Robotics investments February 2019

Robotics investments recap: February 2019

ReWalk and Corindus were among the recipients of funding in February 2019.

Robotics investments totaled at least $4.3 billion in February 2019 in a steep increase from January, which had about $1.4 billion. In addition, companies reported approximately $3.9 billion worth of acquisitions this past month. Any political or economic jitters have not yet harmed the mood for robot deals.

The Robotic Industries Association noted yesterday that robot sales in the U.S. continue to grow, especially in areas outside of automotive manufacturing. It cited demand in food and consumer goods, plastics and rubber, life sciences, and electronics.

Surgical robots, autonomous vehicles, wearable devices, and military robotics led investments for February 2019. See the table below, which lists amounts in millions of dollars where they were available:

February 2019 Robotics Investments

Company Amt. (M$) Type Lead investor, partner Date Technology
AIStorm 13.2 Series A Egis Technology, TowerJazz, Meyer Corp., Linear Dimensions Semiconductor 2/11/2019 AI, edge processing
Aqrose Technology 4 Series A Legend Capital 2/28/2019 machine vision
ASTI Mobile Robotics minority stake Keensight Capital 2/5/2019 AGVs
Aurora Innovation Inc. 530 Series B Amazon.com Inc. 2/7/2019 self-driving cars
Beijing Surgerii Technology Series A Shunwei Capital 2/27/2019 surgical
Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc. 15 stock offering 2/26/2019 surgical
Horizon Robotics 600 Series B SK China, SK Synix 2/27/2019 AI, IoT
Ike 52 Series A Bain Capital Ventures 2/5/2019 self-driving trucks
Intuitive Surgical Inc. 2000 stock repurchase 2/1/2019 surgical
JIMU Intelligent 14 Series B Translink Capital 2/25/2019 vehicle perception
Lightmatter 22 Series A-1 GV, Matrix Partners, Spark Capital 2/25/2019 AI
May Mobility 22 Series A Millennium New Horizons, Cyrus Capital Partners 2/12/2019 autonomous shuttles
Myomo Inc. 6.4 stock offering 2/12/2019 wearables
Nuro.ai 940 investment SoftBank Vision Fund 2/11/2019 robotic delivery
Nyamble Labs early-stage WaterBridge Ventures 2/26/2019 cooking
ReWalk Robotics Ltd. 4.37 stock offering H.C. Wainwright & Co. 2/20/2019 exoskeleton
Rockwell Automation Inc. notes offering 2/27/2019 industrial automation
Sabrewing Aircraft Co. 2 pre-Series A Drone Fund, Idaten Ventures 2/19/2019 cargo drone
TuSimple 95 Series D Sina Corp., Composite Capital 2/13/2019 autonomous trucks
Vicarious Surgical 10 investment Gates Frontier 2/14/2019 surgical AR/VR
Vincross 10 Series A+ Lenovo 2/19/2019 developer kit
ViSenze 20 Series C Gobi Partners, Sonae IM 2/19/2019 AI, machine vision
Yunji Technology Series B Huaxing Growth Capital, CDH Investments 2/18/2019 service robot

And here are the acquisitions:

February 2019 Robotics Acquisitions

Company Amt. (M$) Acquirer Date Technology
Auris Health 3400 Johnson & Johnson 2/13/2019 surgical robots
Axis New England, Axis New York Motion Industries 2/13/2019 automotive parts
Endeavor Robotics 385 FLIR Systems 2/12/2019 ground robots
Gasper Engineering Eckhart Inc. 2/4/2019 AGVs, cobots
Inuktun Eddyfi Technologies 2/26/2019 remote inspection
Ushr Inc. 282.2 Dynamic Map Platform Co. 2/13/2019 maps for self-driving vehicles

Intuitive Surgical leads the way

The biggest transaction of February 2019 was the $2 billion stock repurchase that Intuitive Surgical Inc. filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The surgical robotics leader and maker of the da Vinci system has had enjoyed some good news lately.

