OCTOBER 2017 ROBOTICS FUNDINGS, ACQUISITIONS & IPOS
Twenty-eight different startups were funded in October cumulatively raising $862 million, up from $507 million in September. Three of the top four fundings were for startups involved in the self-driving process. An additional five lower-amount startups were also funded for self-driving applications or components along with two of the six acquisitions.
Six acquisitions were reported during the month including Delphi Automotive’s buying nuTonomy for $450 million and Boeing’s acquisition of 550-employee Aurora Flight Sciences.
On the IPO front, Altair Engineering raised $156 million and Restoration Robotics raised $25 million when both went live on the NASDAQ stock exchange this month.
- Mapbox, a Washington, DC and San Francisco provider of nav systems for car companies and others involved in autonomous vehicles, raised $164 million in a Series C round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, with participation from existing investors including Foundry Group, DFJ Growth, DBL Partners, and Thrive Capital. “Location data is central and mission critical to the development of the world’s most exciting technologies,” said Rajeev Misra, who helps oversee SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
- Element AI, a Canadian startup providing learning platform solutions for self-driving and advanced manufacturing, raised $135 CAD million (around $105 million) in a Series A round (in June) led by Data Collective, a SV-based venture capital firm, and included participation by Fidelity Investments Canada, National Bank of Canada, Intel Capital, and Real Ventures.
- Ninebot, the Chinese consumer products company that bought out Segway and raised $80 million in 2015, raised another $100 million in a Series C round from the SDIC Fund Management Co. and the China Mobile Fund.
- Horizon Robotics, another Chinese startup, raised $100 million in a Series A round led by Intel Capital with participation by Wu Capital, Morningside Venture Capital, Linear Venture, Hillhouse Capital and Harvest Investments. Horizon is developing self-driving vehicle autopilot and self-navigating consumer and neural network chips. Wendell Brooks, Intel SVP and President of Intel Capital which invested in Horizon said, “By 2020, every autonomous vehicle on the road will create 4 TB of data per day. A million self-driving cars will create the same amount of data every day as 3 billion people. As Intel transitions to a data company, Intel Capital is actively investing in startups across the technology spectrum that can help expand the data ecosystem and pathfind important new technologies.”
- Innoviz Technologies, an Israel-based developer of LiDAR sensing technology for autonomous vehicles, raised $73 million in Series B funding. Investors include Samsung Catalyst and SoftBank Ventures Korea.
- Zume Pizza, the Silicon Valley robotic pizza making startup, raised $48 million in a Series B funding. Investors in the round were not detailed. Zume is already delivering pizzas in Silicon Valley. It uses an assembly line of robots to flatten dough into circles, spread sauce and cheese, and slide the pies into and out of an 800 degree oven. Pizzas finish cooking in ovens inside delivery trucks.
- Momenta AI, a Beijing autonomous driving tech startup using machine vision (rather than LiDAR), raised $46 in a Series B round led by NIO Capital, Sequoia Capital China, Hillhouse Capital and Cathay Innovation Fund.
- Wonder Workshop, previously named Play-i, a Silicon Valley and Chinese educational robot startup, raised $41 million in a Series C round from a series of investors including Tencent, TAL Education Group, MindWorks Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, Softbank Korea, VTRON Group, TCL Capital, Sinovation Ventures, Bright Success, WI Harper, and CRV. Wonder Workshop’s Dot and Dash robots are in use by thousands of student groups and schools around the world. “We founded Wonder Workshop to provide all children — girls and boys of all ages — with the skills needed to succeed in the future economy. This round of financing will allow us to continue on our mission to inspire the inventors of tomorrow,” said Vikas Gupta, CEO.
- FogHorn Systems, a Silicon Valley smart manufacturing software startup, raised $30 million in a Series B round led by Intel Capital and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures with new investor Honeywell Ventures and all previous investors participating, including Series A investors March Capital Partners, GE, Dell Technologies Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Yokogawa Electric Corporation, Darling Ventures and seed investor The Hive.
