Robotics investments in January 2019 totaled at least $644 million worldwide, with a total of 25 robotics transactions. Unverifiable robotics investments and categories described below have been excluded from this analysis. There are several robotics investments for which the amounts and rounds were not disclosed. If we verify those amounts and rounds, or come across new robotics investments, we will update these figures.
The amount raised in January is lower than the $652.7 million raised in December, which was down from the previous months. One of the biggest was exoskeleton maker Ekso Bionics’ joint venture and investment with China, worth $100 million.
Another big transaction was Silver Lake’s $1 billion investment into Alphabet unit Verily Life Sciences LLC, which partnered with Johnson & Johnson on Verb Surgical. San Francisco-based Verily said the new funding will support potential acquisitions, investments, and partnerships to advance its portfolio strategies. However, it’s not clear how much of that amount will go toward healthcare robotics, so we have excluded the total from our overall amount of robotics investments.
Investments in automotive technologies were also significant in January 2019, totaling at least $232 million. FLIR’s $200 million acquisition of Aeryon Labs was a major drone merger. Aerial drones for agriculture, package delivery, and retail inventory received more than $39 million, while automation for manufacturing received more than $20 million.
January 2019 robotics investments
alwaysAI Inc. (U.S.) — $4M Series A
Computer vision startup alwaysAI closed a $4 million Series A round led by BlueRun Ventures, with participation from founder and CEO Marty Beard. Solana Beach, Calif.-based alwaysAI plans to offer enterprise developers a deep-learning computer vision service to help them create Internet of Things applications for embedded devices such as robots, drones, wearables, and transport systems.
AirWorks Solutions LLC (U.S.) — $23M seed round
Cambridge, Mass.-based AirWorks, which makes software for aerial mapping and surveying, raised $23 million in seed funding. Innospark Ventures led the round, which included participation from MetaProp, EM Global, Rough Draft Ventures, and angel investors. The company is developing autonomous software to help civil engineers assess and analyze construction site data from drones, aircraft, and satellites in real time. AirWorks plans to use the funding to launch a software-as-a-service platform and decrease the turnaround time for creating aerial site plans from seven days to 24 hours.
American Robotics Inc. (U.S.) — $2.7M share sale
American Robotics, whose Scout autonomous aerial drone offers crop scouting for precision agriculture, submitted a Form D application to sell $2.7 million in equity and debt shares with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Last summer, the Boston-based startup conducted field trials across the U.S. American Robotics’ site said that, “unlike other precision-agriculture drone solutions, once installed within a farmer’s field, Scout requires no manual intervention to plan, fly, and manage drone operations. Detailed health reports and analysis are then seamlessly transmitted to the farmer.”
Baraja Pty. Ltd. (Australia) — $32M Series A
Baraja, which is making the Spectrum-Scan lidar for autonomous vehicles, announced in January 2019 Series A funding of $32 million. Investors included Sequoia China, Blackbird Ventures, and the CSIRO Innovation Fund managed by Main Sequence Ventures. The Sydney, Australia-based company last July launched a lidar system that it said is more affordable and “uses prism-like optics and shifting wavelengths of light to create powerful eyes for self-driving vehicles.” Baraja added that it “will use the funding to scale production, hire talent and continue its mission to enable safer autonomous driving.”
Beijing Auto AI Technology Co. (China) — $104M Series A
Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH in January 2019 joined Tencent, Didi, Nio Capital, and AdvanTech in investing in the $104 million Series A for Beijing Auto AI Technology Co., or AutoAI. The unit of NavInfo Co. is working on integrated “Internet of Vehicle” systems based on its smart cloud platform and big data analytics. AutoAI’s systems are intended to monitor vehicle status, provide in-cabin entertainment, and provide driver-friendly information based on preferences and location.
Benewake (China) — Undisclosed Series B2
Beixing Photonics Technology Co. (doing business as Benewake) has obtained unspecified Series B2 funding, led byDelta Capital, Keywise Capital, and Valeo LP of Cathay Capital. Existing investors IDG Capital and Shunwei Capital also participated in the January 2019 round. Beijing-based Benewake makes solid-state, 3D, and flash lidar systems for autonomous vehicles, home robots, automated guided vehicles, and drones.
drag&bot GmbH (Germany) — $1M seed round
Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation spinoff drag&bot completed in January 2019 a seed round of just under €1 million (about $1 million). SpeedInvest Industry led the round. The operating system offered by drag&bot is intended to make it easier for small and midsized manufacturers to program robots. It currently supports hardware from ABB, Denso, FANUC, KUKA, and Universal Robots, among others. drag&bot was named one of The Robot Report’s startups to watch in 2019.
