Robotics investments recap: August 2020

Pudu Robotics raises Series B+ financing for indoor delivery robots august 2020

Pudu Robotics raised funding in August 2020. Source: Pudu

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has continued, businesses around the world have found ways to get back to work despite summer doldrums. Because of the nature of research and development, as well as the potential benefits of social distancing and augmenting worker productivity, robotics transactions continued apace in August 2020. Autonomous vehicle technologies, industrial automation for manufacturing, and healthcare systems again led funding last month.

In August 2020, The Robot Report tracked 50 transactions worth a total of $2.3 billion (U.S.). In comparison, there were 47 deals worth about $1.9 billion in July 2020, and 43 transactions worth $2 billion in August 2019. As with last month, there was not a significant change year over year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite a 33% decline in global venture funding last month, according to Crunchbase, supply chain automation, aerial drones, and agricultural and service robot companies also received funding in August 2020. Chinese industrial investment increased to $7.63 billion in the second quarter, said GlobalData.

Investors remain bullish, even if global markets have contracted 18% for robotics, 8% for machine vision, and 6% for motion control in the past year, reported the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and ITR Economics. A3 expressed optimism for the latter half of 2020.

A3 markets August 2020

Source: A3

Of this past month’s reported transactions, there were 43 investments, compared with 42 last month and a few more than 38 a year ago. In Q2, technology deals totaled $17.6 billion, according to GlobalDeals.

Related content: June 2020 transactions and top 10 robotics deals from the first half of the year; The Robot Report Podcast: First-half 2020 highlights

The table below lists robotics fundings from the past month in millions of U.S. dollars where figures were available:

Robotics investments, August 2020

Company Amt. (M$) Type Investor, partner Date Technology
Aero Enterprise Series A Buss Group Aug. 20 drone inspection
AIDriving 14/41 Series C SBI Group Aug. 13 driver assistance
Angstrong Series A Aug. 15 sensors
Attabotics Inc. 50 Series C Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan Board Aug. 18 automated storage and retrieval
Blue Ocean Robotics ApS 19.25 investment Aug. 1 development
Changsha Intelligent Driving Institute 14.5 Series A Sanze Venture Capital Aug. 20 autonomous vehicles
Cimcorp investment Alimerka Aug. 25 industrial automation
Curve Intelligent Equipment Series A Qianhai Ark Asset Management Aug. 21 spraying, painting robots
Drone Defence 0.652 seed Scientel Solutions Aug. 18 drone defense
DroneShield post-IPO Aug. 6 drone defense
Easy Aerial 6.15 Series A Aug. 25 aerial drones
Fox Robotics 9 Series A Menlo Ventures Aug. 25 self-driving forklifts
HachiBot pre-A Northern Light Venture Capital Aug. 21 quadruped social robot
HoloMatic Series A NavInfo Aug. 27 autonomous vehicles
Hoverfly 10.7 Series B Aug. 17 tethered drones
Independent Robotics seed Innovobot Aug. 5 underwater robot
Ispace Inc. 28 Series B IF SPV 1st Investment Partnership Aug. 20 lunar lander
LightWare LiDAR 1.5 seed Sanari Capital Aug. 18 sensors
Luxelare 0.338 seed Aug. 13 drones and software
Matrixtime Robotics 15.8 Series A Hunan High-tech Venture Capital Aug. 18 AI, machine vision
Milebot Series A Lenovo Venture Capital Aug. 26 exoskeletons
NextStep Robotics 0.5 investment Maryland Momentum Fund, Abell Foundation Aug. 4 assistive device
OpenTrons Labworks Inc. 20.6 Series A Aug. 25 laboratory automation
Orca Technologies 1.4 Series A Turing AI Institute Aug. 5 marine robots
Procept BioRobotics 77 Series C Aug. 14 robotic surgery
Pudu Technology Inc. 14.5 Series B Sequoia Capital China Aug. 20 moble robots
Raptor Maps 5 Series C Blue Bear Capital, Data Point Capital, Buoyant Ventures Aug. 26 drone data
Reliable Robotics Corp. 33.5 investment Lightspeed Ventures, Eclipse Partnrs Aug. 27 autonomous aircraft
ROEQ investment VakstPartner Kapital Aug. 11 mobile robot accessories
Rokae 14.4 Series C Xiang He Capital Aug. 19 robotic arms
Root AI 7.2 seed PJC Aug. 13 harvesting robot
Shanghai SK Automation Technology 105 IPO STAR Market Aug. 11 industrial automation
Shenzhen ExcelLand Technology Co. investment Huazhu Group, BTG Homeinns Hotels Group Aug. 18 hospitality robots
StreetLight Data Inc. 15 Series D Macquarie Capital, Actvate Capital Aug. 6 mobile data analytics
Syntiant Corp. 35 Series C M12, Applied Ventures LLC Aug. 4 AI edge processing
Tier IV 92.3 Series B Sompo Holdings Aug. 27 autonomous vehicles
Tinamu Labs 1.21 seed Alpana Ventures Aug. 25 drone controller
Vicarious Surgical 13.2 investment E15 Capital Aug. 7 surgical robots
WAKU Robotics 1.18 investment Plug and Play, TGFS Aug. 12 mobile robots
Wootzano debt HSBC Aug. 20 sensors
Xiaopeng Motors Technology Co. 1500 IPO Aug. 21 autonomous vehicles
XTEK Ltd. 12 post-IPO Aug. 10 drones
XYZ Robotics Inc. 20 Series A+ Source Code Capital Aug. 24 piece picking

