The summer doldrums may be affecting robotics investments, even as funding continued to flow to robotics, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence and machine learning companies last month. The Robot Report tracked more than $1.1 billion in robotics investments in June 2019, continuing a strong first half of the year.
In comparison, there was $1.5 billion in reported transactions in May 2019. The Robot Report recorded $2.1 billion in June 2018, but that figure included a single large item: Rockwell’s $1 billion equity investment in PTC. Uncertainty around the U.S. trade conflict with China and upcoming elections could be inhibiting some investment.
However, the number of fundings rose, with at least 42 robotics investments, compared with about 26 such deals last month and 27 fundings last year. Robotics startups can also take encouragement from a lack of failures or shutdowns this past month.
Venture capitalists continued their focus on transportation, including autonomous vehicles and supporting technologies. AI and robotics software, industrial automation for manufacturing, and service robots also did well. There were fewer transactions in supply chain, logistics, and healthcare than in the past few months, but interest in robots for e-commerce order fulfillment could increase as the next school year and holiday shopping season approach.
The table of robotics investments below lists amounts in millions of U.S. dollars where they were available:
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Lead investor, partner||Date||Technology|
|Akribis Systems Pte. Ltd.||equity stake||Mitsubishi Electric Corp.||June 17, 2019||linear servo motors|
|Alias Robotics||0.849||pre-seed||Baron Capital, Asider||June 12, 2019||robot cybersecurity|
|AnyVision Interactive Technologies Ltd.||74||Series A||M12, DFJ Growth, OG Technology Partners||June 18, 2019||computer vision|
|Aurora Innovation Inc.||600||Series B||Hyundai Motor Group, Baillie Gifford||June 12, 2019||self-driving cars|
|BlueRidge.AI||1.9||investment||DataTribe||June 25, 2019||predictive analytics|
|BrightWay Vision Ltd.||25||investment||Koito Manufacturing Co., Israeli Magenta Venture Partners||June 27, 2019||sensors for self-driving cars|
|C2 Medical Robotics Inc.||0.02||investment||Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund||June 5, 2019||spinal surgical system|
|Clustar.ai||Series A||Sequoia Capital China||June 4, 2019||AI, service robots|
|Cobalt Robotics||35||Series B||Coatue, Toyota AI Ventures||June 25, 2019||security robots|
|Deptrum||15||Series A||Softbank China, Wu Capital||June 4, 2019||3D vision|
|Dishcraft Robotics||25||investment||Baseline Ventures, First Round Capital, Lemnos||June 18, 2019||dishwashing robots|
|Edge Case Research||7||investment||Aurora, ANSYS||June 13, 2019||autonomous vehicle safety software|
|EKIM/PAZZI||11.2||Series A||Qualgro||June 17, 2019||pizza robots|
|Enflame||43.39||investment||Redpoint China Ventures||June 6, 2019||AI chips|
|Everactive (formerly PsiKick)||30||investment||Future Fund, Blue Bear Capital, ABB Technology Ventures||June 19, 2019||IoT sensors|
|Fusion Robotics||investment||Lukpartners LLC||June 25, 2019||spinal surgical system|
|Gamaya SA||4.3||investment||Mahindra & Mahindra Farm Equipment Sector||June 17, 2019||precision agriculture|
|Gatik||4.5||seed||Innovation Endeavors||June 6, 2019||autonomous vehicle software|
|Greenzie LLC||0.5||seed||June 6, 2019||robotic lawnmower|
|Inno Technology||Series A+||June 13, 2019||drone inspections|
|Innoviz Technologies Ltd.||38||investment||China Merchants Capital, Shenzhen Capital Group, New Alliance Capital||June 10, 2019||lidar, self-driving software|
|Kaiyi Technology||14.47||Series A+||June 4, 2019||self-driving cars|
|Leju Robotics||36.21||Series B||Aplus Capital, Shenzhen Press Group, Tencent||June 20, 2019||humanoid robot|
|Linkwiz||8.3||Series B||INCJ Ltd.||June 18, 2019||control software|
|MegaRobo||investment||Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH||June 29, 2019||machine vision, AI|
|Monet Technologies Inc.||2.6||investment||SoftBank Group, Toyota Motor Corp.||June 27, 2019||self-driving cars|
|Mythic||30||Series B-1||Valor Equity Partners||June 12, 2019||AI inference processors|
|NeuroBlade Ltd.||23||investment||Check Point Software Technologies||June 26, 2019||AI processors|
|Perceptual Robotics||0.75||seed||Metavallon VC||June 19, 2019||drone inspections|
|Q-Bot||3.82||investment||EMV Capital, Foundamental, Wealth Club||June 7, 2019||construction|
|QBIT Robotics Corp.||1.1||investment||Toyoda Gosei Co.||June 11, 2019||robotic grippers|
|ReWalk Robotics Ltd.||5||share sale||June 10, 2019||exoskeletons|
|Rogo||0.02||investment||Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund||June 5, 2019||precision agriculture|
|RootCloud||72||Series B||Hejun Capital||June 17, 2019||IIoT|
|RSVP.ai||10||Series A||Shenzhen Capital Group||June 4, 2019||AI|
|SafeAI||5||investment||Autotech Ventures||June 18, 2019||autonomous mining, construction vehicles|
|Sense Photonics Inc.||26||Series A||Acadia Woods, Congruent Ventures||June 12, 2019||lidar for robots, cars|
|Skilancer Solar||investment||Alfa Ventures||June 10, 2019||solar panel cleaning robot|
|SwtichOn||1||seed||pi Ventures||June 17, 2019||applied AI, IoT|
|Syook||investment||Inflection Point Ventures||June 10, 2019||IIoT|
The number of mergers and acquisitions rose slightly in June 2019. Only one listed an amount — $25.7 million for AeroVironment’s purchase of Pulse Aerospace, whose drones have vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities.
