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Despite the ongoing pandemic and economic recession, a contentious U.S. presidential election, and trade disputes with China, investments in robotics and related technologies continued in November 2020, if at less than half the value as in the same period last year.
In November 2020, The Robot Report, a sibling site to Robotics Business Review, tracked a total of 44 transactions worth about $2.2 billion, in comparison with 52 deals worth $866 million in October 2020 and $4.7 billion in 35 transactions in November 2019. (More than $3 billion in transactions have already been recorded for December 2020.)
As usual for most of the past year, autonomous vehicle companies received the largest share of investment, with 11 transactions worth more than $1.3 billion. Other technologies getting significant funding in the past month included supply chain automation, components and software, and robots for manufacturing.
In November, 41 companies received a total of $1.9 billion in 41 investments. By comparison, there were 43 investments worth $866 million in October 2020 and $4.4 billion in 28 investments in November 2019.
The table below lists robotics company fundings in millions of U.S. dollars, where amounts were publicly available.
Robotics Investments, November 2020
|Company||Amt. (M$)||Type||Investor, partner||Date||Technology|
|a2z||1.9||seed||Nov. 19||autonomous vehicles|
|AEye||23||debt financing||Nov. 9||lidar sensors|
|Biomotum||0.58||seed||Nov. 9||assistive devices|
|Canvas||19||investment||Nov. 27||drywall robot|
|Emotibot Technology Ltd.||30||Series C||BOC International Holdings||Nov. 6||human-robot interaction|
|Gatik||25||Series A||Wittington Ventures, Innovation Endeavors||Nov. 23||autonomous vehicles|
|Giraffe360||4.5||investment||LAUNCHub Ventures, Hoxton Ventures||Nov. 17||real estate robot camera|
|GrAI Matter Labs||14||investment||iBionext||Nov. 23||AI processors|
|Guangzhou Jifei Technology Co.||183||investment||Baidu Capital, SoftBank Vision Fund Phase II||Nov. 17||agricultural drones|
|High Lander||3||seed||Paras Defense, AGV Group||Nov. 5||drone fleet management|
|Home Tech Innovation Inc.||8.1||equity||Nov. 18||kitchen robot|
|Hypr||10||seed||R7 Ventures||Nov. 30||autonomous vehicle AI|
|Inceptio Technology||120||investment||CATL||Nov. 9||autonomous trucks|
|LaunchPoint Technologies||1.81||seed||Nov. 4||drone propulsion|
|Levitate Technologies Inc.||3.5||Series A||Nov. 5||industrial exoskeleton|
|Lunewave||7||Series A||FM Capital||Nov. 24||radar and antenna|
|Maidbot||Series B||Reckitt Benckiser||Nov. 17||service robot|
|Mech-Mind Robotics Technologies Ltd.||15||Series B+||Source Code Capital, Sequoia Capital China||Nov. 17||industrial exoskeleton|
|Mega Robot||30||Series B||Sinovation Ventures||Nov. 2||collaborative robots|
|MegaRobo||30||Series B||Sinovation Ventures||Nov. 4||AI, IoT|
|Morai Inc.||1.8||Series A||Kakao Ventures, Korea Credit Guarantee Fund||Nov. 19||autonomous vehicle simulation|
|Movia Robotics Inc.||0.5||investment||Clean Fleet Investors||Nov. 2||educational robots|
|Nuro||500||Series C||T. Rowe Price Associates||Nov. 9||autonomous vehicles|
|Opteran Technologies||2.81||seed||IQ Capital||Nov. 24||AI processors|
|Orca AI||2.6||seed||Playfair Capital||Nov. 9||maritime navigation|
|Parallel Flight||0.983||seed||StartEngine||Nov. 25||drone inspection|
|Percepto||45||Series B||Koch Disruptive Technologies||Nov. 24||autonomous inspection|
|Pickle Robot Co.||2||equity||Nov. 13||parcel handling robot|
|Plus.ai||100||Series C||Nov. 24||autonomous trucks|
|Pony.ai||267||venture||Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan||Nov. 3||autonomous vehicles|
|Provizio||6.2||seed||Bobby Hambrick||Nov. 6||automotive sensors, AI|
|Psionic||0.5||seed||Nov. 30||lidar sensors|
|Rapid Robotics Inc.||5||seed||Greycroft, Seed Partners||Nov. 18||machine operator|
|Sense Photonics Inc.||32.1||Series B||Nov. 10||lidar sensors|
|Shield AI||52.9||Series C||Nov. 10||surveillance drones|
|Siera.Ai||4.6||Series A||Nov. 8||mobile robots|
|SmartGurlz||0.13||seed||Nov. 14||educational robots|
|TuSimple||350||Series E||Navistar, Volkswagen Group||Nov. 30||autonomous trucks|
|ULS Robotics||seed||Future Capital, K2VC, Unity Ventures||Nov. 2||industrial exoskeleton|
|Verity Studios||8.28||Series A||Investiere||Nov. 30||entertainment drones|
|Yishi Zhi Hao Technology Co.||15.12||Series B||Kai Fu Capital||Nov. 3||visual intelligence|
There were only three robotics mergers and acquisitions worth a total of $287 million last month, compared with eight with no values specified in October and six worth at least $330 million a year ago.
