SEPTEMBER 2017 ROBOTICS FUNDINGS, ACQUISITIONS & IPOS
September 2017 was a big month for robotics fundings, acquisitions, and IPOs. 26 different startups were funded to the tune of $485 million, up from $369 million in August. Six acquisitions were reported during the month including Deere’s acquisition of California Blue River Technology for $305 million. And Restoration Robotics’ IPO will start being listed on NASDAQ early in October.
- LeddarTech, the Canadian developer of sensors and LiDAR distancing systems for ADAS and other mobile systems, raised $101 million in a Series C funding led by Osram with participation by Delphi, Magneti Marelli, Integrated Device Technology, Fonds de solidarité FTQ, BDC Capital and GO Capital. This round of funding will allow LeddarTech to enhance its ASIC development efforts, expand its R&D team, and accelerate ongoing LiDAR development programs with select Tier-1 automotive customers for rapid market deployment.
- Innoviz Technologies, the Israeli solid-state LiDAR startup, raised $65 million in a Series B funding. Delphi Automotive PLC and Magna International participated in the round, along with additional new investors including 360 Capital Partners, Glory Ventures, Naver and others. All Series A investors also participated in the round.
- Roobo, the Chinese startup and manufacturer of the Domgy consumer robot, raised $53 million in a Series B round led by Seven Seas Partners and IFlyTek, a Chinese developer of self-driving technologies, speech recognition for human-machine and human-human communication and related software and chips.
- Five AI, a Bristol, UK self-driving technology and ride-sharing startup, raised $35 million in a Series A funding round led by Lakestar Capital, with Amadeus Capital Partners, Notion Capital and Kindred (which all previously invested in its seed round) also participating.
- Airobotics, the Israeli autonomous drone platform for the mining, utilities and gas industry, raised $32.5 million in a series C funding round led by BlueRun Ventures. With the funding, Airobotics is starting a new Homeland Security and Defense division, as well as the “Airobotics Safe Cities” initiative, which uses fully automated drones to perform emergency operations in cities.
- JingChi, a Sunnyvale self-driving car vision systems startup, raised $30 million in a seed round. The company did not disclose the identity of investors in the round.
- Cambridge Medical Robotics, a UK startup developing a next-generation robotic surgical system closed a Series A funding round of $26 million from Watrium and existing investors Cambridge Innovation Capital, LGT Global Invest, Escala Capital and ABB Technology Ventures.
- Kinova Robotics, a Canadian provider of robotics for the disabled, has raised $20 million to transition into three new areas of service robotics: collaborative robots for inspection and pick and place operations, manipulators for mobile platforms, and medical robots for research and therapies. Funding came from four major contributors, including lead investor Fonds Manufacturier Québécois; and KTB Network (South Korea), Foxconn (Taiwan); and BDC Capital (Canada).
- Humatics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of sensors, software, and control systems that enable robots to work within human environments, raised $18 million in a Series A funding. Fontinalis Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Airbus Ventures, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Intact Ventures, Tectonic Ventures, Presidio Ventures, Blue Ivy Ventures, Ray Stata, and Andy Youmans.
- Lighthouse AI, a Silicon Valley startup developing a deep learning, 3D sensing, interactive home assistant, raised $17 million (in May) led by Eclipse, Felicis Ventures, Andy Rubin’s Playground Ventures, SignalFire and StartX. Their new home security device can accurately distinguish between adults, children, pets and objects, known and unknown faces, and actions and report upon and play back based on what it finds.
- Tonbo Imaging, an Indian defense vision systems startup, raised $17 million in a Series B funding round led by Walden Riverwood Ventures with Artiman Ventures, Edelweiss, and Qualcomm Ventures.
