Robotics investments recap: December 2018

Robotiq

A robotic gripper from Robotiq. (Credit: Robotiq)

Robotics investments in December 2018 totaled at least $649.5 million worldwide with a total of 17 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.

The $649.5 million raised in December is slightly higher than the $639.3 million 20 robotics companies raised in November. But the last two months of the year were down significantly from most other months of 2018. For example, $2.1 billion was raised in June, $1.6 billion in July and $1.24 billion in October.

And 80-plus percent of December’s robotics investments total was raised by two companies: Graphcore ($200M Series D) and Woowa Bros. ($320M Series G), which raised a combined $520 million. The rest of the 15 investments raised an average round of $8.6 million.

The Robot Report will publish in Q1 a full 2018 investment breakdown, but for now check out what went down in December.

Robotics investments for December 2018

Aiqi Technology (China) – $14.6M Series B
Aiqi Technology, a Xiaomi-backed toy robot maker based in Beijing, closed a $14.5 Series B Round that was led by Volcanics Venture. The round also included participation from First Seafront Fund and Shenzhen Guozhong Venture Capital Management Co. The company was founded in 2013 and has six toy robots on the market. It said the new funding will be used for production, team building, hardware and software development.

Elementary Robotics (USA) – $3.6M Seed Round
While Los Angeles-based startup Elementary Robotics is publicly being hush-hush about what it is developing, the company closed a $3.6 million Seed Round in December that was co-led by Fika Ventures and Fathom Capital. Other participating investors include Toyota AI Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, Riot.vc, Osage University Partners, and Stage Venture Partners. Elementary previously closed $1.2M in pre-seed funding in October 2017. According to its blog, Elementary “aims to be the world leader in the next generation of assistive robotics,” which the company believes “will be lower-cost, human-safe, and driven by software innovations, such as machine learning, AI, and computer vision.”

Formant (USA) – $6M Seed Round
Formant, a San Francisco, Calif.-based startup in stealth mode, closed $6 million in seed funding from SignalFire. Founded by Jeff Linnell, former Director of Robotics at Google, Formant is building a cloud-based dashboard to help end users better understand the data collected by their robots. “We founded Formant to answer the biggest problem that faces automation today: robots produce too much information, in disparate forms that cannot be viewed simultaneously,” said Linnell.

Graphcore (UK) – $200M Series D
Graphcore, a UK-based AI chipmaker, raised the second-largest robotics round of December, a $200 Series D led by by existing investor Atomico. BMW and Microsoft were two new investors that participated in the round. The $200 million funding round, which brought Graphcore’s valuation to $1.7 billion, raised the company’s total amount of funding closed to more than $300 million. Graphcore is developing Intelligence Processing Units (IPUs) that support machine learning techniques for applications that include robotics and self-driving cars.

MetisMotion (Germany) $1.1M Seed Round
Munich, Germany-based MetisMotion closed a $1.1 million Seed Round to for its lightweight actuators. MetisMotion, a spinoff from Siemens, will use the funding to prepare prototypes for production and expand its team. MetisMotion was founded in 2018.

Misty Robotics Misty II personal robot. (Credit: Misty Robotics)

Misty Robotics (USA) – $11M Series A Follow-On
Boulder, Colo.-based Misty Robotics, a spin-out company from Sphero, raised $11 million in equity that was a follow-on to its Series A round from 2017. Misty builds personal robots for developers, entrepreneurs, students and makers. The Misty II is an advanced personal robot that will ship to customers in spring 2019.

Ottopia (Israel) – $3M Seed Round
Tel Aviv, Israel-based Ottopia closed $3 million in seed funding for its remote assistance technology for self-driving cars. The round was led by MizMaa Ventures with participation from Glory Ventures, Plug and Play and NextGear. Ottopia was founded in 2018 by Amit Rosenzweig and Leon Altarac. Prior to Ottopia, Altarac founded the robotics and AV branch of the Israeli Army, while Rosenzweig was head of product for Microsoft’s leading cybersecurity offering.

Parallel Domain (USA) – $2.7M Seed Round
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Parallel Domain, which designs simulated software for autonomous vehicles, closed a $2.65 million seed round led by Costanoa Ventures. Toyota AI Ventures and Ubiquity Ventures were among the other participating investors. According to Toyota AI Ventures managing director Jim Adler, Parallel Domain uses real-world map data, procedural growth algorithms and generative models to teach autonomous vehicles how to drive.