Eyeware Tech SA (Switzerland) — $1.9M seed round
Eyeware Tech, which is developing 3D eye-tracking software for depth-sensing-enabled devices, closed its seed financing round of $1.9 million. High-Tech Gründerfonds led the round, inpartnership with TRUMPF Venture GmbH, Swiss Startup Group, and Zurich Kantonalbank. A spin-off of Idiap Research and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Eyeware Tech has demonstrated systems that were part of the BionicWorkplace, including a Festo collaborative robot arm, at Hannover Messe 2018. It also presented attention-tracking systems for automotive accident reduction at CES 2019. The Martigny, Switzerland-based company plans to use the funding to make its 3D eye-tracking development kit ready for integration into consumer applications. Eyeware is also looking to expand its corporate partnerships in the U.S. and China.
Ekso Bionics Holdings Inc. (U.S.) — $100M joint venture
Ekso Bionics, which makes exoskeletons for medical and industrial use, entered into an agreement with Zhejiang Youchuang Venture Capital Investment Co. (ZYVC) and Zhejiang Silicon Paradise Asset Management Group to develop, sell, and support products in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Ekso Bionics will license its manufacturing technology and contribute its relevant Chinese patent rights to the joint venture in exchange for a 20% ownership position. The other partners are committing more than $90 million in cash, and ZYVC and related parties will invest $10 million in Ekso Bionics, half now and half after the joint venture begins shipping products.
Flytrex Aviation Ltd. (Israel) — $7.5M Series B
Drone technology firm Flytrex raised $7.5 million in a Series B funding round led by Benhamou Global Ventures, with additional investment from btov. The Tel Aviv, Israel-based company provides autonomous drone-delivery systems, as well as services for navigating regulation, cloud-based drone management, insurance, and maintenance. Flytrex has offered drone-delivery services in Iceland and North Dakota. It will use the funding to scale up operations, improve its existing services, and prepare for launch in North Carolina under the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program.
Fortellix Ltd. (Israel) — $14M Series A
Fortellix, which provides developers systems to verify that autonomous vehicles are behaving properly, raised Series A funding of $14 million. 83North, Jump Capital, and Nextgear Ventures led the round. Tel Aviv-based Fortellix also automates the extraction and analysis of safety-related coverage metrics, and its system works with simulators, X-in-the-loop configurations, test tracks, and test vehicles. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate development, customer programs, and deployment of its coverage-driven verification solution.
Hailo (Israel) — $21M Series A
Tel Aviv-based Hailo, which is making deep-learning chips for edge devices, expanded its Series A round to $12 million. Glory Ventures led the $8.5 million expansion, and other investors included OurCrowd, Maniv Mobility, Next Gear, and angel investors including Hailo’s Chairman Zohar Zisapel and Delek Motors CEO Gil Agmon. The company plans to use the funding to bring its deep-learning processors to market in China and Hong Kong in addition to existing markets in Europe, North America, Japan, and South Korea. They are intended to run in robots, drones, self-driving cars, and surveillance applications.
Humatics Corp. (U.S.) — $28M Series A1
Waltham, Mass.-based Humatics, which acquired 5D Robotics and Time Domain Corp. last year, announced $28 million in Series A1 financing. Tenfore Holdings led the round, which brings the startup’s total financing to more than $50 million. Humatics’ Spatial Intelligence Platform combines RF beacons and software that can be used for human-robot interaction, drones, and self-driving cars. The company will use the funding to scale production of its KinetIQ 100 peer-to-peer ranging product and accelerate time to market for its KinetIQ 300 system for 3D positioning. Humatics also plans to expand operations at its new 25,000-sq.-ft. headquarters.
NASN Automotive Electronics Co. (China) — $59.61M Series B
NASN, which makes parts for self-driving cars, completed its Series B round in January 2019 by raising $59.61 million. Matrix Partners China led the round and was joined by Qiming Venture Partners and GP Capital. The Shanghai-based company previously raised $14.4 million and is developing “intelligent decision-making products” for driver-assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.
Pensa Systems (U.S.) — $5M venture round
Pensa Systems, which uses drones and AI for retail inventory, announced $5 million in funding. Signia Venture Partners led the round, with participation from ZX Ventures, ATX Seed Ventures, Capital Factory, Revtech Ventures, and others. The Austin, Texas-based company said it will use the money to “accelerate store trials with large retailers” and consumer packaged goods brands, as well as “fuel adoption of Pensa’s retail inventory visibility system.” Pensa’s advisory board includes Mick Mountz, founder and CEO of Kiva Systems, which was acquired by Amazon.com in 2012. The company raised $2.2. million in seed funding last year, and it conducted trials and received investment from Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Shenzhen Lihexing Co. (China) — $18.86M venture round
Shenzhen Lihexing, which makes flexible industrial automation equipment for smartphone testing and packaging, raised $18.86 million in a January 2019 round led by Shenzhen Capital Fortune Investment Management. Cowin Capital also participated. Shenzhen Lihexing’s customers include Huawei, Foxconn, Nokia, Microsoft, Canon, and Fuji.
