Robotics investments recap: November 2018

robotics investments

Robotics investments in November 2018 totaled at least $639.3 million worldwide with a total of 20 verified transactions. Unverifiable robotics investments have been excluded from this analysis. There are several robotics investments in 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. There were also four verified acquisitions in November 2018 for at least $535 million.

In October 2018, 23 robotics companies raised at least $1.24 billion. In August 2018, 29 companies raised at least $925.53 million, while $1.6 billion was raised in July 2018 and $2.1 billion in June 2018.

The total amount of funding dropped significantly in November, but keep in mind Cruise Automation ($750 million) and Bright Machines ($179 million) combined to raise $929 million of the $1.24 billion closed in October. The total number of investments was not far off, but the size of the average investment dropped from about $52.2 million in October to about $32 million in November.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Auris Health raised the largest round in November, a $220 million Series E for its next-generation Monarch robotic interventional platform for endoscopy procedures. Despite having only one investment in November, the medical robotics space raised the most funding. Companies developing autonomous vehicle hardware and software received six investments for a total of $170.5 million, while warehouse robotics companies ($174.4 million) and drone services providers ($41 million) each received four investments.

The United States was home to 9 robotics investments, while Israel was responsible for three robotics investments, two of which were in the autonomous vehicle space. China and the United Kingdom each had two, while Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland each had one.

November 2018 robotics investments by vertical. (Click image to enlarge)

November 2018 Robotics Investments

AdaSky (Israel) – $20M Corporate Round
AdaSky closed a $20 million corporate round from South Korean automotive components manufacturer Sungwoo Hitech. AdaSky is developing infrared (IR) thermal cameras for autonomous vehicles, and the funding will enable the company to expand its team of engineers, many of whom have a background building thermal cameras for the military. AdaSky claims its solid-state Viper operates continuously at 60 frames per second and can passively collect heat signals up to several hundred meters away at a sensitivity of 0.05 degrees Centigrade. AdaSky also claims that, unlike LiDAR and radar, its IR thermal camera can detect subtle differences in heat emitted by pedestrians, vehicles, and other objects on the road, regardless of the weather conditions.

AEye (USA) – $40M Series B
AEye, a California-based startup, has raised $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. This brings AEye’s total funding to date to about $61 million. The Series B was led by Taiwania Capital, the investment firm created and backed by Taiwan’s National Development Council. AEye will use the funding to scale operations and demand of its Intelligent Detection and Ranging (iDAR) system, which it claims iDAR can detect and track moving vehicles 1,000 meters (1 kilometer) away. That would be 4-5 times the distance current LiDAR systems can detect. Read The Robot Report Coverage

Animal Dynamics (UK) – $7.5M Series A
Animal Dynamics, UK startup and Oxford University spin-out, closed a $7.5 million Series A round led by Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI). Kindred Capital and Australian investment company Tanarra Capital also invested in Animal Dynamics, which is building autonomous robots for the UK’s Ministry of Defence.. Animal Dynamics will use the funding for development of Skeeter, a miniature drone, and Stork, an autonomous delivery drone.

Apex.AI (USA) – $15.5M Series A
Apex.AI came out of stealth mode in mid-November by announcing its operating system (OS) for autonomous vehicles and the closing of its $15.5 million Series A round led by Canaan, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company claims the OS “never fails,” which is utterly ridiculous, of course. The software stack is designed to integrate into existing systems and serve as the enterprise version of the Robot Operating System. The company says it is application agnostic, which means the software can be used in all types of autonomous systems.

Auris Health (USA) – $220M Series E
Redwood City, Calif.-based Auris Health closed a $220 million Series E round to support its next-generation Monarch robotic interventional platform for endoscopy procedures. The round was led by Partner Fund Management and included new investors Wellington Management, D1 Capital Partners and Senator Investment Group and existing investors Mithril Capital, Lux Capital and Viking Global Investors.