- Nanotronic Imaging, an Ohio testing solutions provider, raised $30 million in a Series D funding led by Investment Corp of Dubai and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.
- Wandercraft, a French rehabilitation exoskeleton startup, raised $17.8 million in a Series B round from XAnge, Innovation Capital, Idinvest Partners, Cemag Invest and BPIFrance.
- Ever AI, a San Francisco startup developing facial recognition, announced that they had raised $16 million in a Series B funding led by Icon Ventures with participation from Felicis Ventures and Khosla Ventures. On the same day SoftBank announced their intention to use Ever AI’s facial recognition platform as a new feature for their Pepper robot.
- Built Robotics, a San Francisco startup developing a self-driving kit for construction equipment – a self-driving excavator – raised $15 million in a Series A round led by NEA (New Enterprise Associates) with participation by Founders Fund, Lemnos and angel investors including Eric Stromberg, Maria Thomas, Carl Bass, Edward Lando and Justin Kan.
- Veo Robotics, a Cambridge, MA-based vision systems startup, raised $12 million in a Series A funding. Lux Capital and GV led the round, and were joined by unnamed investors including Next47.
- Riverfield Surgical Robot Lab, a Japanese startup, raised $10 million in a Series B round led by Toray Engineering and included SBI Investment, Jafco and Beyond Next Ventures.
- Beijing Beehive Agriculture Technology Co. raised $9.4 million in an A funding round led by Tendence Capital and other unnamed sources. The funding marks the company’s second financing round after it raised around $5 million from e-commerce giant JD.com Inc. and others in its pre-A funding.
- Titan Medical, a Canadian robotic single-port surgery device developer, raised $9.1 million: $2.6 million by floating 13.4 million common shares in a private placement to more than a dozen robotic surgeons in the US and Canada and an additional $6.5 million from the early exercise of purchase warrants for 42.6 million common shares.
- Robart, an Austria-based developer of AI and navigation intelligence for autonomous consumer robots, raised $7.2 million in a Series B funding. CM-CIC Innovation led the round, and was joined by Innovacom, Robert Bosch Venture Capital and SEB Alliance.
- Nileworks, a Japanese drone crop spraying startup, raised $7.1 million from a group of Japanese investors including public-private partnership the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, agricultural chemical maker Kumiai Chemical Industry Co., Sumitomo Corporation and its subsidiary Sumitomo Chemical Co., the Japanese National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations, and The Norinchukin Bank. When the product goes on sale in 2019 the company will target rice farmers in Japan.
- Impossible Objects, an Illinois provider of 3D printing tech, raised $6.4 million in a Series A funding led by OCA Ventures and joined by IDEA Fund Partners, Mason Avenue Investments, Huizenga Capital Management and Inflection Equity Partners.
- AeroFarms, the indoor vertical farming startup which raised $34 million reported earlier this year, rounded out their $40 million Series D funding with $6 million from Ikea Group and chef David Chang of the Momofuku Group. AeroFarms just built its 9th indoor farm in Newark, NJ.
- Blickfeld, a Munich-based LiDAR maker for autonomous driving, raised $4.25 million in seed funding. Investors include Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners, High-Tech Gruenderfonds, Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures and Tengelmann Ventures.
- Realtime Robotics, a Boston motion planning and control startup, raised $2 million in seed funding from SPARX Group, Scrum Ventures, and Toyota AI Ventures.
- Vitae Industries, a Rhode Island pharma dispensing robot maker, raised $1.8 million in seed funding from Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Slater Technology Fund. Other investors in the round included Techstars, BoxGroup, Compound and Founder Collective.
- Acutronic Robotics, a Swiss startup that last year acquired Spanish component maker Erle Robotics, raised an undisclosed amount from Sony in a Series A funding round. Sony will also adopt Acutronic’s Hardware Robot Operating System (H-ROS), for use in its own robotics division. Sony’s strategic use of the H-ROS platform in its own operations, and DARPA’s prior investment, suggest there’s a lot of interest in H-ROS for unifying legacy robotic systems from old-line robot providers.
