Due to the popularity of Hizook's list of VC Funding for Robotics in 2011, we figured folks would be curious how 2012 fared in comparison.... and the news is promising! By our tally, robotics companies raised ~$190 Million (breakdown below) in VC funding in 2012 -- approximately the same amount as in 2011, though it'll probably be more once folks speak up in the comments (please do!). Perhaps more exciting, 2012 was a great year for robotics as an industry: we saw the creation of Grishin Robotics, the first VC fund dedicated exclusively to robotics; several robotics companies were acquired for impressively-high valuations (Kiva for $775 Million, Evolution for $74 Million, and Aldebaran for $100 Million); innumerable crowd-funded robotics campaigns launched new companies; and robotics-specific grants to academia seemed to be on the up (eg. NSF NRI and Darpa M3, ARM, Humanoid programs).
Here's our tally for VC funding in robotics for 2012. I'm sure this list is not exhaustive, so be sure to let us know in the comments if we forgot anyone.
We've opted to leave off any funding that was under $1 Million. This meant that we did not count things like VGo Communications ($900k), Double Robotics ($400k between YCombinator, YCVC, and Grishin), RobotAppStore.com ($250k), Black-I Robotics ($170k), and innumerable crowd-funded companies.
This one is a bit hard to parse due to various news sources reporting slightly different things during 2012... To us, it seems MedRobotics raised a total of $33.6 Million in equity as part of a Series D that also included the conversion of old notes (debt) to equity -- and that they raised (and announced) money incrementally as part of the Series D. According to our tally from 2011, MedRobotics also raised $11.7 Million in Series C funding, as well as an additional purported $6.4 million in December 2011. Heh, they just seem to be raising large rounds constantly and/or the financial press just has no idea what's actually going on (it's certainly confusing to us). In any case, MedRobotics is the company that produces the cardioARM robotic probe, which enables surgeries with minimal or no incisions. The probe is flexible and moves within any 3-D space without needing structural support.
Boston-based Rethink Robotics is redefining robotic manufacturing with the launch of Baxter: a $22,000 dual-arm, human-scale robot with compliant joints -- whose launch was covered by Hizook (along with an interview with Rethink CEO Rod Brooks). This modern manufacturing robot is designed to be simple to integrate into existing manufacturing centers at an affordable price. Baxter earned major accolades as one of Time magazine's top inventions of 2012. It was also featured on 60 Minutes, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sources. In 2012, they raised $30 million in Series C funding.
iWalk successfully closed a $17 Million Series D round in September 2012 led by Glide Healthcare partners. CEO Tim McCarthy says the round will help “grow the organization to better support the global demand for our next generation” of products. The company’s vision is to build personal bionics for rehabilitation and augmentation. The company was started in 2006 by MIT media lab professor Hugh Herr. Since then, the company has received more than $50 million in funding.
Mazor Robotics' flagship product, Renaissance, is a robotic system that provides surgical guidance for spinal procedures. In August, the company secured $7.5 million in funding from investors including Oracle Investment Management. Additionally, the company will earn another $7.5 million investment from a group of investors over the next 3 years. We'll just count that as $15 Million in total funding.
Neato raised $12.2 million in Series D funding to expand operations, sales and marketing, and product development activities. The company has 25 employees, and raised $35 million in investor funding since its founding in 2004. Neato Robotics' main product is the Neato robotic vacuum cleaner, whose core value proposition revolves around the robot's unique ultra-low cost laser rangefinder and (therefore) underlying mapping and navigation system for improved floor coverage.
In June 2012, RoboteX raised $11.9 million (followed by another $2 Million from Peter Theil in March 2013). RoboTex builds telepresence security robots that, in our opinion, look uncannily like iRobot's Warrior military bots. They've sold hundreds of robots into SWAT and law enforcement departments across the US.
In early 2012, RedZone raised $8.5 million in investment. $6.5 million comes from Dubai based Waste Resources Fund, and $2 million from Smithfield Trust Co. RedZone Robotics designs and manufactures robotic wastewater inspection technologies for towns, contractors, and engineering firms. This latest fundraising is in addition to the $25 million they raised in 2011.
Aethon raised $7.1 million in 2012 to begin its global expansion. Aethon has deployed nearly 400 TUG robots in 135 hospitals transporting medication, meals, equipment, supplies, linens, lab specimens, and more. Reportedly, the TUG robots are logging 50,000 weekly deliveries. Aethon was originally known for its medical RFID products (a topic near-and-dear to Hizook's founder, Travis Deyle, who did his thesis on robots using long-range RFID). The company has expanded its reach with the TUG robot and MedEx medication tracking system.
In September 2012, Menlo Park-based Qbotix raised a Series A round of $6.5 million. Founded in 2010 by folks from Caltech and Stanford, the company builds robotic solar-power plants. Their flagship product was the Qbotix tracking system that delivers dual axis tracking at a single axis price -- all in an attempt to reduce cost and increase system performance. Qbotix also received an additional $1 million from the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative in November 2012. The award was to develop more solar robots to reduce the cost of solar to $1 per watt by 2020.