The financing will help Auris transition into a commercial-stage company. It will also help expand commercialization of the Monarch platform, which was initiated earlier in 2018 by targeting lung cancer procedures, and deploy the system for a broader spectrum of disorders. The funding round brings the total raised for Auris Health to $733 million over six rounds. Read The Robot Report Coverage

Autonomous Marine Systems (USA) – $482,034 Equity Round
Somerville, Mass.-based Autonomous Marine Systems (AMS) raised $482,034 in an equity round, according to a Form D filing. Founded in 2013, AMS is a marine data company using fleets of patented, low-cost robotic sailboats to deliver real-time ocean intelligence.

Emesent (Australia) – $2.5M Seed Round
Emesent, a drone autonomy spin-out from Australia’s CSIRO Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group, raised $2.5 in Seed funding from Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund. The funding will be used to commercialize the company’s first product, Hovermap, which automates the collection of data in underground areas too dangerous or difficult for people to survey or navigate, such as mines. Hovermap-powered drones can be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps and record data. Hovermap is a competitor of Exyn Technologies, a spin-off of the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab.

Flyability (Switzerland) – $11M Series B
Flyability, a Swiss indoor inspection drone startup, closed an $11 million Series B round that was co-led by ETF Partners and Swisscom Ventures with Dow Chemical Co., GoBeyond and MKS (Switzerland) SA also participating. Founded in 2014, Flyability is designing drones for visual inspections of confined spaces, public safety and search and rescue. It claims to have more than 350 customers and more than 500 drones in the field. The new funding will help it realize its product roadmap, which includes indoor 3D mapping, fully autonomous navigation and predictive asset maintenance.

Geek+ (China) – $150M Series B
Geek+, a Beijing, China-based company specializing in mobile robots for logistics, completed a $150 million Series B round. The round was led by Warburg Pincus, a global private equity firm that has invested more than $11 billion in over 100 companies in China since 1994. Volcanics Venture and Vertex Ventures also participated in the round. Geek+ has now raised approximately $240 million over four rounds.

Geek+ is a leading provider — and China’s #1 supplier — of warehousing and logistics solutions in China and SE Asia. Geek+ made its MODEX debut in 2018; MODEX is the largest supply-chain trade show in the Americas. Geek+ plans to use the Series B funding to help grow the business inside China and international markets. Read The Robot Report Coverage

IAM Robotics (USA) – $20M Venture Round
Pittsburgh startup IAM Robotics raised $20 million to expand the deployment of its Swift mobile picking robot. The round was led by KCK Ltd, a family-owned investment firm with teams in New York and San Francisco. Founded in 2012, IAM Robotics develops Swift, an autonomous mobile picking robot that scans shelves for products, pick the items and moves them to other locations. It differs from other mobile robots that rely on human pickers, including 6 River Systems, Fetch Robotics, Locus Robotics and more. Read The Robot Report Coverage

Inovo Robotics (UK) – $1.9M
Inovo Robotics raised about $1.9 million from the Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund to continue development of its modular, low-cost collaborative robot. Henry Wood and Jonathan Cheung, previously senior engineers at Northrop Grumman, founded Inovo in 2016.

NextShift Robotics (USA) – $396,000 Debt Offering
Lowell, Mass.-based NextShift Robotics raises $396,000 in a debt offering, according to a Form D filing. NextShift, which purchased warehouse-related material assets and IP from Harvest Automation, built the TM-100 autonomous mobile robot, an out-of-the-box solution that streamlines warehouse order fulfillment processes.

PlusAI (China) – Undisclosed Series A+
PlusAI, a China-based autonomous driving start-up, raised an undisclosed series A+ financing round led by Sequoia Capital. PlusAI is focusing on enabling autonomous long-haul trucks. It recently announced it is working with FAW Group, the Full Truck Alliance (FTA) and NVIDIA to accelerate the development of autonomous trucks in China.

Ridecell (USA) – $32M Added to Series B
Ridecell expanded its previously announced Series B round by raising an additional $32 million, bringing its total investment to $60 million for this round. Ridecell will use the funding to continue developing its mobility and operation platforms for car-sharing and autonomous ride-hailing services.

