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November Robotics Fundings, Acquisitions, IPOs and Failures

Seventeen robotics-related companies got funded for a combined total of over $225 million. Four more got acquired. Three went public to raise funds. And one failed.

Fundings:

  • Seven Dreamers Labs raised around $60 million in a Series B round that included Panasonic, SBI Investment, and Daiwa House. This Japanese startup has a new laundry folding robot (Laundroid) that was a hit at CES and CEATEC Japan.
  • Zoox, a secretive Silicon Valley startup working to build its own self-driving cars, has quietly raised $50 million (in October) in a Series A round led by Composite Capital Management, a Hong Kong-based hedge fund.

“At Zoox what we’re creating...is not a self-driving car any more than the automobile is a horseless carriage. We’re not building a robo-taxi service; we’re actually creating an advanced mobility service,” said founder Tim Kentley-Klay in October. Earlier, in May, it was disclosed that Zoox would be deploying a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles by 2020 for ride-sharing services like those Uber offers.

  • Shenzhen FLYPRO Aerospace Tech, a Chinese startup, got around $23 million in a B round (in March) from Shenzhen Capital Group. FLYPRO produces two types of quadcopters: a racing drone and a camera drone.
  • Farmers Edge, a Canadian precision ag data consolidator/integrator startup, has raised another $18.3 million - the 3rd raise in 2016. This time the round was led by Sustainable Dev Tech Canada (SDTC) with $6.1 and the remaining $12.2 coming from unidentified sources and existing partners. These new funds are earmarked to help the company reduce fertilizer, water and pesticide in their next generation of h/w, s/w and agronomic decision support systems.
  • SimToo, a Shenzhen-based UAS startup, raised around $13.6 million in a Series B round led by Renmin Group, Duoniu Media, Lanhai Ark and Hanjing Family Office, all Chinese VCs. SimToo makes a foldable follow-me hands free camera quadcopter called a Dragonfly. Priced at $443, Dragonfly has sold over 20,000 units via online and offline channels and the company expects to realize a profit this year.
  • Jibo, the much delayed social robot developed by MIT’s Cynthia Braezeal, raised $13.1 million and are continuing the search for an additional $15 million. Jibo has raised $65.4 million thus far. Ther most recent announcement delayed shipments until November for people willing to be Beta testers and didn’t say when fully functioning Jibos will ship to those early buyers that don’t want to Beta test (I am one of these).
  • Movendo Technology, an Italian startup based in Genoa, raised around $11 million to develop a specialized robotic rehabilitation platform. Sergio Dompé was the primary investor. The new company will develop, manufacture and market medical devices at a site in Genoa, near IIT, The Institute of Italian Technology, where the first product (Hunova) will be developed, assembled and then introduced to European and US markets.
  • GreenValley International, renamed from True Reality Geospatial, a provider of satellite and drone data and analytics, raised $10 million in a Series A round in April led by Northern Light Ventures and including SF Investments.
  • Rapyuta Robotics, a Swiss and Japanese A.I. startup and spin-off from Zurich's ETH, got $10 million in a Series A round in September. Rapyuta is developing and building multi-robotic systems for the security market.
  • LifeRobotics, a Tokyo-based startup developing a narrow one-armed co-bot, raised $9 million in a Series B funding from Global Brain, Mitsui Fudosan, Koden Holdings, Mizuho Capital and Golden Asia Fund. Funds will be used to scale up for mass production of the co-robot and improving services for customers. LifeRobotics raised $4.4 million earlier this year.
  • Airobotics, an Israeli UAS startup (not to be confused with AI-Robotics, a Beijing startup), received an additional $6 million in a combined Series A and B round concluded in June. Backers included BlueRun Ventures, CRV, UpWest Lab as well as private individuals such as Noam Bardin, the CEO of Waze, and Richard Wooldridge, Google ATAP’s COO. Airobotics provides an on-site and on-demand automated drone platform that allows companies to run missions to monitor, inspect, survey and secure large industrial facilities and other strategic sites via aerial data collection, processing, and analysis. The company currently has a team of 70 people.
  • ecoRobotix, a Swiss ag startup with a sensor-laden solar-powered mobile robot, raised $2.97 million led by 4FO Ventures and Investiere.ch, a platform for online investment, and Business Angels Switzerland.

"In creating this innovative working tool, adapted to the needs of farmers for whom soil conservation is a priority, we aim to demonstrate that high-tech has a place in the agriculture of tomorrow, alongside traditional inherited wisdom. This is not intended to devalue human labour, but makes it less taxing and less hazardous to health, while being sustainable in both ecological and economic terms," said Steve Tanner, co-founder of ecoRobotix.

