Intel Capital was the most active CVC in robotics, and has backed companies including Yuneec, Persimmon Technologies, Ninebot, and Savioke.
Corporate-backed deals to robotics startups increased dramatically in 2015 to 35+ deals, from fewer than 10 the previous year. Some of the notable deals last year included an $80M round raised by Xiaomi-backed Ninebot, a $50M Series C round raised by Qualcomm Ventures-backed 3D Robotics, and a $25M Series A round raised by Samsung Ventures-backed social robot Jibo. There have been more than 25 corporate-backed deals so far this year, as of 9/23/2016.
We used the CB Insights Business Social Graph, which visualizes overlapping relationships between investors/acquirers and target companies, to analyze the investment activity of the most active corporates and corporate venture capital groups in the space. The list includes corporates that have either been active acquirers, or have backed at least 2 robotics startups through their venture capital arms since 2012.
- ABB and ABB Technology Ventures
- Google and Google Ventures
- Intel and Intel Capital
- GE Ventures
- Qualcomm and Qualcomm Ventures
- Robert Bosch Venture Capital
- Foxconn Technology Company
- Omron Ventures
- Flextronics International
- Mitsubishi UFJ Capital
- Mitsubishi UFG Capital and Omron Ventures: The corporate venture capital arms of Japan-based Mitsubishi and electronics company Omron both invested in two Japan-based industrial robotics startups: pick-and-place robot manufacturer LifeRobotics and robotic vision startup 3D MEDiA.
- Google Ventures and Intel Capital backed California-based Savioke, which has developed a service robot called Relay for the hospitality industry. The company raised $15M in a Series A in Q1’16 which included investments from EDBI, Intel Capital, and Northern Light Venture Capital.
- ABB Technology Ventures and Intel Capital: The venture arm of Swiss power and automation tech firm ABB announced that it has invested $150M in industrial tech and energy companies since 2010. In 2014, ABB Technology Ventures participated in a $8M round raised by Persimmon Technologies, which was previously backed by Intel Capital. Persimmon manufactures robots for markets including semiconductor and solar.
Other investment & acquisition highlights:
- Intel: Intel has carved out a big presence in the drones sector in recent months. In Q1’16, Intel acquired Germany-based drones company Ascending Technologies and integrated the autopilot algorithms developed by Ascending Technologies into its own RealSense platform — a camera to improve a drone’s navigation and collision avoidance technologies. Intel also recently showcased a drone, Typhoon H, developed by China-based drone manufacturer Yuneec; it uses Intel’s RealSense camera. Intel Capital had previously invested $60M in the company. In addition to the 4 investments shown in the graph above, Intel Capital has also backed 2 drone software platforms (not included in the business social graph, which excludes software-only drone platforms): Airware and PrecisionHawk.
- GE Ventures backed Sarcos in Q3’16 in a $10.5M round. Sarcos develops robots for “unstructured and unpredictable environments.” In 2015, the CVC backed Rethink Robotics, an industrial robotics company, and Clearpath Robotics, which develops robots for sectors including defense, agriculture, and research.
- Foxconn, which announced recently that it replaced 60,000 of its workers with robots, made two consumer robotics investments: It participated in a $10M Series B round raised by China-based A.I. Nemo in 2015, and backed cloud robotics startup CloudMinds in a $30M Series A round this year.
- Qualcomm: The Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, which launched last year and shut down within a couple of months, seed-funded 10 robotics startups, including Muse Robotics, Solenica, Skysense, and ReachRobotics. Additionally, Qualcomm Ventures backed drones startups Flirtey, 3D Robotics and RedZone Robotics. In Q1’16, the chip manufacturer introduced Snapdragon Flight—a system-on-chip platform for drone development.
- Robert Bosch Venture Capital, which has invested in sectors including healthcare, energy, and automation, backed household robotics startups Robart and Zimplistic Inventions. In 2010, the VC had also backed healthcare logistics startup Aethon.
- Exits: There was a flurry of M&A activity in the industrial robotics sector, and the most recent exit was ABB’s acquisition of Sweden-based SVIA. In 2013, Google made a series of acquisitions —including Boston Dynamics, SCHAFT, and Bot & Dolly – to boost its robotics department, making it the most active acquirer of private robotics companies. In 2014, Google also acquired solar-powered drones manufacturer Titan Aerospace.