Venture Capital (VC) Funding for Robotics in 2013

This is becoming something of a perennial topic for Hizook; the 2011 and 2012 lists were a hit, and people keep asking me about 2013. Let's keep the tradition alive. Robotics companies raised at least $250 Million in 2013, which compares very favorably to the $190 Million from 2012.  Also of interest this year: Google snapped up 8 top-notch robotics companies (including Boston Dynamics and Redwood Robotics); Amazon announced its audacious drone delivery plans; Mako Surgical sold for $1.65B and MakerBot was acquired for $600M; a $100M VC Firm was setup to invest specifically in robotics and AI; and we now have our own robotics-specific Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), Robo-Stox (NASDAQ:ROBO)!

Here's our tally for VC funding for robotics in 2013.  This list is almost certainly incomplete, so be sure to let us know if we forgot anyone by leaving a comment.

Anki

$50.0 Million

CyphyWorks

$7.0 Million

Liquid Robotics

$45.0 Million

Persimmon Tech

$5.8 Million

3D Robotics

$30.0 Million

Peak Analysis

$5.4 Million

MedRobotics

$21.3 Million

Qbotix

$5.0 Million

Neato

$14.0 Million

Quest Inspar

$4.2 Million

Harvest Automation

$11.8 Million

VGo Comms

$3.7 Million

Rethink Robotics

$11.5 Million

GrabIt

$3.0 Million

Xenex

$11.3 Million

RoboteX

$2.0 Million

Airware

$10.7 Million

InTouch Health

$2.0 Million

Myomo

$7.0 Million

   

 

Total: > $250.7 Million*

 

Caveats: I opted to leave off any funding that was under $1 Million. I also know of a number of still-stealthy startups that raised in excess of $1Million (each sub-$5M) in 2013, but I'm not at liberty to disclose those details until they're made public elsewhere. Finally, I opted to leave off Shapeways' $30M round as it's not strictly robotics.

* The originally-reported total was $216.3 Million, but the tally has been updated based on very helpful reader comments at the end of this article.

 

Anki ($50.0 Million)

 

Anki is a robot toy manufacturer that makes iOS-controlled robot cars that can be raced around a track, and is (or was for a time) exclusively distributed through Apple Stores. I bought one of their systems in late 2013 to do a teardown and review for Hizook (detailed article still forthcoming). It was really fun, but unfortunately a bit off the mark -- the form-factor is inconvenient, and I'm not very good when it comes to overcoming the activation energy to set it up and tear it down (I've only used it twice). In any case, they certainly impressed some VCs. Anki raised $50 Million from top-tier VCs like Andreessen Horowitz.

 

Liquid Robotics ($45.0 Million)

 

Liquid Robotics makes environmental monitoring robots that circumnavigate the world's oceans using a unique, energy-efficient propulsion technique. The company is somewhat-notable for luring James Gosling (creator of Java at Sun) away from Google.  The company announced that it raised an additional $45 Million in funding. I also (just!) realized that they have an office in Sunnyvale just down the street from my apartment. Perhaps they'll grant me a tour? (wink, wink!)

 

3D Robotics ($30.0 Million)

 

3D Robotics produces drone hardware and open-source software, and sells to a predominantly-hobbyist market. They also run DIY Drones, the largest community of hobbyist drone enthusiasts. Speaking from first-hand experience, their drones (like the new IRIS quadcopter) are phenomenal! The company is led by former Wired editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson. They closed a $30 Million Series B round in 2013.

 

 

MedRobotics ($21.3 Million)

 

Just like in 2012, the MedRobotics fundraising situation is a bit awkward. XConomy has them listed as raising a $21.3M round this year, and MedRobotics itself indicates that they raised an additional $10M in debt.  I'm just going to go with XConomy's number and call it good.

 

Neato Robotics ($14.0 Million)

 

Neato makes a line of vacuum cleaner robots that are known for their distinctive ultra low-cost laser rangefinders, which enable them to more-efficiently cover a room. They raised $14M in 2013. That's a good thing, considering that their #1 rivals (iRobot) recently acquired Evolution Robotics' Mint floor cleaner for a whopping $74 Million.

 

Harvest Automation ($11.8 Million)

 

Harvest Automation raised a $11.8M Series C round to help bring their tree-toting nursery robots to market. According to the press release, the company is now up to 35 employees, and if the rumors I hear are accurate, they're actually starting to deploy systems with pilot customers right now.

 

Rethink Robotics ($11.5 Million)

 

Hizook faithfully covered Rethink Robotics' unveiling of the Baxter humanoid robot. The company, led by Rodney Brooks, raised a $11.5 Million round in 2013.  Unfortunately, Rethink simultaneously seems to be having some issues; the company laid off 23% of it's workforce in the same year.

 

Xenex ($11.3 Million)

 

really like this company. Xenex builds hospital sterilization robots (costing $82k each) that use strong, ultraviolet lights to kill micro-organisms by zapping their DNA.  The robots are primarily used to sanitize empty hospital rooms to thwart hospital-contracted infections -- a real scourge in our healthcare system. Frankly, it's an elegant solution. It would make a lot of sense to combine this disinfecting technique with other hospital-based robots such as Aethon's tugs. Anyway, Xenex raised $11.3 Million in 2013.