- Drive.AI, a Silicon Valley self-driving startup, raised another $15 million (after their $50 million Series B round earlier this year) from Grab, an Uber rival Asian on-demand transportation and mobile payments platform, and unnamed others. Drive CEO Sameep Tandon said: “We look at Singapore as a technological juggernaut. When innovations happen in the region, basically they start in Singapore and then move out to other places within the region, whether it’s Indonesia, Vietnam or China. What’s also really interesting to us about Singapore is they have this sort of existential problem here – for them autonomous driving is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when.’”
- Ushr Inc., a Livonia, Mich.-based startup developing high-definition mapping technology and software for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, raised $10 million in a Series A funding round led by Forte Ventures and including EnerTech Capital, Emerald Technology Ventures, and GM Ventures.
- Agrible, an Illinois startup offering a suite of software tools for connected farmers, raised $9.7 million of a $15.7 million Series B round of funding led by Maumee Ventures, iSelect Fund, and existing investors Flyover Capital, Archer Daniels Midland, and Serra Ventures.
- Bonsai AI, a Berkeley, CA AI startup, raised $7.6 million (in May) in a Series A round led by Microsoft Ventures and NEA, with participation from Samsung, Siemens, and ABB Technology Ventures.
- Metawave, a Palo Alto self-driving perception spin-off from PARC, raised $7 million in seed funding. Backers included Khosla Ventures, Motus Ventures, and Thyra Global Management.
- Ori Systems, a Boston startup with a novel interior space robotic furniture system, raised $6 million in a Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures.
- Specim Spectral Imaging, the Finnish company providing imaging systems to Zen Robotics for waste sorting and management, raised $4.2 million from Bocap SME Achievers Fund II Ky.
- OpenSpace, a San Francisco machine vision startup, raised $3 million in seed funding. Lux Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Foundation Capital, National Science Foundation, the Box Group, AngelList, Goldcrest, Sterling Capital and Comet Labs.
- Furhat Robotics, the Swedish startup developing social robots, raised $2.5 million in a seed funding round from Balderton Capital and LocalGlobe. The company is currently working with Swedish public services as well as companies like Honda, Intel, Merck, Toyota, and KPMG to develop apps on the platform, eg: A Swedish employment agency is using the conversational robot to prepare people for job interviews and to train teachers; Honda is using Furhat to develop a conversational tool for the elderly in a smart home setting; KPMG is designing a Furhat-enabled financial advisor interface. A recent Forbes article reports that both Disney and Intel are customers of this 50-person startup. Watch this fascinating Bloomberg video.
- Reactive Robotics, a Munich startup developing rehab robotics for hospitals with ICUs for mechanically ventilated, neurological or trauma patients, raised an amount estimated to be around $2.5 million led by MTIP MedTech Innovation Partners AG, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Bayern Kapital, TQ-Group, and Dr. Doll Holding GmbH. Reactive Robotics said it expects to deliver its 1st clinical test product by the 1st quarter of 2018.
- Betterview, a San Francisco-based software startup that can analyze detailed aerial footage captured by drones, raised $2 million. Compound Venture Capital led the round, and was joined by investors Maiden Re, 645 Ventures, Arab Angel, Winklevoss Capital, Chestnut Street Ventures, Pierre Valade, Haystackand MetaProp.
- Sea Machines Robotics, a Boston startup developing unmanned marine systems, raised $1.5 million (in May) in a round led by Connecticut-based LaunchCapital with participation from Cambridge-based venture capital firm Accomplice, Techstars, LDV Capital, and the Geekdom Fund. Sea Machines provides software and hardware to turn existing boats into autonomous vehicles.
FUNDINGS (AMOUNT UNKNOWN)
- SharkNinja, a home products distributor, raised an undisclosed sum from CDH investments, a large private equity fund, who said they purchased “a significant equity interest.” No amounts were disclosed. SharkNinja launched a Roomba-like robot vacuum to their line of products — at half the price of iRobot’s Roomba. Analysts are saying that SharkNinja “is a credible threat to iRobot” given its knack for marketing, as well as engineering high-quality products at value price points — two strengths that helped it successfully take market share from Dyson in recent years in the upright-vacuum market.