Sigma Squares Tech Co. (China) — $2M seed round
Sigma Squares Tech, which sells automated manufacturing systems, in January 2019 received $2 million in seed round funding led by FutureCap. The Beijing-based startup was founded last year and makes visual inspection equipment, enterprise cloud services, and industrial data services over the Internet.
Veo Robotics Inc. (U.S.) — $15M
Waltham, Mass.-based Veo Robotics has created perception and intelligence systems to add collaborative capabilities to industrial robots. Most cobots are too small or slow for many manufacturing needs, but Veo’s suite of sensors and software enables robots to alter their behavior upon detecting humans in a work cell. The company raised its post-Series A funding from Baidu Ventures.
Vicarious Surgical (U.S.) — $10M equity sale
Charlestown, Mass.-based Vicarious Surgical raised an additional $10 million for its surgical platform, according to an SEC filing. The company’s platform combines virtual reality and proprietary robotics to assist surgeons performing minimally invasive procedures. Past investors include Khosla Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, and Innovation Endeavors, and it came out of “stealth mode” in April 2018 with a $17 million Series A.
WeRide.ai (China) — Undisclosed Series A
Autonomous vehicle company WeRide.ai said it has received “significant” Series A funding in the “tens of millions of U.S. dollars” from SenseTime Technology and ABC International (a wholly owned subsidiary of Agricultural Bank of China). Artificial intelligence startup SenseTime Group Ltd. itself plans to raise $2 billion in funding this year. WeRide stated that it will use the funding to not only develop its Level 4 autonomous driving technology, but also to prepare it for commercialization. The Guangzhou, China-based company plans to deploy a fleet of 500 autonomous vehicles this year and conduct trials with partners in multiple cities in China.
January 2019 robotics acquisitions
Eckhart Inc. acquires PRI Robotics & Automation Inc.
Industry 4.0 business Eckhart bought integrator PRI Robotics & Automation for an undisclosed sum. Warren, Mich.-based Ekhart makes the AUTOCRAFT autonomous guided vehicles, collaborative robots, and industrial automation, and it offers assembly-line design and simulation services. Plymouth, Minn.-based PRI has designed, built, installed, and serviced robotic systems for more than 24 years. Its customers include Case New Holland, Honeywell, Medtronic, and Toro.
FLIR Systems Inc. acquires Aeryon Labs Inc.
Wilsonville, Ore.-based FLIR Systems acquired Waterloo, Ontario-based Aeryon Labs for $200 million in January 2019. FLIR is the world’s largest commercial maker of thermal imaging cameras and sensors, and Aeryon makes unmanned aerial systems weighing less than 20 pounds for the military, public safety, and critical infrastructure markets. The U.S. is among the 30 countries worldwide that use Aeryon’s systems, and FLIR recently won a contract to deliver its Black Hornet personal reconnaissance system to the French military.
Kraken Robotics Inc. acquires Kraken Power GmbH
Canadian marine robotics firm Kraken Robotics acquired a majority share in Rostock, Germany-based Kraken Power for €0.1 million ($110,000 U.S.). Kraken Power will add staffing and equipment to meet demand for its proprietary pressure-tolerant subsea equipment. Kraken Robotics, which is based in St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, makes unmanned underwater vehicles and Synthetic Aperture Sonar technology for underwater imaging for military and commercial applications.
Nidec Corp. acquires DESCH Antriebstechnik GmbH
Kyoto, Japan-based Nidec Corp. acquired Arnsberg, Germany-based DESCH through its Nidec-Shimpo GmbH subsidiary for an undisclosed sum. Nidec-Shimpo makes motors for robots, reduction gearboxes, and pressing machinery, and DESCH makes large precision gearboxes and drive systems. The companies said they expect to expand their sales and service networks in Europe, Asia, and North America.
Rockwell Automation Inc. acquires Emulate3D Inc.
Rockwell Automation acquired Emulate3D, an engineering software developer, for an undisclosed amount. Reading, England-based Emulate3D offers simulation models to improve systems planning, decision making, and control testing. Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation said it will add Emulate3D’s technology to its digital design portfolio for the automotive, logistics, materials handling, and other industries as part of its FactoryTalk DesignSuite.
Robotics IPO in January 2019
Grand Venture Technology Ltd. (Singapore) — $9.74 stock sale
Grand Venture Technology (GVT) has filed a prospectus to list shares and raise $9.74 million (U.S.) on the Singapore Exchange Catalist Board. Sunshine Power will buy 5.095 million shares to be a cornerstone investor, and the stock offering commenced last week. GVT offers manufacturing solutions and services for the semiconductor, analytical life sciences, and electronics industries, and it is looking to expand into medical diagnostics and surgical robotics in January 2019.
Editors Note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify robotics investments 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, think, 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, 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.