Robotics Acquisitions, November 2020
|Company||Location||Amt. (M$)||Acquirer, partner||Date||Technology|
|Aeva Labs||Mountain View, Calif.||InterPrivate Acquisition Corp.||Nov. 2||automotive sensors|
|Haddington Dynamics||Las Vegas||25||Ocado Group||Nov. 2||robot arms|
|Kindred Systems||San Francisco||262||Ocado Group||Nov. 2||piece picking|
Autonomous Vehicle Firms Continue to Rake in Cash
Nuro’s $500 million Series C round was the largest single transaction of November 2020. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has been developing autonomous delivery vehicles rather than self-driving passenger cars.
Among the trends of 2020 was increasing investment in autonomous trucks. San Diego-based TuSimple reportedly raised $350 million in Series E funding from Navistar and Volkswagen. Shanghai-based Inceptio Technology raised $120 million, and Cupertino, Calif.-based Plus.ai raised $100 million in Series C funding.
Other autonomous vehicle fundings included the $267 million Series C round for Pony.ai in Fremont, Calif. The startup has partnered with China FAW Group Co. for joint development and mass production.
Gatik in Palo Alto, Calif., raised $25 million in Series A funding as it develops SAE Level 4 delivery vehicles. Gyeongsan, South Korea-based a2z received seed funding of $1.9 million.
Sensors for advanced driver-assist (ADAS) and driverless vehicles also received funding in November 2020. San Francisco-based lidar firm Sense Photonics Inc. raised $32.1 million in Series B funding.
Pleasanton, Calif.-based lidar company AEye reportedly raised $23 million in debt financing, and Tuscon, Ariz.-based radar maker Lunewave obtained $7 million in Series A funding.
Special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. picked up Mountain View, Calif.-based Aeva Labs for an unspecified amount as it takes on Velodyne Lidar Inc. and Luminar Technologies Inc.
On the software and artificial intelligence side, Hypr in Alameda, Calif., received $10 million in seed funding. It was founded by some of the same people who developed robotic taxicabs at Zoox, which Amazon.com Inc. acquired in June.
Meanwhile, automotive perception developer Provizio in Limerick, Ireland, raised $6.2 million in seed funding, and simulation provider Morai Inc. in Seoul closed $1.8 million in seed funding.
Logistics Providers Continue Robot Reliance in November 2020
Partly because of accelerated e-commerce demand, robotics for warehouses, distribution centers, and logistics operations had another strong year, raising about $319 million last month alone. U.K.-based online grocer Ocado Group led the way with its $262 million acquisition of Kindred Systems and $25 million purchase of Haddington Dynamics.
Austin, Texas-based mobile robot startup Siera.Ai raised $4.6 million in Series A funding. Cambridge, Mass.-based parcel-handling robot maker Pickle Robot Co. raised $2 million in equity, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Software, AI, Components Raise Capital
Robots, drones, and vehicles are only as good as their ingredient technologies, which investors recognized with more than $231 million in November 2020. Paris-based GrAI Matter Labs, which makes processors for AI inferencing at the edge, raised $14 million.
