Analysis Of The Financing Situation Of Startups In The Global Robotics Ecosystem
In this article, we use the CB Insights database to classify startups in the robotics ecosystem, and summarize the financing of robotics startups in each field. The volume of financing transactions of global robotics startups set a new record in 2016, from 147 in 2015 to 174, an increase of about 18%. This growth is mainly driven by enterprise-level robots.
Financing activities by category
Start-ups in the field of enterprise robotics completed 74 financing transactions in 2015, an increase of 95% compared to 38 in 2014, and the transaction volume reached a new high in 2016, reaching 93. In terms of consumer robot startups, the transaction volume in 2015 increased by 96% over the previous year, and remained at 45 in the following two years.
Distribution of different types of robot financing activities
About 48% of financing transactions are used to create enterprise-level robots, including companies in heavy industry and manufacturing. Consumer robots accounted for 28% of the total transaction volume in the past 5 years, and the medical industry accounted for 13%. In addition, a small percentage of transactions (approximately 6.5%) came from startups developing security and rescue applications.
This article analyzes according to the following categories: enterprise, consumer, medical, government and security, and other categories.
All equity financing and convertible note financing are included in the analysis.
UAV (excluding UAV delivery):
UAV startups have almost taken over tasks such as on-site inspection, surveying, and 3D mapping in industries such as agriculture and construction. The transaction volume in this field in the past year was 41, setting the largest transaction volume in the enterprise robot category, and its 2015 record was 22.
Among them, Airobotics, an Israeli startup company backed by SmartMoney VC CRV, received US$28.5 million in Series B financing in the second quarter of 2016. The company builds drones for oil and gas companies. LuxCapital invested in a US$14 million Series A financing of Saildrone, a California-based company dedicated to ocean data collection. Last year, the largest amount of financing came from China’s DJI Innovations, which received US$75 million in Series B financing led by Accel Partners. Although DJI produces consumer drones such as Mavec and Phantom, it also manufactures drones for industrial applications and is therefore included in this category.
This category includes aerial drones and ground robots responsible for last-mile delivery. Such drones are responsible for delivering medicines and other items to consumers’ homes. Such startups have completed 15 stock transactions since 2012, and the number of transactions has gradually increased in the past two years. Zipline International from San Francisco announced a partnership with the government of Rwanda to improve healthcare services by using micro-aircraft robots to deliver drugs. The company raised $18 million from investors such as Sequoia Capital, AME Cloud Ventures, and Google Ventures in the second quarter. Also in the second quarter, Andreessen Horowitz invested US$2 million in a seed round investment in Dispatch. Most companies in this category are still in the early stages of financing, such as Robby, Matternet, and Airpost.
Retail and warehousing:
Startups in this category conducted 16 equity transactions in 2015, but the volume of transactions in 2016 fell by nearly half. India’s GreyOrange Robotics is committed to creating robots for material handling and sorting. In the third quarter of 2011, the company received US$30 million in investment from Blume Ventures and Tiger Global Management. In addition, SoftBank Capital invested US$20 million in Fetch Robotics. In retail, Bossa Nova Robotics raised $10.7 million in the third quarter. Fellow Robots’ robot Navii can help stores manage inventory, Simbe Robotics also launched the tally robot Tally, and both companies have received investment from China’s hardware accelerator HAX.
Robots that can help restaurants cook or serve customers have attracted a lot of investment in recent years. As early as 2012, Momentum Machines received seed investment to build robots that “make delicious burgers independently”. In 2016, 5 companies in this field received seed investment, including robot restaurant Spyce Kitchen and bartender robot Monsieur, and cooking robot Casabots.
Such robots can participate in various service tasks, such as helping to mow the lawn of a golf course. The volume of transactions in this category doubled in 2016. The CleanRobotics company Trashbot, a garbage sorting robot used in the workplace, has received an investment from HAX. Savioke, a service robot in the hotel industry, received US$15 million in investment from Northern Light Venture Capital, Intel Capital and EDBI.
Heavy industry and manufacturing:
This is a broad category that includes a variety of robots that can perform industrial automation tasks, such as manufacturing, assembly, agribusiness, robotic food inspection systems, and factory inspections. Start-up companies in this field have completed 77 financing activities since 2012. Clearpath Robotics and Life Robotics as well as Square Robot and Quotient Kinematics Machine received external financial support in 2016.
For laboratory research, 4 companies raised funds for laboratory automation in 2016.
Intel Corporation invested 60 million U.S. dollars in drone manufacturer Yuneec. Skydio, a computer vision-based drone startup, received a $25 million investment from Accel Partners and Andreessen Horowitz in the first quarter. Most other private drone startups are still in early stage financing, such as xCraft and UVify, as well as Squadrone System and OpenROV. In addition, 3D Robotics initially mainly engaged in consumer drones, and later diversified and expanded in industrial applications. The volume of transactions in this category in 2016 was halved compared to the 10 transactions in 2015.