In late January, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Intuitive Surgical stated that its 2018 fourth-quarter revenue grew 17 percent, to $1 billion, less than expected, but still strong. The company said it shipped 290 da Vinci Surgical Systems, compared with 216 in the fourth quarter of 2017.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved Intuitive’s Ion lung-biopsy system.

Such dominance comes with challenges, however. Restore Robotics LLC has filed a complaint accusing Intuitive of keeping competitors out of the repair market for da Vinci, and rivals are emerging.

This brings us to the other big deal of February 2019: Johnson & Johnson’s $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris Health Inc., whose Monarch endoscopy system has FDA approval for lung procedures. With contingent payments, the purchase could be worth a total of $5.75 billion.

Last November, Redwood City, Calif.-based Auris Health raised $220 million in equity financing.

Robotic surgery companies on the rise

Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc. raised $15 million in February 2019 in a stock offering, and Beijing Surgerii Technology reportedly raised an unspecified amount in Series A funding led by Shunwei Capital.

In addition, Vicarious Surgical, which is developing virtual reality for use in minimally invasive procedures, raised $10 million in funding led by the Gates Foundation. Last November, Medtronic and Mazor Robotics announced a $1.6 billion merger. What’s the reason for all this activity?

As with medical, assistive, and other healthcare robotics, the ramp up to commercial success has been long and slow for surgical robots. The expensive development process, an initial lack of reimbursement, and the need to train physicians and surgeons are all hurdles. However, the long-term benefits are clear to doctors and investors.

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A study by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that robot-assisted surgery is more expensive than traditional operations because of the need to repurchase instruments. However, the reduction in complications is worth the cost, the researchers concluded.

“Patients are able to get their surgery with smaller incisions, [which leads to a] theoretically faster recovery and less pain,” said Mark Girgis, a surgeon trained to work with robots at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Autonomous vehicles take cash deliveries

The next biggest set of transactions in February 2019 was in self-driving cars, trucks, and delivery vehicles. The SoftBank Vision Fund led a $940 million investment in Nuro.ai, which is developing robotic delivery vehicles.

Birth of a unicorn: Nuro gets $940M from SoftBank for driverless deliveries

Source: Nuro

Horizon Robotics received $600 million in Series B financing led by SK China and SK Hynix. The Beijing-based chipmaker is working on processors to enable artificial intelligence at the edge, including in autonomous vehicles, for the Internet of Things.

“Since its establishment more than three years ago, Horizon Robotics has devoted itself to becoming the leader in edge AI processors and computing platforms — enabling autonomous driving, smart cities, smart robotics, and other AIoT devices,” stated Dr. Yu Kai, founder and CEO of Horizon Robotics.

The Robot Report has already covered a string of transportation-related investments in February 2019. They included Aurora’s $530 million Series B with participation from Amazon, as well as funds for autonomous truck makers TuSimple ($95 million Series D) and Ike ($52 million Series A).

Mapping systems providers teamed up this month, as Tokyo-based Dynamic Map Platform Ltd. acquired Detroit-based Ushr Inc. for $181 million.

“Joining forces with DMP will help us to further access the market for self-driving cars and ADAS [advanced driver-assistance systems], particularly as consumer adoption is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years,” said Bruce Gordon, CEO of Ushr.

Add to that shuttle maker May Mobility’s $22 million Series A, and vehicle perception firm JIMU Intelligent’s $14 million Series B, and the drive to autonomous vehicles is just revving up.

Best of the rest for February 2019

Aside from surgical robotics and autonomous vehicles, wearable technology also got a boost this past month, with Myomo Inc. closing a $6 million round of financing and exoskeleton maker ReWalk Robotics Ltd. closing a public offering of shares worth $4.37 million.

In military robotics, FLIR Systems Inc. acquired Endeavor Robotics for $385 million.


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 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, think, 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.

Verification
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.

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