Robotics investments in August 2018 totaled at least $925.53 million worldwide with a total of 29 investments. Unverifiable robotics investments, including several in China, have been excluded from this recap. There also are several robotics investments in which the amounts were not disclosed. If we verify those amounts, we will update these figures.
As has often been the case in 2018, the bulk of robotics investments ($698.13 million) in August was made into companies developing hardware, services, and software for self-driving vehicles. As you see below, three of the five largest robotics investments in August were made into the self-driving sector. The logistics market was second with three robotics investments that totaled $144.5 million.
More than half of the robotics investments total came from Toyota’s $500 million investment into Uber to jointly develop self-driving vehicles. Both companies are lagging behind in the self-driving race, so this partnership could be a boost for both parties. Uber plans to retrofit Toyota Sienna minivans with its autonomous technology and begin real-world testing in 2021.
The USA was home to 17 robotics investments that totaled $823.4 million. China had the second-most robotics investments (4) for a total of at least $87 million, while Germany had three robotics investments, the UK had two robotics investments, and Austria, Denmark and South Africa each had one investment to round out the list. Below, in alphabetical order, are the verified robotics investments for August 2018.
5×5 Technologies (USA) – $4.4M Equity Round
5×5 Technologies, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based startup, raised $4.4 million for its drone software and technology. Its system “expands the capabilities and improves the deliverables of commercial applications, while allowing for the full integration of UAS into the national airspace,” including 3D analytics and DVR recording via drones.
Academy of Robotics (UK) – $130,000 Undisclosed Round
The Academy of Robotics, a startup that is developing the Kar-go electric autonomous delivery vehicle, raised another $130,000 in an undisclosed round. The company says it passed on additional funding because it didn’t want to dilute its investors. The final version of Kar-go will reportedly be unveiled next week at the NVIDIA GPU Conference in Germany.
Accel Robotics (USA) – $3.5M Equity
La Jolla, Calif.-based Accel Robotics Corp. raised $3.5 million in an equity sale. The company is building its own machine vision systems that it’ll market to the hospitality, retail and robotics markets.
Aerobotics (South Africa) – $2M Series A
Agtech company Aerobotics has closed a $2 million Series A that was led by Nedbank CIB Venture Capital, which is one of South Africa’s largest banks. Aerobotics uses drones and machine learning algorithms to help farmers identify pests and diseases early. After receiving $602,000 in seed funding last August, Aerobotics has added new investors to continue its growth. More coverage on The Robot Report
Blickfield (Germany) – $10M Seed Round
Munich, Germany-based startup Blickfield raised $10 million in seed funding for LiDAR technology it is building for autonomous vehicles, IoT applications and robotics. Blickfield has developed proprietary LiDAR technology based on patented silicon MEMS mirrors and commercial off-the-shelf components. All existing investors Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Tengelmann Ventures, and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners participated in the round.
Boxed (USA) – $111M Series D
Boxed, a NYC-based company that delivers bulk-sized groceries, raised a $111 million Series D round. Boxed writes its own software, runs its own fulfillment centers and builds its own automation products in-house. And now Boxed will knowledge-share with the round’s leading investor, Aeon, on logistics, robotics, and AI-driven data usage to accelerate Aeon’s digital transformation. The two companies will also explore further collaboration on technology and business models.
Carmera (USA) – $20M Series B
NYC-based Carmera, a mapping and data analytics startup that came out of stealth in 2016, raised a $20 million Series B funding round led by GV, formerly known as Google Ventures. Carmera previously raised $6.4 million in 2017. Carmera builds and maintains HD maps for autonomous vehicle customers such as automakers, suppliers and robotaxis. It uses its fleet-monitoring service to build and maintain those maps. Camera calls it “pro-sourcing,” in which its camera-equipped human-driven vehicles deliver new information to the autonomous map on a daily basis.
Clobotics (China) – $11M Series A
Clobotics, a startup using robotics and AI to capture and analyze images for energy and retail companies, raised an $11 million Series A round of funding. Clobotics was founded in 2015 by former Microsoft and Ehang executive George Yan. One of its products, Clobotics Smart Wind, uses a fleet of drones to survey wind turbine blades, snapping photos that look for damaged blades. The drones send images back in real-time that are analyzed with machine learning to detect problems.
DeepMap (USA) – $50M-plus Oversubscribed Series B
Palo Alto, Calif.-based DeepMap, which produces highly detailed, three-dimensional virtual maps for autonomous vehicles, closed an oversubscribed Series B round. While it didn’t disclose the exact amount of funding, DeepMap said the round “will be north of $50 million.” The round included Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, GSR Ventures, Robert Bosch Venture Capital and NVIDIA.