Shanghai-based Emotibot Technology Ltd. raised Series C funding of $30 million for its human-machine interaction software, and Shenzhen, China-based Yishi Zhi Hao Technology Co. raised Series B funding of $15.12 million for its visual intelligence software.
Opteran Technologies, an AI processor firm in Sheffield, U.K., got $2.81 million in funding. Tel Aviv, Israel-based Orca AI, which makes navigation software for maritime systems, raised $2.6 million in seed funding.
LaunchPoint Technologies, a drone propulsion provider in Goleta, Calif., raised $1.81 million in seed funding, and Pittsburgh-based lidar business Psionic raised $500,000.
Drone Makers Close in on Funding
Aerial drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), had another good month in November 2020. Agricultural drone provider Guangzhou Jifei Technology Co., also known as XAG, raised $183 million from Baidu Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund II.
Shield AI, a surveillance drone provider in San Diego, raised $52.9 million in Series C funding. Verity Studios, an entertainment drone provider in Zurich, raised $8.28 million in Series A funding.
Percepto, a Modi’in, Israel-based provider of industrial inspection systems that recently partnered with Boston Dynamics, raised $45 million in Series B funding.
Tel Aviv-based High Lander obtained seed funding of $3 million for its drone fleet management software. Watsonville, Calif.-based drone inspection provider Parallel Flight received $983,000 in seed funding from StartEngine.
Manufacturing Robotics Sees More Money in November 2020
While most robots are still in factory environments, they have not been the stars of fundraising because the companies supplying them are more mature. Automotive manufacturing in particular was set back by early shutdowns in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, industrial automation suppliers raised a total of more than $53 million in November 2020.
Beijing-based collaborative robot provider Mega Robot received $30 million in Series B funding. San Francisco-based Rapid Robotics Inc., whose Rapid Machine Operator is intended to help companies keep production in the U.S., raised $5.5 million in seed funding.
Industrial exoskeletons also got a boost in last month. Shanghai-based Mech-Mind Robotics Technologies Ltd. raised $30 million in Series B+ funding, and San Diego-based Levitate Technologies Inc. picked up $3.5 million in Series A funding. Shanghai-based exoskeleton firm ULS Robotics obtained an unspecified amount in seed funding.
Healthcare and Service Robot Startups Have Reason for Thanks
Rounding out the penultimate month of a challenging year is a collection of companies serving different sectors. Robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) developer MegaRobo raised $30 million in Series B funding. The Beijing-based startup is developing systems for light manufacturing, retail, and life sciences.
San Francisco-based Canvas, which is making a drywall robot for the construction industry, raised $19 million last month. London-based Giraffe360, which is developing a robotic camera for the real estate industry, raised $4.5 million.
Cambridge, Mass.-based Home Tech Innovation Inc., which is developing the Suvie kitchen robot, raised $8.1 million in equity funding, according to an SEC filing. Biomotum, an assistive device maker in Flagstaff, Ariz., raised $580,000 in November 2020.
Educational robotics startups Movia Robotics Inc. in Bristol, Conn., and SmartGurlz in Copenhagen raised $500,000 and $130,000, respectively. Austin, Texas-based Maidbot, which is developing “Rosie” the commercial housekeeping robot, raised an unspecified amount of Series B funding.
Related content: The Robot Report Podcast: Robotics investment trends; are Amazon drone deliveries coming?
Editors’ note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify them 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, analyze, 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.
Funding information is collected from a number of public and private sources. These include press releases from corporations and investment groups, corporate briefings, industry analysts, and association and industry publications, including PitchBook and Tracxn. 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.
About the author:
Eugene Demaitre is senior editor at The Robot Report and Robotics Business Review. Prior to working at WTWH Media, he was an editor at BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, TechTarget, and EH Media. Demaitre has participated in robotics webcasts, podcasts, and conferences worldwide. He has a master’s from the George Washington University and lives in the Boston area.