There were seven robotics mergers and acquisitions worth about $180 million in August 2020, compared with six acquisitions (with no amounts disclosed) in July and six worth $1.3 billion in 2019.

Robotics acquisitions, August 2020

Company Amt. (M$) Acquirer, partner Date Technology
Aeolus Robotics Corp. 10 GigaMedia Ltd. Aug. 31 AI-enabled service robots
Ascent Vision Technologies LLC CACI International Inc. Aug. 12 gimbal systems
Finetune Clobotics Aug. 18 drone turbine monitoring
Jetbrain Solaris Aug. 4 mobile robots
Luminar Technologies Inc. 170 Gores Metropoulos Inc. Aug. 24 lidar hardware, software
Solution Net Systems Architect Equity Aug. 5 industrial automation
Voxtel Inc. Allegro MicroSystems Aug. 31 lidar hardware, software

August 2020 shines for autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicle companies raised more than $1.6 billion in August 2020. The largest single transaction of the month was the $1.5 billion initial public offering (IPO) for Xiaopeng Motors Technology Co. Guangzhou, China-based Xpeng raised $500 million in Series C funding in July and plans to use its funding to expand research and development.


Some transportation transactions in August 2020 involved partnerships. Luminar Technologies Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., conducted a reverse merger with Gores Metropoulos Inc. and raised $170 million for its “full stack” of software for autonomous trucks and passenger vehicles. Insurer Sompo Holdings acquired an 18% stake worth $92 million in Nagoya, Japan-based self-driving software developer Tier IV.

Bridging the gap between drones and autonomous vehicles, Mountain View, Calif.-based Reliable Robotics Corp. emerged from “stealth mode” and raised $33.5 million for fully autonomous aircraft.

Back on the ground, San Francisco-based StreetLight Data Inc. obtained $15 million in Series D funding for smart-city data analytics meant to work with autonomous vehicles. Changsha Intelligent Driving Institute in China received Series D funding of $14.5 million for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) for trucks.

Shenzhen, China-based AIDriving’s Series C round raised $14.41 million as it develops algorithms for ADAS and artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) systems.

Beijing-based HoloMatic got an unspecified amount in Series A+ funding led by NavInfo as it works on autonomous systems for driving and parking. Also in August 2020, Allegro MicroSystems acquired Voxtel Inc., a Beaverton, Ore.-based company that makes lidar software and hardware for ADAS.

Manufacturing, supply chain robots raise more money

In August 2020, robotics suppliers to manufacturers raised more than $119 million, and supply chain automation companies raised $80 million. Shanghai SK Automation Technology, which serves automakers, raised $105 million in its IPO on the STAR Market.

SK Automation

Source: SK Automation

Beijing-based robotic arm maker Rokae raised $14.4 million in Series C funding, and Curve Intelligent Equipment, a spraying and painting robot provider also in Beijing, raised an unspecified Series A.

On the logistics and warehousing side, Calgary, Alberta-based Attabotics Inc. raised $50 million in Series C funding for its automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). Allston, Mass.-based XYZ Robotics Inc., which has developed vision systems and end effectors for piece picking, received $20 million in Series A+ funding.

Fox Robotics, a maker of self-driving forklifts in Austin, Texas, had a Series A round of $9 million. Meanwhile, WAKU Robotics, a mobile robot maker in Dresden, Germany, raised $1.18 million.

Spanish grocery retailer Alimerka invested an unspecified amount in automation and support from Ulvilaa, Finland-based Cimcorp. Funen, Denmark-based ROEQ, which provides accessories for robots such as those from Mobile Industrial Robots ApS, raised an unspecified amount in August 2020.

