Over the last year and a half, investments in robotics startups have risen substantially. Private companies in the sector, including drone companies, raised more than 120 equity deals globally in 2015, up from fewer than 50 in 2013. And so far this year (through 9/22/16), there have already been over 100 deals to private robotics companies.
Industrial robots continue to be an important category within robotics, with recent deals to several warehouse and manufacturing-focused robotics startups, including Canvas Technology, Getting Robotika, and Grabit. At the same time, the consumer and medical robotics sectors are also starting to see a lot of activity, with some especially big funding rounds this quarter. In Q3’16, humanoid robotics startup UBTECH joined the Unicorn Club, after raising a $100M mega-round; smart money VC CRV backed education robot Wonder Workshop; and Lux Capital backed Auris Surgical Robots in a $49M growth equity round, along with Mithril Capital Management.
We used our database to identify select VC-backed robotics startups, and classified them into different categories in our periodic table. All the startups on the list have raised an equity funding round since January 2014. We also included major exits in robotics since 2012 and top VC investors in the space. This Periodic Table is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in this space.
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A few investment highlights:
- Social: Startups here are building consumer-focused companion and entertainment robots. The most well-funded startup on this list is Anki, with $157M in equity funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Two Sigma Ventures, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. China-based humanoid robotics startup UBTECH raised a $100M Series B round in Q3’16 and joined the Unicorn Club with a $1B valuation. More recently, UK-based Olly, which focused on building a personal, interactive robot, raised $10M in Series A funding from Alliance Capital Ventures and China-based Lightning Capital. Social robots differ from service robots (listed below), which perform household chores.
- Bionics/Rehab: Startups in this sector include those building exoskeletons, a type of body armor that aids in movement, as well as aiding patients with rehabilitation services. One of the more well-funded companies is California-based AlterG, which has raised over $35M in equity funding so far from investors including Oxford Finance, Silicon Valley Bank, and Versant Ventures, and has developed a wearable bionic leg.
- Surgical: This category includes startups building robotics surgery-assistance technology. Auris Surgical Robots is one of the most well-funded robotics companies, having raised over $230M in growth equity from investors including Lux Capital, Highland Capital Partners, and Mithril Capital Management. This year, they also made a public-to-private acquisition of Hansen Medical, a medical robotics startup that was previously funded by VCs including Skyline Ventures, Prospect Venture Partners, and De Novo Ventures.
- Industrial: Our industrial robotics category includes manufacturing, warehouse, packaging, sorting, inspection, and quality testing robotics. Industrial robotics is the most crowded category, as we mentioned in our market map of 80+ robotics startups. Pittsburgh-based Seegrid raised a $14M round this year, followed by $12M corporate minority round from Pittsburgh-based supermarket Giant Eagle. Other startups that raised equity funds this year include Japan-based Life Robotics and China-based Quotient Kinematics Machine.
- Drones/UAVs: This category includes drones for inspection and delivery. Some of the most well-funded drone startups are 3D Robotics, which built the site scanning drone Solo for site inspections, and China-based DJI Innovations, which caters to industries including agriculture and filmmaking.
- Education: Robots in this category are focused on teaching children how to code. California-based Wonder Workshop raised $20M in Series B in Q3’16 from VCs including CRV, Learn Capital, and Madrona Venture Group. With $40M in equity funding, it is the most well-funded educational robotics startup, with backing from VCs from China (TCL Capital) and Hong Kong (Bright Success Capital) as well.
- Service (Consumer): Startups here include those developing consumer-focused service robots that perform household chores like cleaning and cooking. It also includes China-based personal transportation robot Ninebot (which acquired US-based Segway), and robotic infant seat maker 4Moms (which raised over $40M in Series F in Q3’14 from investors including Bain Capital Ventures and Castanea Partners).
- Service (Medical): This category includes hospital cleaning robot Xenex Disinfection Services, and Pennsylvania-based Aethon, which has developed a transportation robot for hospitals.
- Service (Other): This category includes Intel Capital-backed Savioke, which has developed a service robot for the hospitality industry; robotic restaurant Spyce Kitchen, which raised $2.6M this year from Rough Draft Ventures; and ground delivery robot Marble, which was seed-funded this year by Eclipse Ventures, Lemnos Labs and Promus Ventures.
- Security: Rapyuta Robotics is building a “multi-robotic system” with machines that can interact with each other to prevent crime. It is backed by corporate venture capital group Fuji Startup Ventures in Japan, and recently raised $10M in Series A from Japan-based asset management firm SBI Investment. Another startup, California-based Knightscope, raised $5M in Series B funding in Q4’15.
- VC-backed exits: This category only includes 1st exits since 2012. Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012. The same year, the SoftBank Group acquired a majority stake in France’s Aldebaran Robotics. A detailed timeline of major robotics M&A can be found here.
- Most active VCs: The most active VC in robotics since 2012 has been High-Tech Gruenderfonds. The Germany-based VC has backed more than 5 unique companies during this period, including rehabilitation robot Reactive Robotics and industrial robots REVOBOTIK and Bionic Robotics. Eclipse Ventures is the 2nd most active VC on our list, having backed companies like Modbot, Rise Robotics, and Clearpath Robotics.
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