Robotics Investments Summary

SOURCE: The Robot Report

In October 2019, The Robot Report tracked about $1.3 billion in robotics transactions. About half of the investments, or $532 million, this past month were around autonomous vehicles, followed by healthcare, logistics, and agricultural robotics.

Investors, the major automakers, and technology companies large and small are continuing to race toward self-driving cars, trucks, taxicabs, and buses. Zoox Inc.’s $200 million funding toward a Series C round for its robotic taxis was the largest transportation transaction reported last month.

At the same time, the trend toward fewer small transactions has also continued. Exit value will likely exceed $200 billion this year, according to PitchBook. However, global venture capital funding has declined in much of the world (including the U.S.) while remaining steady in Asia, reported Deal Street Asia and Crunchbase.

The total from October’s 43 reported robotics fundings is down from 39 deals worth approximately $2.4 billion in September 2019. In comparison, there were 23 deals worth $1.2 billion in October 2018, so the seasonal totals are close. See also our roundup of the 20 largest investments in the first half of this year.

The table below lists investments in millions of U.S. dollars, where amounts were publicly available:

Robotics investments, October 2019

CompanyAmt. (M$)TypeLead investors, partnersDateTechnology
Activ Surgical Inc.11Series ADNS CapitalOct. 29surgical robotics
Aerodyne Group30Series BDrone Fund, Gobi PartnersOct. 16drone services
AiM Medical Robotics Inc.0.2equity saleOct. 3surgical robotics
AnotherBrain20.7Series AGroupe SEBOct. 1AI chips
Augmenta SA2.5seedHardware Club, Marathon Venture CapitalOct. 8precision agriculture
Bominwell Robotics7Series BNorthern Light Venture CapitalOct. 30inspection, security
Cerence Inc.IPO/spinoutNuance Communications Inc.Oct. 1connected cars
CODE42 Inc.25pre-Series AKia MotorsOct. 30autononmous shuttles
Cognicept Systems Pte. Ltd.seedSurge AheadOct. 9robot support LLC50pre-Series AFosun RZ CapitalOct. 7autonomous vehicles
Diligent Robotics Inc.3seedTrue Ventures, Ubiquity VenturesOct. 1hospital robot
Disperse15Series ANorthzoneOct. 22AI construction monitoring
EHang Holdings Ltd.100IPOOct. 31passenger drones
Fabric110Series BCorner VenturesOct. 23micro-fulfillment centers
Einride AB24Series AEQT Ventures, NordicNinja VCOct. 10self-driving trucks
Ghost Locomotion Inc.32.7Series COct. 28autonomous vehicles
Gideon Brothers d.o.o.2.95seedPentland VenturesOct. 28autonomous mobile robots
Hummingbird Technologies Ltd.10Series BBASF Venture Capital, TELUS VenturesOct. 15precision agriculture
Kane Robotics Inc.0.175equity saleOct. 10robotic grinding
KuanDeng Technology14.2Series A+Yihang FundsOct. 14autonomous vehicles
Labrador Systems Inc.2pre-seedHAXOct. 15household assistive robot
Myomo Inc.3term loanChicOct. 23wearable robotics
NetraDyne Inc.Series BHyundai CRADLEOct. 4machine vision
Osaro Inc.16Series BKing River CapitalOct. 3industrial automation software
PATS Indoor Drone Solutions0.278seedUNIIQOct. 4greenhouse drones
Prophesee SA28Series CEuropean Investment BankOct. 28vision sensors
Realtime Robotics Inc.11.7Series ASPARX Asset ManagementOct. 16AI for robots, self-driving cars
Robobloq Co.1.4seedZhonghe Venture CapitalOct. 28STEM
Scallog SASseedColruyt GroupOct. 22warehouse robots
Shenzhen Youdi TechnologySeries BOct. 9delivery robots
SkyDrive Inc.13.9seedSTRIVE III Limited Liability Partnership, ITOCHU Technology VenturesOct. 4drone taxis
Smart Radar System Inc.4Series AKakao VenturesOct. 28sensors
SpeedBotinvestmentTongwei CapitalOct. 83D visual perception
Tactile Mobility9investmentPorsche, Union Tech VenturesOct. 29vehicle sensors
TIBOT Technologies3.3Series ASeventure Partners, DemeterOct. 11poultry robotics
Titan Medical Inc.25stock saleOct. 25surgical robotics
Toggle Industries Inc.3seedPoint72 Ventures AI GroupOct. 15construction
Velodyne LiDAR Inc.50investmentHyundai MobisOct. 22autonomous vehicles
Verdant Robotics Inc.11.5Series AOct. 18agricultural robotics, AI
Virtual Incision Corp.10securities saleOct. 29surgical robotics
Wide Stool Technology14.1Series AEasy FundOct. 14HD 3D maps for autonomous vehicles
Wolkus Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Fasal)1.6seedOmnivore Ventures, Wavemaker PartnersOct. 30precision agriculture
Zoox Inc.200Series COct. 22autonomous vehicles

