Every robotics company should have what Seegrid (founded in 2003) has in spades: a co-founder like Hans Moravec who has a patent portfolio as thick as a telephone book; and a loyal and generous patron investor like Giant Eagle that has ponied up, according to CrunchBase, over $29 million to its favorite vision-guided vehicle (VGV) maker, Seegrid.
Seegrid just scored another $12 million, with an additional $13 million “on an as-needed basis”. Jeff Christensen, vice president of products and services said some of the new funding came from existing shareholders as well, but declined to identify them.
All in all, not a bad haul for an old-line VGA vendor that’s a year or so removed from exiting bankruptcy that had sense enough to hire Jim Rock as CEO, who quickly revamped the 13-year-old pioneer of automated guided vehicles, transforming it from old-line hardware shop into basically a new software company.
See related: Seegrid’s IP Goldmine: Logistics, and Then Some
“Seegrid equips forklifts and other industrial vehicles with cameras and computers that enable them to move safely to and from loading docks, warehouses, production lines and other industrial settings.”
In addition to a make-over, Rock and his new crew, in turn, doubled sales in 2015 from 2014’s $6.3 million. “Seegrid is poised to repeat its 100-percent revenue growth from last year,” said Rock.
“We’ve picked up 10 new customers,” enthuses Rock. “Big customers: one a global ecommerce retailer, another one of the largest automotive companies in the world.” Seegrid’s customers include Whirlpool, Daimler, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, and its main investor Giant Eagle (Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain).
Founded in 2003 by the robot research duo of Hans Morevac and Scott Friedman from the Robotics Institute at nearby Carnegie Mellon University, Seegrid’s mission was and still is to bring vision-guided technology to the material handling industry; technology that was based on the work of Morevac and his many patents.
Christensen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that some of the new funding will be used to explore ways to apply the same technology to other vehicles, such as autonomous cars.
San Francisco-based Uber, with an R&D facility nearby in Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill section, will soon begin offering rides in self-driving Volvo sedans on the streets of Pittsburgh.
With Uber in mind, Christensen feels that for Seegrid’s technology, “There’s a real opportunity for us to explore autonomous cars.”
The future may soon witness bags of Giant Eagle groceries making their way to customer homes via Uber…or maybe even courtesy of Seegrid.