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Exotec raised $335 million in Series D funding to scale its automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) technology. The round, which was led by the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management, values Exotec at $2 billion.
The French startup, which was founded in 2015, develops the Skypod ASRS and Skypicker robot. The Skypod ASRS uses mobile robots that autonomously move to a rack and retrieve a bin that weighs up to 30 kg. The mobile robot then brings the bin to a picking station where a human operator empties the bin.
Skypicker is an articulated arm that might be able to be used instead of a human picker. The arm can move solid objects weighing up to 2kg and with a minimum surface of 2 x 2 cm at a speed of 2 m/s. Exotec claims Skypicker can move 600 items per hour and allows for simultaneous preparation of four orders.
Exotec will use the funding to scale deployments in North America, Europe and Asia to customers looking to streamline their e-commerce fulfillment operations. It also plans to hire 500 R&D engineers by 2025.
Exotec typically sells its robots under a traditional CapEx model. But Rudi Lueg, managing director of North America, Exotec, said the company offers its customers flexibility.
“Traditional online retailers have crazy peak in Q4,” he said. “They might need twice as much horsepower in Q4 compared to the rest of the year. What we can do is give them a system that makes them happy for the first three quarters of the year and then rent them additional mobile robots for the last quarter to handle peak. We then take those extra robots back in January.”
Lueg said its scalable solutions helped it land major customers such as Decathlon, Gap, Geodis, Medtronic and more. In 2021, Exotec generated worldwide revenue of $120 million. Exotec said it doubled its revenue and tripled its customer base since closing a $90 million Series C funding round in the fall of 2020.
“Exotec warehouse robotics have transformed our logistics operations in multiple markets around the world, most recently in our Montreal fulfillment center,” said Richard Tremblay, logistics manager at Decathlon Canada. “We value the unique combination of speed, performance, and flexibility that allows us to provide leading service to our customers. We look forward to a long-term partnership with Exotec.”
Lueg said AutoStore is Exotec’s main competitor. AutoStore last week introduced its R5+ robot that has a taller profile and is designed to handle deeper bins. AutoStore reported $84.7 million in revenue in the third quarter of 2021. Its revenue is up 95% from $43.4 million in Q3 of 2020. However, AutoStore lost its patent infringement case against Ocado in which it claimed the UK online grocer violated several of its patents.
According to Interact Analysis, Exotec’s $335 million investment is the largest seen so far for a mobile robot/ warehouse robotics company. Interact Analysis also said Exotec’s $2 billion valuation is also a new record.
“Exotec provides an innovative solution which enhances existing ‘goods-to-person’ robotic solutions (pioneered by Kiva Systems),” said Ash Sharma, managing director of market research, Interact Analysis. “The Exotec solution allows robots to both traverse in 3-dimensions within warehouse storage racking, but also then travel autonomously across the warehouse floor to deliver the goods to a packing station.”
“Another interesting point is that Exotec is relatively unusual in being a French unicorn start-up,” added Sharma. “What makes it even more unusual is that hardware makes up an important part of the Exotec offering – rather than the 100% software focused start-ups that are, arguably, simpler to get off the ground. I am hopeful that we’ll see more and more such companies in the coming years as Europe’s tech start-up scene really starts to finally compete with the U.S.”