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December Robotics Fundings, Acquisitions & IPOs

Ten robotics-related companies got funded in December for a combined total of $94 million; down from $225 million in November. Four more got acquired. Over $2 billion was involved. No companies went public.

Fundings

  • Zipline, the San Francisco-based meds drone delivery service startup, raised another $25 million (in Nov) in its B round from Visionaire Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, Jerry Wang, Sequoia Capital and Subtraction Capital.
  • Netradyne, a San Diego AI developer of self-driving car systems, got $16 million (in June) for a Series A round. Reliance Industries, an India-based oil and natural gas developer and provider, was the sole funder.
  • Shenzhen Gowild Robotics, a Shenzhen AI and personal robot startup, raised $15 million in a Series A round. Their new mobile robot goes on sale in 2017 for around $860.
  • Mojio, a Canadian startup and provider of an open platform for connected cars, raised $15M in a two-part Series A round backed by Amazon Alexa Fund, Deutsche Telekom, BDC Capital, Relay Ventures, and BC Tech Fund. This new funding will further the global adoption of Mojio’s hardware-agnostic, cloud-based connected-car platform and enable hiring in Palo Alto, Prague and Vancouver.
  • Farmer’s Edge, a Canadian precision ag data consolidator/integrator with 320+ employees, raised a large but undisclosed amount of capital from Fairfax Financial. Part of the raise was used to pay off Kleiner Perkins for their exit.
  • Superflex, a Silicon Valley spin-off from SRI International, raised $9.6 million in a Series A round led by Japanese venture firm Global Brain with additional participation from seed investors Horizons Ventures and Root Ventures, and new investment from Sinovation Ventures. Superflex is developing a new category of lightweight, connected apparel, worn under any outfit, with integrated electric “muscles” that add intelligent wearable strength and natural mobility to muscles and joints, enabling everyone — from seniors to athletes, to chronically ill children — to achieve their full physical potential. Early next year Superflex will begin showing their initial product concept: a powered suit designed for those experiencing mobility difficulties later in life, or challenging work environments, to provide core support for a wearer's torso, hips and legs.

“Our origins are in robotics, our future is as an apparel company,” said Rich Mahoney, co-founder and CEO of Superflex, who previously served as the Director of Robotics at SRI International. “We’ll combine comfort and style with power assist for clothes that look good and help people feel good. Our powered clothing will give people the ability to move more freely; to gain strength and confidence; to be more injury-free in the workplace; to achieve higher levels of wellness and social engagement; to stay in the home longer; and to recover from injuries faster.”

  • Fastbrick Robotics, the Australian robotic brick-laying startup, raised $6 million from Hunter Hall Investment, an Australian VC.
  • UVify, a Korean drone startup, got $4 million (in September), from KCube Ventures and NCsoft.
  • Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, a Bozeman, Montana startup, has raised $3.5 million to build LiDAR systems that can help vehicles see more details about what’s in front of them than existing sensors do today. Next Frontier Capital led and was joined by Millennium Technology Value Partners. The company spun out of a research and development firm called Bridger Photonics that developed LiDAR systems for micron-precise laser cutting and welding, and then for military surveillance.
  • Raptor Maps, a Boston-area startup providing RaaS (Robotics as a Service), received an investment from both Airware’s Commercial Drone Fund and Kohli Ventures, for an undisclosed amount.

“The agriculture sector has been an early adopter of commercial drone technology, with several companies now offering products for monitoring crops,” explains John Kolaczynski, head of corporate development for the Commercial Drone Fund. “What impressed us with Raptor Maps’ product is that it collects a vast amount of data, distills it down, and correlates actions that a grower can take on a season-to-season basis -- something we haven’t seen in other drone products. We believe this is a great product for the agriculture sector that can drive increased yields and reduced costs for growers.”

Acquisitions

  • TDK Corporation acquired InvenSense, Inc. for a total acquisition price of $1.3 billion. InvenSense provides motion sensors, and is known for its six- and nine-axis motion sensors, which are used in some advanced consumer products and applications. Recently it has added inertial, environmental, microphone, and ultrasonic sensors to its product line.
  • Teledyne Technologies has agreed to buy E2V Technologies, a vision systems provider, for $780 million in cash. Teledyne's offer represents a 48% premium on E2V's closing price on the day of the announcement.
  • Advanced Integration Technology (“AIT”) has agreed to acquire KUKA Systems Aerospace North America (“KUKA Aero”), as recently reorganized, in a carve-out transaction conducted by KUKA Systems North America LLC to enable Kuka to satisfy demands from U.S. regulators in connection with Kuka's takeover by Chinese consumer products manufacturer Midea. Based in Clinton Township, MI, KUKA Aero is the market-leading integrator of new robotic technologies used in aerospace assembly and a provider of flexible automation solutions and engineering to the aerospace industry. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed however U.S. regulators subsequently okayed the overall acquisition of KUKA by Midea.
  • Liquid Robotics, the inventor of the Wave Glider, got acquired by Boeing for an undisclosed amount. Boeing's stated purpose for the acquisition is to grow its seabed-to-space autonomous capabilities. Liquid Robotics, which employs about 100 people in California and Hawaii, will become a subsidiary of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security.

IPOs & Equity Crowdfundings

Only four robotics-related companies went public in 2016; none occurred in December.

According to Erin Griffith of Fortune's Term Sheet, the biggest trend in late stage venture funding in 2016 was the retreat of hedge funds and mutual funds. Instead, 2016 was the year of the "non-tech incumbents," doing big tech startup acquisitions. (Think Intelligrated-Honeywell, GM-Cruise, Midea-KUKA). It was the year of corporate makeovers, a drive to find new avenues in the face of anemic growth. Companies are reinventing themselves by acquiring talent, technology and growth businesses.

Nevertheless, everyone that's ever invested in tech is praying 2017 will be the year of IPOs.

 

Contributed by ROBO Global co-founder Frank Tobe, Editor & Publisher of The Robot Report

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