Seven robotics mergers and acquisitions were reported this past month, in comparison with six last month and four a year ago. The Robot Report has also compiled a list of 10 notable mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2019.

Here are the mergers and acquisitions of the past month:

Robotics mergers & acquisitions, October 2019

CompanyAmt. (M$)Acquirer, partnerDateTechnology
Altius Space MachinesVoyager Space HoldingsOct. 23satellite servicing
Aria Insights Inc.FLIR Systems Inc.Oct. 2tethered drones
AutoGuide Mobile Robots58Teradyne Inc.Oct. 21mobile robots
DeepScale Inc.Tesla Inc.Oct. 1computer vision
Keihin Corp., Showa Corp., Nissin Kogyo Co.Hitachi Automotive SystemsOct. 30autonomous vehicles
Onshape470PTC Inc.Oct. 23CAD software
SUALABCognex Corp.Oct. 16machine vision

Transportation hauls in more money

After Zoox’s Series C, drone maker EHang Holdings’ initial public offering, worth $100 million, was the next largest deal in autonomous vehicles. China-based EHang is working on autonomous air taxis, as is Japan-based SkyDrive, which raised $14 million.

More down to earth, Hyundai Mobis invested $50 million in partner and sensor maker Velodyne LiDAR, while raised $50 million in pre-Series A funding for its robotic taxis (see also our table of automotive funding for September).

Ghost Locomotion raised $32.7 million in Series C funding as it develops its suite of cameras and computing to make existing cars self-driving. Meanwhile, CODE42 plans to use its $25 million in pre-Series A funding to continue developing its Urban Mobility Operating system and create a “global autonomous transportation-as-a-service ecosystem.”

Einride, which is working on self-driving trucks or delivery “pods” raised $25 million led by Kia Motors to expand in the U.S.

Investors and engineers are recognizing high-definition mapping as a significant challenge for autonomous vehicles. KuangDeng Technology raised $14.2 million, and Wide Stool Technology raised $14.1 million. Both are in China.

Self-driving cars also need to perceive the world around them and then compare that with various maps. Tactile Mobility, also known as MobiWize, raised $9 million from Porsche and others for its tactile sensing and data analytics systems. Tesla, which itself borrowed $700 million from China Merchants Bank in October 2019, acquired computer vision company DeepScale for an unspecified amount.

Japanese automakers Honda and Hitach last month said they are merging Hitachi Automotive Systems with Honda affiliates Kehin, Showa, and Nissin Kogyo. Hitachi Automotive Systems has been testing autonomous and connected vehicles in North America and Japan.

Hyundai CRADLE invested an unspecified amount in NetraDyne, which uses AI, vision-based dashcams, and fleet management software for safety. Hyundai said it expects to use the technology to improve Level 3 advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

Conversational artificial intelligence company Nuance Communications spun out Cerence Inc., which is working on speech recognition, natural language processing, and acoustic modeling for the automotive industry.

Healthcare robots reach for funding in October 2019

Robot-assisted surgery and other healthcare companies raised $52.2 million last month. Titan Medical bounced back from the news that it had to delay its submission of the Sport device to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) partly because of a lack of funding by offering $25 million in stock.

MassRobotics resident Activ Surgical closed $11 million in Series A funding for its ActivSight system. Virtual Incision, which is working on a miniaturized robotic surgical assistant, raised $10 million (see also our list of surgical robotics transactions to date).

AiM Medical Robotics raised $200,000 in an equity sale, according to an SEC filing. It is working on a robot for neurosurgery that can be used while a patient is in an MRI scanner.

Beyond surgical robots, wearable robotics company Myomo obtained a $3 million term loan, and Diligent Robotics raised $3 million in seed funding as it launched the Moxi hospital robot.

