From less than 5 deals in 2011, M&A activity peaked in 2015 with nearly 15 robotics exits. Google dominated 2013 with its robotics acquisition spree.
In 2012, Amazon bought industrial robotics startup Kiva Systems for $775M. The following year, Google went on an acquisition spree, buying 7 robotics startups, including Boston Dynamics and Redwood Robotics. But last year was the busiest year for robotics M&A activity, with the industry seeing nearly 15 acquisitions of private companies (we excluded reverse mergers and unit acquisitions). This year there have been three M&A deals involving private robotics companies year-to-date.
Robotics acquisitions — and the growing demand for industrial automation units — were in the spotlight once again this year, as China-based Midea Group announced its acquisition of publicly-traded German industrial robot manufacturer Kuka AG (not included in the infographic below as it’s an acquisition of a public company).
In this light, we used the CB Insights database to track M&A activity in this space since 2011. Here are some of the other highlights:
- Around 50% of acquisitions were in industrial robotics: A majority of the acquisitions in the last 5 years have been in the industrial robotics sector. A notable deal was Teradyne’s acquisition of Denmark-based Universal Robotics in Q2’15. The startup, with subsidiaries in countries including China and Singapore, makes robotics arms for application in a variety of industries including electronics, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals.
- VC-backed acquisitions: US-based Segway, backed by investors including smart money VC Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, was acquired in 2013 by Summit Strategic Investments, and later acquired by China-based personal transportation startup Ninebot in 2015. Other VC-backed startups that were acquired include Aldebaran Robotics and VGo Communications.
- Canada-based acquirers: This year, Ontario-based medical device and robotics corporation, Bionik Laboratories, acquired Massachusetts-based Interactive Motion Technologies, a startup providing robotic technology for neuro-rehabilitation. Two other Ontario-based corporations, Great Rock Development and Ross Video, acquired autonomous robotic startup Cyberworks and robotic camera startup FX-Motion, respectively.
- Google dominates 2013: Google acquired 7 robotics startups in 2013 — including US Department of Defense grantee Boston Dynamics, Japan-based SCHAFT, and robotics motion control startup Bot & Dolly — as part of an ambitious plan to boost its robotics division. But Google has now put its Boston Dynamics unit for sale amid leadership changes and management issues, Bloomberg reported, listing Amazon and Toyota Research Institute as potential acquirers.
- Amazon makes key industrial robotics acquisition in 2012: The previously-mentioned Kiva robots are now used at Amazon’s warehouse and fulfillment center. Post the acquisition, “there has been a scramble of new providers [like Iam Robotics, Locus Robotics, and 6 River Systems] to fill the void left by Kiva’s technology,” Frank Tobe wrote in The Robot Report.
- Aldebaran rebrands as SoftBank Robotics: In 2012, Japan-based SoftBank Group bought a majority stake in Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics, the makers of NAO, Pepper, and Romeo robots. Aldebaran was rebranded earlier this year as SoftBank Robotics.
The timeline below shows major M&As (only first exits) in robotics since 2011. It excludes reverse mergers and unit acquisitions.
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