Architect Equity acquired a majority share of Solution Net Systems, a logistics automation firm in Quakertown, Pa.

Healthcare systems find funding

A variety of healthcare robotics companies raised more than $111 million in August 2020, led by the $77 million Series C round for Procept BioRobotics in Redwood Shores, Calif. It has developed “aquablation” therapy for enlarged prostates.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based laboratory automation provider OpenTrons Labworks Inc. raised $20.6 million in Series A funding last month. Boston-based Vicarious Surgical received $13.2 million as it continues working to commercialize virtual reality and robotics systems.

Vicarious Surgical granted FDA Breakthrough Device Designation, names Scott Huennekens to board

Source: Vicarious Surgical

Baltimore-based NextStep Robotics raised $500,000 for its wearable device, which is designed to assist patients while walking. Also in wearables, Shenzhen-based Milebot raised an unspecified Series A round as it develops exoskeletons.

Also in August 2020, Solaris Disinfection Inc. acquired Jetbrain Robotics for an unspecified amount. Gurgaon, India-based Jetbrain makes mobile robots for delivering supplies in hospitals that will join Solaris’ disinfection robot portfolio. Capsa Healthcare acquired Dutch pharmacy automation provider RoboPharma. No purchase price was specified.

Components and software enable robots and AI

To be commercially successful, robotic and artificial intelligence systems need reliable sensors, processors, and motors. Component makers raised $52.3 million in August 2020. Irvine, Calif.-based Syntiant Corp. raised $35 million in Series C funding for AI edge processing.

Syntiant August 2020

The Syntiant NDP100 is 1.8 x 1.4 mm and consumes only 140uW when processing. Source: Syntiant

Shanghai-based Matrixtiime Robotics raised $15.8 million in Series A funding for machine vision software and industrial AI.

LightWare LiDAR in Gauteng, South Africa, collected seed funding of $1.5 million, and Angstrong in Shenzhen raised an unspecified Series A. Durham, U.K.-based Wootzano, which makes “electronic skin” sensors for robots, obtained debt financing from HSBC.

CACI International Inc. acquired Ascent Vision Technologies LLC, a Belgrade, Mont.-based provider of systems for mounting cameras on drones or robots.

Robots for air, water, and space get summer takeoff

As summer wound down in the Northern Hemisphere, investors supported drones for agriculture, energy and utilities, and security applications. Boston-based Root AI, which is working on the Virgo robotic harvester, raised $7.2 million in seed funding.


Security drones received more than $37 million in August 2020, led by Canberra, Australia-based XTEK Ltd., which raised $12 million. Orlando, Fla.-based Hoverfly raised $10.7 million in Series B funding for its tethered drones, and Easy Aerial in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised Series A funding of $6.15 million for its autonomous drones.

Drone countermeasures also received investment, with Herndon, Va.-based Drone Shield getting $7.5 million in post-IPO funding, and Doncaster, U.K.-based Drone Defence raising $652,000 in seed funding.

In power, Somerville, Mass.-based Raptor Maps, which is building analytics software for the solar industry, secured $5 million in Series C funding. Clobotics acquired Danish turbine monitoring provider Finetune for an unspecified amount.

Also in energy, Montreal-based Independent Robotics raised unnamed seed funding for its robots for underwater exploration, and San Clemente, Calif.-based marine robotics company Orca Technologies got $1.4 million in Series A funding.

Tinamu Labs in Zurich received seed funding of $1.21 million as it develops a drone controller for infrastructure inspection in GPS-denied environments. Aero Enterprise in Linz, Austria, got unspecified Series A funding for its inspection drones.

Luxelare, an agricultural drone and software firm in Los Mochis, Mexico, raised $338,000 in seed funding to qualify for crowdfunding.

Service robots close out August 2020

Finally, service robot companies rounded out summer 2020 transactions. “Venture factory” Blue Ocean Robotics ApS, whose spinoffs include disinfection robot maker UVD Robots, raised $19.25 million. Odense, Denmark-based Blue Ocean also completed its acquisition of the assets of Suitable Technologies, provider of the Beam telepresence robot.

Shenzhen-based Pudu Technology Inc., which makes mobile robots for restaurants and hospitals, raised Series B+ financing of close to $15 million, just a month after raising a similar amount. GigaMedia Ltd. acquired San Francisco-based service robot firm Aeolus Robotics Corp. for $10 million.

Beijing-based HachiBot raised unspecified pre-Series A funding for its quadruped social robot, while Shenzhen ExcelLand Technology Co. received unspecified funding for its hospitality robots.



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.

Verification
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.

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