DS Automotion (Austria) – Undisclosed Investment
In order to meet the increasing demand for AGVs, SSI SCHAEFER expanded its product portfolio with an undisclosed investment in Austrian AGV specialist DS AUTOMOTION. DS AUTOMOTION has been specializing in the development and production of AGVs for more than 30 years.
Dusty Robotics (USA) – $2M Seed Round
Founded by former Savioke CTO and Chief Robot Whisperer Tessa Lau earlier in 2018, Calif.-based Dusty Robotics raised a $2 million seed round from Baseline Ventures, Root Ventures, and Cantos. At the moment, the company doesn’t want to publicly say anything more than its goal is to “improve construction productivity by automating critical-path tasks on construction jobsites.” The Robot Report recently got the low-down from Lau, however. Dusty Robotics is working on a novel concept, and Lau said she’ll be ready to publicly spill the beans by the end of 2018.
FairFleet (Germany) – Series and Amount Undisclosed
FairFleet, a Munich, Germany-based drone startup, raised funding from High-Tech Gründerfonds. The amount of funding was not disclosed. FairFleet is a full-service provider, offering its customers services such as booking, airspace approval, pilot management, aerial survey, data analysis and more.
Gecko Robotics (USA) – $7M Series A
Pittsburgh-based startup Gecko Robotics raised a $7 million Series A round from Founders Fund, The Westly Group, Y Combinator, Mark Cuban, and Justin Kan. Gecko Robotics in March 2016 raised a $120,000 Seed round. Gecko offers wall-climbing robots that perform non-destructive testing on tanks, boilers, scrubbers, piping and more. Using different inspection payloads, the robots can inspect wall thickness, cracking, pitting, and other forms of degradation. With continuous data capture, robots can collect 100x more information while also performing the inspection on average 10x faster than previous methods.
inVia Robotics (USA) – $20M Series B
inVia Robotics, a Los Angeles-based maker of warehouse robots for e-commerce fulfillment centers, raised $20 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Point72 Ventures along with ongoing investments from Upfront and Embark Ventures. inVia Robotics raised a $9 million Series A round in February 2018. inVia’s Picker robot works collaboratively alongside human workers to eliminate the need for operators to walk around the warehouse. The idea is to allow human workers to concentrate on more complex tasks like picking and quality control. More Coverage on The Robot Report
Kodiak Robotics (USA) – $40M Series A
Kodiak Robotics raised $40 million in Series A funding to develop technology for self-driving trucks. The Mountain View, Calif.-based startup will use the funding to test its long-haul self-driving trucks that use cameras, LiDAR, radar, and sonar to see the road. Kodiak Robotics co-founder and CEO Don Burnette was also co-founder of self-driving truck company Otto, which Uber acquired for a reported $680 million. More Coverage on The Robot Report
Left Hand Robotics (USA) – $3.7M Seed Round
Left Hand Robotics (LHR), a Colorado-based startup building an autonomous snow clearing robot, raised $3.7 million in seed funding, led by Heroic Ventures. SnowBot Pro follows a autonomously follows a pre-programmed path to clear sidewalks and bike paths of snow. It uses LiDAR and Radar to detect and avoid obstacles and will cost $32,995, plus an annual software subscription. LHR claims commercial snow management companies and municipalities can reduce their labor costs by up to 80% with the robot, which will be produced in Colorado and will start being delivered late in 2018.
MakeBlock (China) – $44M Series C
Robotics kit maker Makeblock closed $44 million in Series C funding. The latest valuation for the Shenzhen-based company is approximately $367 million. The latest funding round was led by CICC ALPHA along with Yuexiu Industrial Investment Fund, GX Capital and Everest Capital (LMFVC). Makeblock will use the financing for R&D, marketing, and subsidiary company operations. It plans to launch new products this October. More Coverage on The Robot Report
MOV.AI (UK) – $3M Seed Round
MOV.AI raised $3M in seed funding to develop an industry-grade operating system (OS) for collaborative robots. The London-based startup is creating an ecosystem where developers, integrators and manufacturers collaborate to produce smarter robots on a large scale for operation and production lines. More Coverage on The Robot Report
Ocean Aero (USA) – Undisclosed Series B
Ocean Aero Inc., a San Diego-based builder of environmentally-powered unmanned maritime systems raised a Series B that was led by Lockheed Martin Ventures. Lockheed also invested in Ocean Aero in 2017. The amount was undisclosed, but Lockheed says its typical investments range from $500,000 to $5 million with a sweet spot of $2-$3 million. Ocean Aero says its unmanned Submaran submarine, which is powered by wind and solar energy, can dive to depths of 660 feet for surveillance missions and travel for months.