Roam Robotics (USA) – $12M Series A
San Francisco-based Roam Robotics closed a $12 million Series A round. Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. led the investment round with participation from existing and new investors Boost VC, Heuristics Capital Partners, Menlo Ventures, R7 Partners, Spero Ventures, Valor Equity Partners, and Venture Investment Associates. Roam Robotics’ first product, called “ELEVATE,” is an exoskeleton designed for skiers who wish to ski longer and stronger. Sensors and software on the exoskeleton anticipate user intent and automatically adjust torque at the knee via air actuators. The Robot Report has discussed at length the growth of industrial exoskeletons, and Roam, along with Seismic, are trying to create a consumer exoskeleton market. Read The Robot Report Coverage

Robotics Plus (New Zealand) – $8M Corporate Round
Robotics Plus, a New Zealand-based agricultural robotics company, raised an $8 million Corporate Round from Japan’s Yamaha Motor Co. to support further growth plans. To accelerate development of its next-generation automation solutions, which include robotic apple pickers, Robotics Plus will leverage Yamaha Motor’s experience, knowledge and technologies in outdoor vehicles, factory automation, robotics, and design for manufacturing.

SESTO Robotics (Singapore) – $4M Series A
SESTO Robotics, a spin-off from HOPE Technik, raised S$4 million in Series A funding from Singtel Innov8 and Heliconia Capital Management. The company, based in Singapore, is building autonomous mobile robots to automate labor-intensive material handling processes in factories.

Taranis (Israel) – $20M Series B
Tel Aviv-based Taranis, an agricultural tech startup that uses drones and deep learning to identify potential crop issues, raised a $20 million Series B led by Viola Ventures. Taranis’ aerial imaging technology is currently used by farms in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. It plans to expand into more countries with this round of funding.

Trifo (USA) – $11M Series A
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Trifo closed an $11 million Series A round led by Tsinghua University’s AI Fund. Trifo will use the funds to develop an end-to-end integrated hardware/software platform for sensing, perception, and decision-making capabilities for consumer robots. Trifo said this is the evolution of its $399 Ironsides perception system, which runs Robot Operating System and packs a multi-core ARM chip, calibrated stereo cameras, and a six-axis inertial measurement unit.

Valens (Israel) – $63M Series E
Valens raised a $63 million Series E round to accelerate the development of its portfolio for the autonomous vehicle sector and address the ongoing requirements of its automotive partners. The round was led by Linse Capital, with participation by Oppenheimer Asset Management. Valens said it has identified significant opportunities in the autonomous sector. By raising additional capital, Valens is looking to address in-vehicle computing, smart architectures and PCIe transmission.


Barnes Group (USA) – Acquires Gimatic for $420M
Industrial and aerospace manufacturer Barnes Group Inc., which is based in Bristol, Conn., acquired Gimatic S.r.l. of Italy, for $420 million. Gimatic makes robotic grippers, sensors and other automation components. Gimatic, which has 240 employees worldwide, will operate as a business unit within Barnes Group’s industrial segment.

IPG (USA) – Acquires Genesis Systems Group for $115M
Oxford, Mass.-based IPG Photonics acquired Iowa-based Genesis Systems Group, a robotic welding and automation company, for $115 million. Genesis has more than 300 customers in the transportation, aerospace and industrial markets with more than 6,500 robots in 43 U.S. states and 17 countries. IPG CEO Valentin Gapontsev said the addition of Genesis will make IPG a more complete provider of welding solutions.

PrecisionHawk (USA) – Acquires Uplift for Undisclosed Amount
North Carolina-based PrecisionHawk acquired Uplift Data Partners, a Chicago-based provider of drone-based inspection services for the construction and facilities management industry, for an undisclosed amount. Uplift launched in 2015 as a subsidiary of Clayco, a Chicago construction giant. Uplift adds commercially-trained pilots and expands PrecisionHawk’s industry expertise and relationships. This is PrecisionHawk’s fifth acquisition in 2018. In September, the firm acquired drone inspection service HAZON as well as renewable energy data company InspecTools. Earlier this year, PrecisionHawk purchased and AirVu.

Terra Drone (Japan) – Acquires Majority Stake in Skeye
Japan’s largest drone firm, Terra Drone, acquired a majority stake in Skeye, a European drone service provider specialising in aerial survey and inspection, for an undisclosed amount. The firm focuses on drones in the oil and gas market and also has presence in the United Kingdom and in Belgium.

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 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.

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