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ViaBot, a robotics startup bringing maintenance and management automation to large properties, today announced its public launch with $6.1 million in funding. As part of the launch, it also disclosed a key strategic partnership with Cushman & Wakefield which has deployed ViaBot’s RUNO robots to properties in the Bay Area for sweeping and security services. ViaBot is backed by Baseline Ventures, Morado Ventures, and Grit Ventures and partnered with SOSV.
ViaBot offers robots as a service model
“We’re excited to announce our public launch to scale our Robots-as-a-Service for property management,” said Gregg Ratanaphanyarat, CEO and Co-founder of ViaBot. “We founded ViaBot with a mission to address the dirty, dull and dangerous jobs of outdoor work, and we’re thrilled that our multifunctional robots are offering better solutions to the challenges facing property managers today.”
ViaBot, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded by Gregg Ratanaphanyarat and Andre Ding in 2016, while both were undergraduate students at Penn State. They observed that outdoor maintenance for consumers and commercial property managers alike was a yearlong problem — one that would seemingly be ideally suited to robotics. Many property management companies report accountability and cost challenges, labor shortages, and a need for digitization — dynamics that have only accelerated throughout the pandemic, as office parks sat empty.
Yet outdoor maintenance has historically been underserved by the robotics industry. Developers typically focus on just one problem area — avoiding the so-called Swiss Army knife problem — but to be commercially viable, building managers need multiple services. ViaBot takes a modular approach to overcome this tension, addressing multiple needs through its first-of-its-kind facility maintenance and management robot-as-a-service.
Partnership with Cushman & Wakefield
“We pride ourselves on maintaining pristine, sustainable, friendly environments across our portfolio,” said Andrew Rivlin, Sustainable Environments & Habitats Manager at Cushman & Wakefield. “We’re excited by ViaBot’s vision to help digitize property management and the fact that RUNO takes on more challenging aspects of our operations while also increasing cadence and output through automation and multitasking. Partnering with ViaBot has been a refreshing and fun aspect in my day to day.”
“ViaBot has taken one of the least sexy industries in the world and brought it right into the future; facility management needed a reason to adopt technology and ViaBot was the solution that finally broke through the noise,” said Kelly Coyne, Founding Partner at Grit Ventures. “ViaBot is already working with many of the largest real estate companies in the United States. It’s gratifying pulling onto a Fortune 500 campus and seeing RUNO sweeping, scanning license plates and more. And even more recently — ViaBot robots were able to take on additional hazardous duties, including sweeping at a vaccination site.”
RUNO is designed to clean and automatically dump its debris as well as autonomous battery hot swapping. At the same time it performs this work, it’s also able to do soft security monitoring, a program currently in beta. RUNO’s built-in sensors scan and escalate suspicious activity to security teams; for example, if a car has been parked in the same place for several days, it will trip RUNO’s flags. The robots have multiple cameras and sonar sensors and use GPS to help navigate.
“In just a few short years, the ViaBot team has countered the prevailing narrative in robotics, showing that robots can in fact evolve and perform more than a single function — and therefore better meet the needs of the properties and communities they serve,” said Steve Anderson, Founder of Baseline Ventures. “Gregg and Andre have been building robots for most of their lives and have the rare ability to build and iterate while also orienting toward greater impact. We’re confident that this team has the potential to scale to serve millions of properties across the country in new and better ways.”
ViaBot isn’t new, but until now, the company hasn’t made a lot of noise about their solution. During the last couple of years, ViaBot has iterated on the sweeping robot to arrive at its current design. The ability to autonomously dump and then get back to work without any manual interaction is one of the key differentiating features for RUNO. The design has also evolved into a much more robust and industrial design.
The only downside for ViaBot may be the slow return to “business as normal” for commercial building owners as many companies continue to allow their workforce’s to work remotely. In addition, the future for commercial properties may be depressed as the demand for commercial properties recovers from the pandemic economy. However, the RaaS-based business model offered by ViaBot may be the right economic incentive for commercial property owners to take advantage of “curb-appeal” for commercial properties as their seek to find (and keep) their tenants.