In an unannounced funding discovered by Boston Globe reporter Scott Kirsner, Rethink Robotics sold equity and received $26.6 million a few days before Christmas.
UPDATED Jan 8: This funding brings Rethink Robotics’ total venture capital to $100.1 million according to CrunchBase. Highland Capital Partners, Sigma Prime Ventures, and CRV (formerly Charles River Ventures) participated in this round along with new investors GE Ventures and Goldman Sachs. [According to a Rethink spokesman, Baxter robots are already deployed at multiple GE sites attesting to the rapidly changing manufacturing landscape and Rethink’s product adaptability.]
According to Sue Siegel, CEO GE Ventures, “Advanced manufacturing is an important area of focus for GE, both as an investor and a manufacturer. Rethink Robotics is paving the way for a new era of manufacturing in which robots work safely alongside humans, providing new opportunities for manufacturers to improve their production processes.”
“The business of manufacturing is changing more rapidly today than at any time in recent history,” said George Lee, co-chairman of the global technology, media and telecom group and chief information officer for the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs. “Smart, collaborative robotics have proven to be a significant and disruptive technology. With a differentiated solution set, an innovative software platform and a forward-thinking product roadmap, Rethink Robotics is well positioned to lead this industry for many years to come.”
Just a year ago Rethink had a 23% layoff after receiving an $11.5 million equity round of funding in November, 2013. Since that time much has happened to improve the product and direction of the company. Baxter, Rethink’s 2-armed robot, got a boost in precision and speed in a major software upgrade at the end of the summer and subsequent sales have shown that this was what was holding up sales to factories and shops.
Rethink, is, at this time, a privately-held company, and doesn’t report its financial information. However it is thought that in the two years to date that they have been manufacturing and shipping product, only 800 Baxters have been sold. If all 800 units sold for $25k, that’s an indication of why Rethink would need this additional funding to sustain its operations and 70+ employes until they hit a profitable (or at least break-even) run rate.
Rethink Robotics’ CTO and Chairman of the Board Rodney Brooks, in a recent blog regarding what Brooks sees in store for 2015, Brooks says that:
- We will begin to see large-scale deployment of collaborative and intelligent robots in manufacturing.
- This will be a breakout year for robotics research.
- It’s been exciting to watch Baxter become the gold standard of human-robot interaction, and even more exciting to see some of the tremendous work talented students and engineers are doing with our robot. And much of their work has nothing to do with improving manufacturing, but with exploring the use of robots in healthcare, elder care, and other endeavors that are critical to the future of our society.