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|AutoStore||Thomas H. Lee Partners LP||June 20, 2019||warehouse automation|
|Brainlab||Smith & Nephew||June 3, 2019||surgical robots|
|Drive.ai||Apple Inc.||June 26, 2019||autonomous vehicles|
|kVA||UL||June 13, 2019||self-driving car safety|
|Mighty AI Inc.||Uber Technologies Inc.||June 26, 2019||AI data annotation, machine vision|
|Pulse Aerospace LLC||25.7||AeroVironment Inc.||June 17, 2019||VTOL drones|
|Riptide Autonomous Solutions||BAE Systems Inc.||June 3, 2019||unmanned underwater vehicle|
|Root Robotics||iRobot Corp.||June 20, 2019||educational|
Self-driving cars get money for guidance
The biggest reported transaction in June 2019 was the $600 million funding of Aurora Innovation Inc. by Hyundai Motor Group, Kia Motors Corp., and investment management firm Baillie Gifford. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Aurora is developing the Driver hardware and software platform for autonomous vehicles.
While Aurora ended its relationship with Volkswagen Group, it raised $530 million from Amazon.com Inc. and Sequoia Capital in February and acquired Doppler lidar provider Blackmore Sensors and Analytics Inc. in May.
Speaking of lidar, other noteworthy investments into self-driving cars from last month include $38 million for Israel-based Innoviz Technologies Ltd. (which raised $132 million in March), $26 million for Sense Photonics Inc., and $25 million for BrightWay Vision Ltd. Whether it’s lidar or cameras, getting enough good data cheaply continues to be a challenge for automakers and tech firms.
Safety was also a concern for robotics investors, with $7 million going to Edge Case Research (including from Aurora) and UL acquiring kVA. Equally important was software for self-driving cars, as demonstrated by $14.4 million for Kaiyi Technology, $4.5 million in seed funding and a Walmart partnership for Gatik, and Apple Inc.’s acquisition of Drive.ai.
Monet Technologies Inc., a joint venture of six Japanese automakers and SoftBank Corp., has raised a total of $2.6 million so far. Not one to be left behind, Uber Technologies Inc. acquired Mighty AI Inc., which is working on data annotation for training machine learning and self-driving vehicles.
Software, AI robotics investments
While we don’t cover business process automation or non-industrial applications of AI, there were several AI transactions in June in addition to those related to self-driving cars.
AI isn’t just hardware. AI processor makers Enflame and NeuroBlade Ltd. raised $43.39 million and $23 million, respectively. Mythic raised $30 million for embedded inference processors that it said promise to make vehicles and robots smarter and “deliver on the promise” of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
In machine vision, AnyVision Interactive Technologies raised $74 million for its facial recognition systems, Deptrum raised $15 million for 3D vision, and MegaRobo raised an unspecified amount.
Alias Robotics raised $849,000 for cybersecurity software for robotic arms. Speaking of security, Cobalt Robotics raised $35 million for autonomous security robots, and BAE Systems Inc. acquired the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) unit of Riptide Autonomous Solutions.
Money for industrial automation
IIoT received funding this past month, with service provider RootCloud raising $72 million, battery-less sensor maker Everactive getting $30 million, and microlocation platform firm Syook raising an unspecified amount.
BlueRidge.AI received $1.8 million in seed funding led by DataTribe for its IIoT sensors and software for predictive maintenance. SwitchOn raised $1 million for its platform to help improve factory efficiency. Mitsubishi Electric Corp. took an equity stake in linear servo motor provider Akribis Systems Pte. Ltd.
Japan-based Linkwiz Inc., which makes control software for industrial robots, raised $8.3 million. EQT sold AutoStore, a provider of warehouse automation, to Thomas K. Lee Partners LP and other investors.
The energy industry also had a couple of robotics investments. SafeAI raised $5 million for autonomous vehicles for mining and construction, and Skilancer Solar got funding for its robot for cleaning solar panels.
U.K.-based Perceptual Robotics garnered $750,000 in seed funding as it develops autonomous aerial drones and computer vision algorithms for inspecting infrastructure such as wind turbines. On the construction side, Q-Bot raised $3.82 million for its insulation-spraying robot.
Out in the field, two precision agriculture companies got funding: $4.3 million for Gamaya SA and $20,000 for Rogo Ag LLC. Inno Technology closed a Series A round of financing for its drone inspection services.
Healthcare and service robotics investments roundup
Although the companies involved provided few figures, there was new funding for healthcare robotics in June 2019. Exoskeleton maker ReWalk Robotics Ltd. raised $5 million in a share sale.
Many people still think of humanoids when they think of service robots, and a duo of transactions could help realize those expectations. Leju Robotics raised $36.21 million for its high-end humanoid, QBIT Robotics Corp. raised $1.1 million for grippers intended to be like the human hand.
One area of expected demand for service robots is in restaurants. PAZZI, formerly known as EKIM, raised $11.2 million for its pizza-making robots. Dishcraft Robotics received $25 million for dishwashing robots.
iRobot acquired Root Robotics to add its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educational robots to its product line. On the heels of iRobot’s Terra, Greenzie LLC raised $500,000 for its robotic lawnmower.
Editors’ note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify them 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, analyze, 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.