In early 2012, iRobot invested $6 million into InTouch Health, which provides telemedicine solutions for physicians to perform real-time consulting with patients. InTouch is the clear leader in healthcare robot telepresence, with more than 400 hospital installations on six continents. This investment cements the iRobot-InTouch partnership for the RP-VITA robot and paves the way for a powerful collaboration (InTouch's healthcare expertise and iRobots ability to mass produce robots).
Prioria Robotics develops unmanned systems designed to perform aerial security and surveillance. Its product line includes the Maveric Unmanned Aircraft System and the Merlin embedded processing platforrms. Prioria received $5.5 million in funding for growth of their platforms for military and civilian applications.
3D Robotics recently announced $5 Million in venture capital funding. The company behind the massive online DIYDrones community, 3D Robotics produces autopilot systems (based on the Arduino) for hobbyist-grade unmanned aerial vehicles. With 70 employees across 3 offices, this company has unified a scattered hobbyist community. Perhaps most notably, 3D Robotics' CEO and co-founder is Chris Anderson, who got into UAVs due to his children and gave up his long-time position as Wired editor in chief to pursue 3D Robotics full time. Chris is a long-time Hizook reader. Hi Chris!
Romotive gained internet notoriety in 2011 with it's super-successful kickstarter campaign -- raising $114k on a $32k goal for their $150 iPhone robot. In October through November 2012, they launched second kickstarter campaign, netting $170k with ~1,100 backers. This successes helped Romotive raise a raise a $5 million series A from prominent Silicon Valley VCs, including: Sequoia, Crunchfund, SV Angel, Chris Dixon and Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures.
AR Drones, the maker of the Parrot UAV, has invested $7.5 million into 2 companies: SenseFly and Pix4D. The two companies are based in Switzerland, home to many viral UAV videos. $5 million was invested in SenseFly, giving Parrot a majority stake in the company. SenseFly provides camera-equipped UAVs that have unique navigational software to fly complete missions. SenseFly's CEO says the deal gives Parrot "acces to the expertise and the technology for specialized drones."
Persimmon received $3.7 million in Venture funding in the later days of 2012. Their vision is to build the largest vacuum robotics company for the Semiconductor, LED, and Solar markets by 2020. In essence, Persimmon is the exclusive sales representative for Nidec Sankyo's atmospheric robotic products in the USA.
Boston-based Myomo raised $3.67 Million in private financing. Myomo, which stands for My-Own-Motion, is a robotic rehabilitation company. The company licensed technology from MIT to develop non-invasive medical devices that help patients rehabilitate severely weak or paralyzed limbs. The company’s main product is the mPower 1000, which is an arm brace that reads weak muscle signals and controls a motor to simulate the desired movement.
Jorge Heraud and Lee Redden founded BlueRiver Technologies as a way to replace (agricultural) chemical herbicides with smart weed-eliminating robots. The two Stanford alumni met in an entrepreneurship class and utilized their expertise in automation and machine vision to tackle this problem in the agricultural market. The company produced a lettuce-thinning robot that is currently in testing with a top lettuce producer. They raised $3.1 million in series A funding from Khosla Ventures.
Modular Robotics' flagship product is Cubelets, which are robotic blocks that snap together using magnets to build fully-functioning robots without programming or wiring. The robots can drive around tabletops and respond to light, sound, and temperature. In 2012, Brad Feld led a $3 million investment in Modular Robotics. Brad is one of our favorite robot (and electronics) investors; he is a major investor in several other robotics companies including Orbotix and MakerBot.
AeroVironment invested $3 million in Sweden-based CybAero. The deal gives AeroVironment rights to distribute larger, higher-flying, longer-endurance vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aircraft systems in the United States, NATO, and other countries. CybAero AB was founded in 2003. They manufacture and sell autonomous, unmanned helicopters and related sensor systems for defense and civilian missions.
AR Drones, the maker of the Parrot UAV, has invested $7.5 million into 2 companies: SenseFly and Pix4D. The two companies are based in Switzerland, home to many viral UAV videos. $2.5 million goes to Pix4D, which provides software to transform thousands of images captured by drones to produce geographical information. Pix4D's CEO stated the investment "reinforces our position as a leader in software for professional drones."
New Haven-based Ikonisys raised over $1.4 million in November 2012. Their robotic digital microscopy platform enables non-invasive cell-based diagnostics (molecular diagnostics, imaging, and informatics services) that are approved for testing conditions such as breast and bladder cancer, and chromosomal characteristics of birth defects such as Down syndrome. Ikonisys had previously raised $30 million from its series E round led by Goldman Sachs.
Fits.me, a robotics company from Estonia, provides virtual fitting room technologies (aka, robot mannequins) to the e-commerce fashion industry. They closed an (undisclosed) "7-figure" Series A investment led by Entrepreneurs Fund in early 2012 to accelerate the delivery of virtual fitting room services, ramp up on sales, and start marketing more aggressively.
This article was jointly written by Travis Deyle and Sid Kandan. Travis Deyle founded and runs Hizook. He has a PhD in robotics from Georgia Tech's Healthcare Robotics Lab and has published extensively in robotics. You can learn more about Travis on his personal website: TravisDeyle.com. Sid Kandan is a robotics enthusiast who earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from Duke University, where he worked on autonomous hexarotors with Travis. You can learn more about Sid on his personal website: SidKandan.com.