  • Varden Labs, a SF self-driving car startup and Y Combinator Winter participant, raised $2.2 million in a seed round in March led by Maven Ventures and included additional money from Funders Club.
  • Sunflower Labs, a Silicon Valley startup raised $2.1 million in a seed funding round led by General Catalyst and other unknown funders. Sunflower is designing home security sensors, apps and products including a smart drone. Its sensor-laden smart lights are solar-powered, and can detect motion, sounds and vibrations while illuminating the perimeter of a property or its walkways. The lights communicate with a camera-equipped quadcopter. Whenever there’s uncommon activity identified by the smart lights, the quadcopter flies to where the action is, to capture video and transmit it to the cloud where clients get notifications via a mobile app when there’s activity detected on their property. The app learns, over time, what kind of commotion is routine and which is abnormal.
  • Tend.ai, an Oregon startup providing cloud software robots tending multiple 3D printers, raised $2 million in seed funding from True Ventures, a SV early stage VC.
  • AI-Robotics, a Beijing medical robotics and exoskeleton startup (not to be confused with Israeli startup Airobotics), got $1.8 million in a seed round.
  • Nauto, a SV self-driving car vision systems startup, received an undisclosed amount in additional Series A funding from BMW, Toyota and the insurance company Allianz. Nauto’s technology combines real-times sensors, forward-looking cameras and cabin-view cameras to understand the driving context in real-time. Nauto is selling their system and its predictive capabilities to vehicle fleet managers and insurance companies.

Acquisitions:

  • Tesla is acquiring Germany’s Grohmann Engineering, an integrator of factory systems technology including robotics. Tesla will turn Grohmann into a new subdivision dedicated to helping Tesla increase the automation and effectiveness of its manufacturing process. Although no disclosure was made regarding how or how much was paid, Grohmann’s 2015 revenue was $125 million and they employ around 800 people in facilities in Germany, the US and China.

“This will really be our first acquisition of significance in our whole history,” explained Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk on a call discussing the news, noting that Grohmann was their “first choice” in terms of bringing on expertise to help it “build the machines that build the machine.”

  • Prox Dynamics, an Oslo, Norway, developer, manufacturer, and distributor of aerial sensors and UAS that are small and light, for covert surveillance systems, was acquired by FLIR Systems for $134 million.

"This acquisition adds a unique unmanned aerial systems capability to our portfolio. The Prox Dynamics team has created a highly-differentiated solution, incorporating our Lepton sensor, for advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that fits well with our vision for growth for our Surveillance segment," said Andy Teich, President and CEO of FLIR.

  • RoboRobo, a Korean educational robotics kit and course provider startup, was acquired by Shenzhen-based Shengtong Printing for $62 million in cash and stock. RoboRobo raised a small angel investment from Zhen Fund in 2014 and received $10 million from New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. last year. The company was set up in 2012 in Beijing as the general agent in China for South-Korean based educational robot courses and tool developer Roborobo. Now, it operates 16 schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, and other cities.
  • Jorgensen Engineering, an Odense, Denmark integrator, has sold to Zano, a Swedish holding company (and not to be confused with UK Torquing Group's Zano, which recently failed) for $35 million. Jorgensen had annual sales of $40 million. Jorgensen will be folded into Zano’s Industrial Solutions unit which supplies customer-specific automation solutions for the food and medical technology industries, in addition to packaging machines for beverage and other food packaging.

IPOs and equity crowdfundings:

  • Moley Robotics, the UK two-armed cooking robot that’s received so much publicity, has achieved 92% of it’s £1 million (around $1.25 million) equity crowdfunding round. Sadly U.S. citizens can’t participate. Investors get 2.6% of equity for their £1M.
  • Myomo, a Cambridge, MA medical robotics startup, is using the new Reg-A crowdfunding method to $50 MILLION for their new MYO stock to be listed on the NYSE MKT. Myomo has designed and developed a myoelectric upper limb orthosis that supports weak or deformed arms. Their device helps users regain the ability to perform ADLs (activities of daily living) using EMG signals to drive small motors that allow users to extend/flex elbows and open/close thumb and fingers. The IPO is expected to finalize in January 2017 and the proceeds will be used to fund Myomo's sales and marketing expansion, product development, repayment of debt and for working capital and other general corporate purposes.
  • ZMP, a Tokyo-based service robotics provider that has partnered with DeNa to develop a fleet of robot taxis (and started a company by that name) in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, has filed for a IPO of approximately $82 million and be traded on the TYO Mothers Market exchange under the symbol 7316. funds would be used for research and development to strengthen its self-driving technology as well as fund affiliate Robot Taxi. ZMP will begin trading December 19.

Failures:

  • Zano from Torquing Group - a Kickstarter star and failure. Fascinating in-depth study of what happened and why here.

 

 

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

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