The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration is now open.

Logistics robotics gears up

With the holiday shopping season approaching — and some retailers putting out Christmas displays before Halloween — the need for robots in the supply chain is clear. Fabric, previously known as CommonSense Robotics, raised $110 million as it builds micro-fulfillment centers across the U.S.

North Reading, Mass.-based Teradyne, which already owns collaborative robot leader Universal Robots, logistics robot maker Mobile Industrial Robots, and integrator Energid, just acquired AutoGuide Mobile Robots for $58 million.

Osaro raised $16 million in October 2019 for its picking and vision systems, while Gideon Brothers raised $2.95 million and partnered with European logistics leader DB Schenker to deploy its vision-driven autonomous mobile robots.

Scallog raised an unspecified amount in seed funds to build more warehouse robots, and Shenzhen Youdi Technology raised Series B funding for its delivery robots.

Agbots reap new funds in October 2019

Agriculture has long been mechanized, and the trend will only intensify with agbots, say analysts. The global market for agricultural robots or agbots will grow from $16.8 billion in 2020 to $75 billion by 2025, predicts Market Research EngineAccording to Markets and Markets, it will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.34%, from $4.1 billion in 2017 to $25.2 billion in 2025.

Verdant Robotics reaped $11.5 million in Series A funding, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Hayward, Calif.-based company’s agbots use computer vision and AI for fruit cultivation.

Hummingbird Technologies raised $10 million for its on-demand combination of remote sensing, AI, and data analytics for precision farming. France-based TIBOT Technologies raised $3.3 million for robots to improve poultry operations.

In precision agriculture, Augmenta raised $2.5 million in seed funding, and Wolkus Technology Solutions, also known as Fasal, raised $1.6 million in seed funding.

Greenhouse Drone provider PATS Indoor Drone Solutions raised $278,000 as it develops aerial drones for insect control.

Small drones fight insects in a Dutch greenhouse. Source: PATS Indoor Drone Solutions

Infrastructure inspection on the rise

The individual transactions around construction and inspection robots and drones in October 2019 may be relatively small. However, like agbots, they represent a growing set of commercial applications, thanks to improving sensors and communications.

Aerodyne Group raised $30 million in Series B funding for its drone services. Disperse garnered $15 million for its system, which uses AI to monitor construction sites.

Speaking of aerial drones, security robotics provider FLIR Systems acquired the intellectual property and operating assets of tethered drone maker Aria Insights, formerly known as CyPhy Works.

Shenzhen, China-based Bominwell Robotics raised $7 million for inspection and security robots, and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Toggle Industries raised $3 million in seed funding for its rebar robots.

Manufacturing and perception in October 2019

Industrial automation investments in October 2019 combined robotics and machine vision. For instance, SpeedBot raised an unspecified amount for its industrial robots, which use 3D machine vision.

Prophesee raised $28 million to commercialize its “event-based” vision sensors, and Smart Radar System closed a $4 million Series A round for its 4D image radar used in industrial and automotive applications. Cognex acquired SUALAB to improve its visual inspection capabilities.

In other robotics for manufacturing, robotic grinding provider Kane Robotics raised $175,000 in an equity sale, according to an SEC filing. Sequoia Capital participated in seed funding for Cognicept Systems, which provides “human in the loop” telerobotic troubleshooting.

Funding for robots in schools, homes, and outer space

The remaining robotics transactions for October 2019 were in a variety of areas. In the biggest single deal of the month, PTC paid $470 million for Onshape, whose software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering can aid in the design of products including robots.

Also in software, Realtime Robotics raised $11.7 million in Series A funding for its collision-avoidance technology. On the hardware side, AnotherBrain raised $20.7 million for chips that it said are energy-efficient and can lead to “organic AI.”

Labrador Systems raised $2 million in pre-seed funding for its household assistant robot, and China-based Robobloq raised $1.4 million in seed funding for its educational robots. Crowdfunding campaigns are outside the scope of this roundup, but Knightscope’s StartEngine listing is worth noting as the security robot provider prepares for an IPO.

Finally, for now, Voyager Space Holdings said it plans to acquire Altius Space Machines, which is designing a robot to service satellites.

Concept art of the Bulldog robot for servicing satellites. Source: Altius Space Machines

SOURCE: The Robot Report – > 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, industry analysts such as Tracxn, 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.

SOURCE: The Robot Report