BEIJING — Geek+ Inc., which provides robots for supply chain operations, yesterday said that it had raised $150 million in Series C1 funding. The Chinese company was founded in 2015, and it entered the competitive U.S. market last year. The international interest and investment demonstrates both the promise and challenges facing robotics developers trying to serve logistics demand.
Geek+ (also known as Beijing Geekplus Technology and Geek Plus Robotics) sells robots for picking, moving, sorting, and storage and retrieval of goods. They include its Robot Shuttle System and a self-driving forklift. It demonstrated the latest models of its P800 autonomous mobile robot and C200 shuttle system at ProMat 2019. Last month, Geek+ announced MiniSort, a modular sortation system.
Components include the Geek Management System for fleet management, picking stations for human workers, and automatic charging stations. The company said it also offers logistics services for “smarter supply chains” based on its data and experience.
Mobile robot market still growing
The number of commercial robots will grow from nearly 4,000 automated warehouses last year to 4 million robots in 50,000 warehouses by 2025, predicted ABI Research. The company attributed that growth to improvements in computer vision, machine learning, and mobile manipulation leading to more flexible robots. ABI also noted that affordability, thanks in part to Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) models, should aid adoption.
In November, Geek+ CEO Zheng Yong was bullish about his company’s prospects. “We think the market’s potential is quite high. We believe in China, there’s at least more than 500,000 robots necessary for this market,” he told Bloomberg. “We hope to deliver 20,000 to 50,000 robots per year. … I think the next round should be more than $200 million.”
Zheng added that demand is coming from retail including e-commerce and from manufacturing. While Geek+ claims to be the No. 1 supplier of supply chain robots in China and Japan, Zheng acknowledged that the trade conflict between China and the U.S. has slowed business.
Geek+ customers and funding rounds
Customers of Geek+ include technology, logistics, and retail companies such as Alibaba, Denso, LIANHUA, Shunfeng SF Express, and Suning. The company said it has delivered more than 7,000 robots worldwide. In comparison, Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva Systems) said it uses more than 100,000 robots.
In 2017, Geek+ raised $61.5 million. In November 2018, Warburg Pincus LLC led the company’s $150 million Series B round, which it claimed was the largest to date for AI-enabled logistics robots. The Robot Report noted that Geek+ was among the top-funded robotics companies of 2018.
The Series C1 round was led by GGV Capital, with participation from Warburg Pincus and D1 Capital Partners, according to Crunchbase.
“With reliable hardware and effective algorithms, Geek+’s smart robotics solutions enable better efficiency in the supply chain,” stated Jenny Lee, managing partner at GGV Capital.
Geek+ plans to expand
Geek+ has said it is expanding production from 4,000 robots to year to more than 10,000 per year, starting with a new factory that opens this summer. Zheng said he expects the company to grow in Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia.
The company faces competition from mobile robot companies such as 6 River Systems Inc., which raised $25 million last year; GreyOrange Pte. Ltd., which raised $140 million in September 2019; IAM Robotics, which raised $20 million in November; and Locus Robotics Corp., which raised $26 million in April.