- Acutronic Robotics, a Swiss company providing multi-axis motion simulators, has received Series A funding from the Sony Innovation Fund. No financial details were given. Funds will be used to enable Acutronic to accelerate the development of their Hardware Robot Operating System (H-ROS), to compete with ROS-I and legacy software from robot manufacturers. “H-ROS aims to change the landscape of robotics by creating an ecosystem where hardware components can be reused among different robots, regardless of the original manufacturer. We strongly believe that the future of robotics will be about modular robots that can be easily repaired and reconfigured. H-ROS aims to shape this future.”
- Ocean Aero, a San Diego unmanned marine systems startup, raised an undisclosed amount from Lockheed Martin Ventures. “Ocean Aero represents the next generation of environmentally powered, autonomous ocean systems. Our investment will allow us to better respond to customers’ maritime needs with technology solutions for a diverse set of missions,” said Chris Moran, ED and GM of Lockheed Martin Ventures.
- John Deere, the farm equipment manufacturer, acquired Blue River Technology, a Silicon Valley AI and farm equipment startup for $305 million. Blue River has honed their See & Spray and Sense & Decide devices to analyze every plant in a field and apply herbicides only to weeds and overly crowded plants needing thinning thereby dramatically reducing the amount of chemicals used. Their robots are towed behind a tractor similar to conventional spraying equipment but Blue River’s towed implements have onboard cameras that use machine-learning software to distinguish between crops and weeds, and automated sprayers to target and spray the unwanted plants. Further, Blue River devices have a second set of cameras to automatically check its work as it operates and to gather data on the tens of thousands of plants in each field so that its analytics software can continue improving the devices and the process. Daniel Theobald, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Vecna, a Cambridge, MA provider of mobile robots, said:“It’s a smart move by Deere. They realize the time window in which ag industry execs will continue to buy dumb equipment is rapidly coming to a close. The race to automate is on and traditional equipment manufacturers who don’t embrace automation will face extinction. Agriculture is ripe for the benefits that robotics has to offer. Automation allows farmers to decrease water use, reduce the use of pesticides and other methods that are no longer sustainable, and helps solve ever worsening labor shortages.”
- OMRON, the Japanese company that acquired robot maker Adept Technology last year, has just acquired Microscan Systems, the Renton, WA-based barcode reading and machine vision systems company, for $157 million. Microscan was a wholly owned subsidiary of UK-based Spectris Plc.
- Neato Robotics, the California maker of home robot vacuums, was acquired by German appliance maker Vorwerk. Financial terms were not disclosed. Vorwerk invested in Neato back in 2010 but now has completely acquired Neato outright and fully owns its business and technology, which could help the international operation expand into the growing robotic vacuum industry.
- Siemens, the German conglomerate, acquired Tass International for an undisclosed amount. Tass develops software that simulates traffic scenarios, validates autonomous driving and replicates ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) in crash testing. It has 200 employees and annual revenue of around $32 million.
- Precision Planting, a developer and reseller of mechanical, monitoring and control systems for precision ag applications, was acquired by AGCO, a global manufacturer and distributor of ag equipment, for an undisclosed amount. Precision Planting was a subsidiary of The Climate Corporation (a subsidiary of Monsanto).
- Nabors Industries, an oil and gas drilling company, has acquired Robotic Drilling Systems, a Norwegian provider of a system for unmanned drill-floor operations. No figures were disclosed regarding the transaction.
- Restoration Robotics, a Silicon Valley FDA-approved robotic hair transplant startup, has filed to be listed on NASDAQ under the symbol HAIR. They plan to offer 3.125 million shares priced at around $8 per share — a $25 million IPO. It is expected to price during the week of October 9, 2017. If that price holds, it would establish a market value of $225 million for the company.
CONTRIBUTED BY ROBO GLOBAL CO-FOUNDER FRANK TOBE, EDITOR & PUBLISHER OF THE ROBOT REPORT
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