RightHand Robotics (USA) – $23M Series B
RightHand Robotics, a Somerville, Mass-based company founded in 2014 by Leif Jentoft and Yaro Tenzer, raised a $23 million Series B round for its RightPick robotic piece-picking technology. The round was led by Menlo Ventures and included participation from GV (formerly Google Ventures) and existing investors Dream Incubator, Matrix Partners, and Playground Global.

But as important as the funding, perhaps, is a new addition who will advise RightHand Robotics on its strategic direction. Mick Mountz, founder and former CEO of Kiva Systems, is joining RightHand Robotics’ board of directors. Mountz founded Kiva Systems in January 2003, sold it to Amazon in 2012 for $775 million, and is largely responsible for kickstarting the warehouse robotics market. Mountz will advise RightHand Robotics on product development, go-to-market strategy, how to build a sales organization and more. Read The Robot Report Coverage

Robobloq (China) – $1.5M Seed Round
Robobloq, a Shenzhen, China-based STEM education company that uses toy robots to teach kids about coding, closed $1.5 million in seed funding from Plum Ventures. Robobloq was founded in 2017.

Robot++ (China) – $2.9M Series pre-A
Robot++, a Beijing, China-based wall-climbing robot developer, raised a $2.91 million Series pre-A round that was led by Baidu Venture and Panda Capital.

Robotiq (Canada) – $23.1M Venture Round
Robotiq, a Quebec City, Canada-based maker of plug-and-play cameras, grippers, force sensors and software for collaborative robots, raised Can$31 million (about US$23.1 million) in funding from global investment firm Battery Ventures. This is Robotiq’s first round of funding. Robotiq will use the funding for product development, international expansion and enhanced support of its partner ecosystem. “Now that collaborative robotics is accelerating and becoming widely adopted by manufacturers worldwide, it’s time to step up our game,” said Robotiq co-founder and CEO Samuel Bouchard. Read The Robot Report Coverage

Sea Machines Robotics (USA) – $10M Series A
Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics closed a $10 million Series A investment, bringing its total amount of capital raised to $12.5M. The Series A round was led by Accomplice and Eniac Ventures, with participation from Toyota AI Ventures; Brunswick Corp. According to Sea Machines Robotics, the investment marks one of the largest venture rounds for a marine- and maritime-focused technology company. It will use the funding to expand the sales and global reach of its recently released line of products, grow the R&D and engineering teams and roll out new product feature sets.

Temi (USA) – $21M Series B
New York-based startup Temi has closed a $21 million Series B round for its “Temi” personal telepresence robot. The round was led by by John Wu, Alibaba’s former chief technology officer and a longtime existing investor, with participation by Generali Investments and Hong Kong IoT and wellness giant Ogawa. Founded in 2015, Temi has an R&D lab in Tel Aviv, Israel and a business and manufacturing location in Shenzen, China.

CES 2019 in Las Vegas will be Temi’s official launch, following limited availability at 15 locations in the U.S. and online. Temi can autonomously explore its environment and generate a 3D map of its surroundings. Temi will start at $1,500 and can be controlled with an app or via voice control.

Tomahawk Robotics (USA) – $2.4M Seed Round
Tomahawk Robotics, a Melbourne, Fla.-based startup bringing advanced robotic control systems to enterprise markets, raised $2.4m in seed funding. The round was led by Mosley Venture Partners, with participation from Naples Technology Ventures, Scout Ventures and Stout Street Capital. Tomahwak Robotics will use the funding to further expand its ROS-based Kinesis platform, a one-to-many control system for multi-domain unmanned systems.

Wandelbots (Germany) – $3.6M Series A
Dresden, Germany-based startup Wandelbots raised a $3.6 million Series A round led by Paua Ventures, the EQT Ventures fund and existing investors. The company intends to use the funds to grow the team and expand its global presence. Wandelbots wants to make it easier for everyone to program industrial robots. The system enables programming by demonstration, which isn’t new, but Wandelbots has developed a novel programming technique. Users wear smart clothing that tracks human motion in real-time and converts these into robotic controls. Wandelbots said its system works with the 12 most popular industrial robotics makers.

Woowa Bros. (South Korea) – $320M Series G
Seoul’s Woowa Bros., which owns and operates the country’s largest food delivery app, raised a $320 million Series G round from Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital and GIC. This was the largest robotics investment round of December and raised the company’s valuation to about $2.6 billion. Woowa will use the funding in part to develop autonomous delivery robots. Woowa has also said such robots could also take back a customers recycling. Earlier in 2018, Woowa invested $2 million in Bear Robotics, which makes Penny, a delivery robot that works in some restaurants.


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.

Verification
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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