OnRobot (Denmark) – Undisclosed Amount in Private Equity
OnRobot raised a new round of private equity funding led by Summit Partners, with participation from existing investor The Danish Growth Fund. The amount of funding raised wasn’t disclosed, but an OnRobot spokesperson confirmed it was a “three-digit million” round. OnRobot has acquired Purple Robotics, a Denmark-based startup that just recently introduced the PR10 electrical-based vacuum gripper that doesn’t require an external air supply. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. More Coverage on The Robot Report
rideOS (USA) – $25M Series B
rideOS raised $25 million in Series B funding for its cloud-based fleet-management platform that pulls mapping, traffic and detection data for self-driving vehicles in a given area. The platform, essentially an traffic control system for vehicles, also works with human-driven vehicles and transportation services. rideOS’ latest funding round was led by Next47, the Siemens-backed global venture firm. Existing investor Sequoia Capital and a new investor, Singapore-based ST Engineering Ventures, also contributed. The Series B brings its’ total funding to $34 million after it raised $9 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia Capital. More Coverage on The Robot Report
Root AI (USA) – $2.3M Seed Round
Somerville, Mass.-based Root AI raised $2.3 million in seed funding to build robots that will operate in indoor farms. The robots will pick tomatoes, for example, and can assess the ripeness of the food to decide which ones are ready for picking. The company’s patent-pending grippers can reach into tangled vines and pick fruit without causing damage.
Scale Inc (USA) – $18M Series B
San Francisco, Calif.-based Scale Inc. raised an $18 million Series B round that was led by Index Ventures. Accel Partners, Drew Houston, Justin Kan and Y Combinator also participated. Companies send Scale raw, unlabeled data that it processes through a combination of human microtasking and machine learning, and returns it as scalable and accurate data sets. Autonomous vehicles, drones and robotics are its primary markets. Scale was founded in 2016 and customers include Lyft, General Motors (Cruise), Zoox, Nuro, Voyage, nuTonomy and Embark.
WFT GmbH (Germany) – Undisclosed Amount
Stäubli Group acquired a 70% stake in WFT GmbH & Co. KG, a company based in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Germany, for an undisclosed amount. WFT has been a specialist in the construction of special purpose machines and mobile platforms for two decades. This acquisition allows the company’s to join forces on AGVs and automation add-ons. All employees of the acquired business will join the Stäubli Robotics Division, while the factory in Sulzbach- Rosenberg will become part of the new company’s global production network.
Uber (USA) – $500M Corporate Round
Uber raised $500 million from Toyota in an effort to jointly develop self-driving vehicles. Uber plans to retrofit Toyota Sienna minivans with its autonomous technology and begin real-world testing in 2021. The investment valued Uber at $72 billion and could breathe new lift into its self-driving business, which was rocked by a deadly accident in Tempe, Ariz. in March 2018.
Vecna (USA) – $13.5M Equity Round
Cambridge, Mass.-based Vecna Robotics raised $13.5 million in equity funding that was led by Drive Capital. This was the first outside funding in the 20-year history of Vecna, which in 2017 split into multiple divisions. Vecna Robotics makes autonomous mobile robots for the logistics industry.tVertex.ai
Surfing Tech (China) – Undisclosed amount of Angel Round Financing
Ventech China completed a “multi-million dollar angel round financing” in China’s Surfing Tech, which is developing autonomous driving data solutions and other AI technologies.
WaveSense (USA) – $3M Seed Round
WaveSense, a Somerville, Mass.-based startup, closed a $3 million seed round that was led by Rhapsody Venture Partners. WaveSense is developing patented ground-penetrating radar (GPR) that the company claims improves navigation safety and precision for self-driving vehicles.
Yihang.ai (China) – $32M Series B
Beijing-based autonomous driving start-up Yihang.ai raised $32 million in a Series B round led by CICC Jiacheng Investment. The latest round of funding witnessed the participation of new investors, Source Code Capital and CICC Alpha, as well as exiting investor Matrix Partners China. Yihang.ai was founded in 2015, and its production model is equipped with L2.5 autonomous driving function and will be launched in June 2019.
Editors Note: What defines a robotics investment? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify robotics investment trends 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 VC firms, corporate investment groups, angel investors, and other sources. Friends-and-family investments, government/NGA 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 (sense, think and act in the physical world), enabling technologies for robots and robotics subsystems (HW or SW), 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 ‘robotic’ to describe products and services that that do not enable/support devices acting in the physical world, are excluded (ex. “software robots”, “robotic process automation”, etc.). Many firms have multiple locations in different countries. Company locations given in the analysis are based on the country publicly listed as headquarters in legal documents, press releases etc.
Funding information is collected from a number of public and private sources. These included press releases from corporations and investment groups, corporate briefings, association and industry publications, along with sessions at conferences and seminars, and during private interviews with industry representatives, investors, and others. Unverifiable investments are excluded.