 

Airware ($10.7 Million)

 

Airware was one of the companies in my YCombinator W13 cohort. They build flight control hardware and software (eg. IMUs and motor controllers) for a whole range of UAVs: from quadrotors to fixed-wing aircraft. In many ways, they're similar to 3D Robotics... except that they're targeting "more professional" UAV platforms rather than hobbyists.  Anyway, they raised $10.7 Million from Andreessen and Google Ventures.

 

Myomo ($7.0 Million)

 

Myomo made last year's list too. 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. XConomy noted Myomo raising a $2M round, but a few others indicate that round was likely a full $7M in 2013.

 

CyphyWorks ($7.0 Million)

 

CyphyWorks, founded by Helen Greiner of iRobot fame, builds UAVs (namely, rotorcraft) that receive power and comms over specially-designed ultra-light tethers. If I understand correctly, their primary market right now is for military situational awareness, but I'm guessing they ultimately have plans to do station keeping for physical security, motion-picture filming, and potentially even sporting events. They raised an additional $7 Million in 2013.

 

Persimmon Technologies ($5.8 Million)

 

I had never heard of Persimmon before; it's tough to keep track of all the B2B robotics companies, especially ones in relatively-niche high-end fields. Apparently, they provide "vacuum robotics and Hybrid-Field Motor Technology for the semiconductor, LED, FPD and solar equipment markets." They raised $5.8 Million in 2013.

 

Peak Analysis & Automation ($5.4 Million)

 

PA&A is building robots that will help big pharma do drug and antibody discovery via lab automation. In fact, the pharma giant UCB invested $5.4 million into the UK-based PA&A in 2013.

 

Qbotix ($5.0 Million)

 

Qbotix is part robotics company, part solar company. They build a robot system that adjusts solar panels to better track the sun. They raised $5 million in 2013, including some funding from DFJ. I would be very curious to see more in-depth information about Qbotix. In particular, I've heard that solar tracking is falling out of vogue, as the tracker adds too much to a PV system's cost (material and maintenance) compared to just having more static panels.

 

Quest Inspar ($4.2 Million)

 

Quest Inspar develops a robot that installs polyurea (plastic) linings inside pipes (eg. aging and damaged pipes) to extend their lifetime. This is one of those classically-discussed robotic applications, but Quest Inspar is one of the few solutions that are actually being used and deployed. They raised $4.2 million.

 

VGo Communications ($3.7 Million)

 

VGo communications makes a small telepresence robot. They raised $3.7 Million round in 2013 on top of their $900k seed from 2012. Frankly, they'll need every penny. The entire telepresence space is heating up, with major competitors like: Double Robotics, Suitable Technologies, InTouch Health (and iRobot), Anybots, etc.

 

GrabIt ($3.0 Million)

 

Most Hizook readers are probably inadvertently aware of GrabIt. Hizook previously covered SRI's electroadhesive grippers, which are based on the (also covered by Hizook) electroadhesive pads developed at SRI for climbing robots. Anyway, GrabIt is an SRI spinout that is trying to commercialize the technology. I even had the pleasure of speaking with them at RoboBusiness 2013 in Santa Clara. They raised $3 Million in 2013.

 

RoboteX ($2.0 Million)

 

RoboteX is a relatively new company that makes security robots. It raised a $2 Million round, including investor Peter Thiel. I don't really understand the Palantir connection (Thiel and another investor have heavy Palantir connections). Perhaps they're strategic investors who can provide intros to defense customers? In any case, it's a big win to get Thiel involved in a relatively-obvious robotics business (one that's been tried a lot before).

 

InTouch Health ($2.0 Million)

 

In January 2013, iRobot quietly purchased an additional $2 million of preferred stock of InTouch Technologies, in addition to the $6 Million they purchased in 2012. They never really talked about this investment. It was reported in their 2012 Annual Shareholders Report, as linked from their corporate investor-relations documents repository. While iRobot isn't strictly-speaking a VC, it's probably close enough to qualify (as much as, say, Google Ventures).

 

 

 

Many thanks to Ben Axler for motivating me to finally write this article and for helping me fill in the gaps -- he told me about a few funding events that I initially missed. Ben composes financial research documents for Spruce Point Capital, and has recently profiled a robotics company (iRobot). It's worth reading.

 

Comments

Neato Robotics is in the article but not the list up top. 

Additions: 

  • Persimmon $5m
  • Qbotix $5m
  • Aerovironment $6.6m
  • Quest Inspar $4.2m
  • Peak Analysis and Automation $5.4m

Argo, maker of the Rewalk exoskeleton, may be out of scope for you but is a fascinating company that raised ~$17m in 2013.

—Paul

Thanks for your feedback Paul! I've updated the article accordingly.

Wow, it looks like I was off by a full 20% ($40M-ish) just from your additions and corrections.  D'oh! I still can't believe I messed up the Neato one -- I already had it on my list. A few points to note: 

(1) Aerovironment is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ:AVAV), so I don't see how they could've possibly raised $6.6M from VCs. Since I can't find substantiation about this funding round, I'm going to leave it off.

(2) The Rewalk exoskeleton definitely qualifies as a robot, but I'm not sure how to account for this item. Based on what I read, this seems to be more like a joint R&D effort. Plus, the parent company (Argo) is more like a diversified medical company rather than a mostly-robotics company. I'm going to leave it off... but I'm on the fence about this one. 

—Travis Deyle

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