- Bharati Robotic Systems, a Pune, India-based industrial robotic cleaning startup, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from its existing investors – Society For Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE, IITB Incubator), and other angel investors.
- IUVO, an Italian exoskeleton and wearable prosthetics spin-off from the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, has received a joint investment from robot manufacturer Comau and Össur, a global provider of non-invasive orthopedics. No financial amounts were provided however Comau and Össur will now hold a majority share of IUVO. “This joint venture represents a key step toward the creation of wearable robotic exoskeletons that can enhance human mobility and quality of life,” emphasized Mauro Fenzi, CEO of Comau. “By uniting the know-how and enabling technologies of the various partners, we are in a unique position to extend the use of robotics beyond manufacturing and toward a truly progressive global reality. I believe the differentiating factor of a project like IUVO is the combination of Comau’s automation skills and Össur’s extensive experience in bionics and bracing to enable the production of products, such as the exoskeletons, and to be able to demonstrate the benefits of robotics”.
- Ultimaker, a manufacturer of professional desktop 3D printers and employer of over 300, raised an undisclosed amount from NPM Capital, a Benelux investment company.
- Delphi Automotive, a UK Tier 1 automotive supplier, acquired nuTonomy, a Boston self-driving ride sharing startup, for $450 million. nuTonomy, a spin-off from MIT and Singapore and with funding from Ford, has grown to 100 employees including 70 engineers and scientists. The acquisition will double Delphi’s autonomous driving applications team.
- HTI Cybernetics, a Michigan industrial robotics integrator and contract manufacturer, has been acquired by Chongqing Nanshang Investment Group for around $50 million. HTI provides robotic welding systems to the auto industry and also has a contract welding services facility in Mexico.
- Ridecell, a San Francisco mobility platform provider of car sharing, ride sharing and autonomous vehicles software, has acquired Auro Robotics, a Silicon Valley self-driving vehicle startup with shuttles operating on the Santa Clara University campus, for an undisclosed amount but which TheInformation estimates to be around $20 million.
- Applied Automation, a UK components manufacturer of automation and control equipment, is changing and upgrading their status to include becoming an integrator of industrial and collaborative robots and, through the acquisition of PTG Precision Engineers, has gained talented engineering manpower to augment their sales/integration efforts. PTG is located across the street from Applied. No financial details about the acquisition were provided by either party.
- General Motors acquired Pasadena-based Strobe, a vision systems startup developing an optical micro-oscillator for LiDAR timing, navigation and sensing applications, for an undisclosed amount. Strobe will join the Cruise Automation self-driving group.
- Boeing is acquiring Aurora Flight Sciences, a 550 employee Virginia-based UAS provider, for an undisclosed amount. “Since its inception, Aurora has been focused on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make aircraft smarter,” said John Langford, Aurora Flight Sciences founder and chief executive officer. “As an integral part of Boeing, our pioneered technologies of long-endurance aircraft, robotic co-pilots, and autonomous electric VTOLs will be transitioned into world-class products for the global infrastructure.”
- Restoration Robotics, a San Jose, Calif.-based company focused on robotics that assist doctors in hair transplant procedures, raised $25 million in an upsized offering of 3.6 million shares priced at $7. In 2016, the company posted revenue of $15.6 million and a loss of $21.8 million. HAIR is now listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
- Altair Engineering, a Troy, Mich.-based engineering software maker, raised $156 million in an IPO of 12 million shares at $13. The stock (ALTR) is now trading on Nasdaq. Altair develops simulation and design software for industrial applications, automobiles, consumer goods and all types of robotics.
- Nilfisk Holdings, a Danish manufacturer of industrial cleaning machines including a new line of autonomous cleaners, was spun off from NKT A/S, a Danish conglomerate, and went public on the NASDAQ Copenhagen exchange as NLFSK. Financial details were not disclosed.
By: Frank Tobe, ROBO Global Strategic Advisor, The Robot Report
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