwell Robotics raised $7 million for inspection and security robots, and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Toggle Industries raised $3 million in seed funding for its rebar robots.

Manufacturing and perception in October 2019

Industrial automation investments in October 2019 combined robotics and machine vision. For instance, SpeedBot raised an unspecified amount for its industrial robots, which use 3D machine vision.

Prophesee raised $28 million to commercialize its “event-based” vision sensors, and Smart Radar System closed a $4 million Series A round for its 4D image radar used in industrial and automotive applications. Cognex acquired SUALAB to improve its visual inspection capabilities.

In other robotics for manufacturing, robotic grinding provider Kane Robotics raised $175,000 in an equity sale, according to an SEC filing. Sequoia Capital participated in seed funding for Cognicept Systems, which provides “human in the loop” telerobotic troubleshooting.

Funding for robots in schools, homes, and outer space

The remaining robotics transactions for October 2019 were in a variety of areas. In the biggest single deal of the month, PTC paid $470 million for Onshape, whose software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering can aid in the design of products including robots.

Also in software, Realtime Robotics raised $11.7 million in Series A funding for its collision-avoidance technology. On the hardware side, AnotherBrain raised $20.7 million for chips that it said are energy-efficient and can lead to “organic AI.”

Labrador Systems raised $2 million in pre-seed funding for its household assistant robot, and China-based Robobloq raised $1.4 million in seed funding for its educational robots. Crowdfunding campaigns are outside the scope of this roundup, but Knightscope’s StartEngine listing is worth noting as the security robot provider prepares for an IPO.

Finally, for now, Voyager Space Holdings said it plans to acquire Altius Space Machines, which is designing a robot to service satellites.

Altius Bulldog

Concept art of the Bulldog robot for servicing satellites. Source: Altius Space Machines

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.

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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