Ryan Mac of Forbes magazine wrote: 3D Robotics realized that the once-unmanned consumer drone market would soon be overwhelmed by dozens of four-blade propeller aircraft from Chinese competitors… 3D Robotics The leadership of the company decided to reverse the direction and open up a larger industrial market
Robots that can teach code to children have attracted a lot of investment attention in recent years, and the transaction in 2016 reached the highest level in 5 years. The most well-funded startup in this category is Wonder Workshop, which received $36 million in equity financing from CRV and investors such as Madrona Venture Group and Google Ventures. In addition, Modular Robotics received financial support from Foundry Group; China’s Makeblock received a US$6 million Series A financing from Sequoia Capital in 2014. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Oomiyu, a children’s robot kit developed by Two Bit Circus, received US$6.27 million in Series B funding from Foundry Group and Techstars Ventures.
Social robots, including family companions and entertainment robots, occupy the largest share of the consumer robot category. Start-ups in this category have completed nearly 50 transactions since 2012. The humanoid robot company UBTECH has received a US$100 million Series B financing from CDH Investments, Goldstone Investment and CITIC Securities International, and has joined the ranks of unicorns. China’s Turing Robot company is committed to developing a robot operating system and announced the launch of a matching robot for children at the price of a smartphone. In addition, China’s artificial intelligence robot company ROOBO completed a US$100 million Series A financing in the third quarter; London’s Ollyaised received US$10 million in investment from Alliance Capital Ventures and Lightning Capital; Anki received from Index Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, and JPMorgan Chase and Andreessen Horowitz’s US$52.5 million support.
This category includes robotic arms and personal transportation robots, as well as robots that perform housework, which can perform tasks such as cooking, vacuuming, bartending, and even cleaning fish tanks. A total of 7 companies completed financing activities in 2016, including the modern transportation tool Ninebot and the desktop robotic arm Dobot.
In the past 5 years, more than half of the transactions in the medical robotics field are about surgical robots. The most well-funded company is Auris Surgical Robots, which has raised US$149.5 million and US$49 million from Lux Capital and Mithril Capital Management, respectively. In addition, Johnson & Johnson acquired a minority stake in Verb Surgical in the fourth quarter of 2015. The other large amount of financing is a US$45 million Series D financing from Restoration Robotics, a robotic hair transplant company, from Alloy Ventures, Clarus Ventures, and InterWest Partners.
Bionics and rehabilitation:
Start-up companies in this category are committed to the development of exoskeleton or robotic care for physical rehabilitation. In 2016, three of the five transactions in this field were from European companies: Movendo Technology, a spin-off from the Italian Institute of Technology, raised 11.15 million US dollars; High-Tech Gruenderfonds, one of the most active robotic VCs, invested Reactive Robotics in Germany; Tyromotion in Austria is supported by German venture capital firm SHS Gesellschaft fur Beteiligungsmanagement.
Startups in this category cover everything from cleaning hospital floors to assisting doctors with non-surgical tasks. Some of the top investment activities include the $28 million round B of robotic-assisted endoscopy company Invendo Medical and UV disinfection robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services. $25 million round D.
Security and government-related robots
Knightscope company built an “automatic data machine” for the physical security of commercial buildings. The company received $13 million in investment from Flextronics International and NTT DoCoMo Ventures and Plug and Play Ventures. Rapyuta Robotics is building a multi-robot system that can communicate and “learn from each other”, and in the third quarter of 2016, it received a US$10 million Series A financing led by SBI Investment. In addition, start-ups in this field include Robot Security Systems in the Netherlands and Gamma 2 Robotics in Colorado, USA.
This category of security robot is mainly used for military purposes, as the “eyes” of law enforcement personnel on site, or to assist on-site first responders in rescue missions in dangerous environments. Last year, three-quarters of startups conducted financing activities. Rovenso, located in Switzerland, can build mobile stations to assist rescue operations in the event of natural and man-made disasters. With the support of HAX, the company completed seed round financing and bill financing. GE Ventures and Microsoft invested in Sarcos, which built robots for lifting during rescue operations and “Iron Man” exoskeletons for military operations. In the first week of 2017, Sarcos completed another US$15.6 million in Series A financing invested by Schlumberger. The Israeli company Roboteam raised $50 million in the third quarter of 2016, and it is reported that the company has reached an agreement with the US Department of Defense and the Israeli military.
Since 2012, more than 15 transactions have been completed for safe and intelligent drones used in the air and underwater. The largest amount of these is the $46 million growth equity private placement invested by Summit Partners that Aeryon Labs received in the fourth quarter of 2014. In addition, Aptonomy and the underwater stealth drone company Strategic Robotic Systems also raised equity funds last year.
Other types of robots
Several companies are currently developing robots that can achieve general telepresence. The technology of London-based Cambrian Intelligence allows robots to replicate human movements at a distance. The company completed a seed round of financing this year. Japan’s Adawarp company has developed VR software that can remotely control its Teleporter robots, and in the third quarter of 2015 received investment from Rothenberg Ventures River Accelerator. In addition, companies in this field include VGo Communications and Double Robotics and Russia’s Wicron.
The general robotics solution provider completed 18 transactions. In addition, MegaBots, which manufactures humanoid combat robots, and 3D Media, which specializes in robot vision, are also worthy of attention.