2015 was an insane year for robotics companies; they raised $922.7M in VC funding -- 170% more than in 2014. I'm almost certain that it exceeds $1 Billion, especially if you account for funding events in Asia (opaque to me) or if you take into account companies at the periphery of robotics (sensing, software, 3D printing, etc). Similar to previous years, a large portion of the funding went to medical companies and drone companies, but we also saw a lot of late-stage consumer robot financings this year (such as Jibo and Sphero) -- but comparatively few agricultural or service robots. Still, I think it's safe to say: 2015 was the year of the robotics startup!
===> 2015: $922.7 Million <===
* I only included funding events with public sources, and I opted to leave off any funding that was under $1 Million. I also ignored crowdfunding, since these arrangements do not typically involve equity transfer. Furthermore, it is harder and harder to determine "what constitutes a robotics company." I used my own dictatorial judgment; feel free to disagree in the comments. For example, I generally don't include 3D printers in my robotics tally, so that meant I didn't count Carbon3D's massive $100M round. I also don't count corporate "spinouts" or "joint ventures" such as Toyata's $1B Robotics R&D Efforts in Silicon Valley or Softbank's $236M Robotics Holding Group. Finally, I almost always miss a few funding rounds; let me know in the comments (with a credible source!).
† Many thanks to Frank Tobe and Tim Smith for providing me some lists of their own. In fact, Frank does such a good job that I may pass the torch off to him in future years. There's little sense in duplicating our efforts... plus then I can spend the 10(ish) hours it takes to prepare this list on something more personally fulfilling -- like hacking on robots or writing more techy Hizook articles. ;)
Auris is developing a microsurgical robot for eye surgeries, such as cataract removal. They raised $150 Million this year.
3DR is another big player in the drone (esp consumer drone) space. They raised a total of $64 Million this year in two parts: a $50 Million initial funding and a $14 Million follow-on. I know they're located nearby me in SFBA... and despite a warm invitation by CEO Chris Anderson to come visit, I still haven't seen their facilities. I'll have to remedy that in 2016, assuming the invite is still on the table. :)
More drones. I'm not familiar with Aeryon's products... but they must be pretty big, as they raised $60 Million this year.
Still more drones. Yuneec is a Chinese drone manufacturer, and they received $60 Million from Intel this year.
It was a bit confusing, but it seems like Jibo raised $52.3 Million this year across three events: $11 Million, $16 Million, and $25.3 Million (confirmed via Crunchbase). To be honest, I'm really worried for Jibo. Depending on how they did their financing... they're either valued upwards of $250M or they took on massive dilution. Either one of those could be really precarious if their product doesn't have a massive showing in the next 18 months (or if the economic climate turns); while their Kickstarter went really well... it wasn't that good. Raising so much before shipping a product can be dangerous...
Sphero, formerly Orbotics, raised $45 Million this year. Partnering with Disney and Starwars was exactly what this company needed! Their BB-8 toy will be a big hit (cool teardown), and it's a great riff on their original Sphero product!
Zymergen is using robot automation to help automate chemistry and biology lab experimentation; they raised $44 Million in 2015.
Ehang, the makers of the "Ghost Drone" raised $42 Million.
Confirmed on Crunchbase, Rethink Robotics raised $40 million in two installments: $26.6 million and $13.4 million. That takes their total to $113.5 Million. I've heard they're having growing pains (good product, but lagging sales).... which may not bode well.
Grey Orange is essentially a Kiva knockoff targeting the rest of the world outside the US. They raised $30 Million this year. Given the striking similarities between their system and the one now owned and operated by Amazon, I imagine they'll have a hard time operating in the US due to IP restrictions.
Medrobotics raised another $25 Million this year for it's "Flex" medical robot.
This is one of my favorite medical robot companies, because their UV-disinfecting robot is just so simple, pragmatic, and effective! They raised $25 Million this year.
CyPhy Works, the "tethered drone" startup cofounded by Helen Greiner, raised another $22 Million this year after a rather successful Kickstarter to enter the consumer drone space. It will be interesting to see how things evolve for CyPhy with the recent FAA rule changes, which seem to indicate that tethered drones (formerly powered kites) will now be subject to the same restrictions as normal drones.
Melonee and my friends at Fetch Robotics raised $20 Million this year to put a new, more-modern spin on the pick, pack, and ship warehouse operation space. Congrats y'all!
Blue River technologies is the only major agricultural robot company on this year's list. They raised $17 Million this year and continue to grow healthily. One thing I really like about Blue River: They demonstrated that the "lean startup" method is also applicable to hardware and robotics -- the article about their beginnings should be a must-read for robotics entrepreneurs. I should dedicate a Hizook post to this topic some time...
Peloton Technologies raised $17 Million to build "follow the leader" style autonomous big-rigs. This will eventually exist, so I'm rooting for them.
Now this is how you do pre-orders! Lily Robotics managed to get $34 Million in preorders for its personal drones, and then went on to raise just $14 Million in funding. This is a much more sane amount of fundraising... (I'm looking at you, Jibo.)
My friends at Cruise managed to raise $12.5 Million to retrofit cars for autonomy. They definitely have an up-hill battle to compete against all the big boys; at this point, basically every single major auto manufacturer has an autonomous car program.
I almost didn't include this one on the list... but Zimplistic, who makes a "robotic" flatbread machine, managed to raise $11.5 Million this year. They have insane traction, and something like $72 Million in backorders. I wonder if a tortilla machine would be equally viable...?
Clearpath Robotics makes a whole suite of academic and industrial robots. This year they raised $11.2 Million, and are supposedly planning to enter the warehouse-style material transport space.
I'm including Drone Deploy on this list too, since they work almost exclusively with robots (though their product seems to be almost exclusively software). They raised $9 Million this year for their SaaS product.
Formerly Play-I, Wonder Workshop raised $6.9 Million for their small programmable toy products. I'm really curious to hear how many units they've sold to date.
Bionik raised $6.2 Million to bring their medical exoskeleton products to market.
Squadrone also makes a drone platform. They raised $5 Million to bring their HEXO+ platform to market.
I wasn't sure about including this one... but I did anyway. We're going to see a lot of consumer robots in the next two years targeting pet owners, and PetNet is one of the early entrants to the market. So here it is; they raised $4 Million this year.
More drones, more money. Sky Futures wants to use drones for oil and gas inspections -- a very legit market I've looked at a bit myself. They raised $3.8 Million this year.
Gamma2 makes physical security robots for server farms and whatnot, and the closed their $3.5 Million Series A this year.
Righthand Robotics raised $3.3 Million to do automated bin picking.
Osaro is another borderline case, since their primary product is software-only AI and perception; they raised $3.3 Million.
Naio is a smaller agricultural robot out of France that aims to reduce the amount of chemicals used for crop production; they raised $3.3 Million.
Soft Robotics makes soft grippers for industrial applications; they raised $3 Million.
RoboCV makes robotic forklifts -- another promising application that I've studied a bit in the past. Hailing from Russia, they raised $3 Million this year.
SkySpecs raised $3 Million to do drone-based visual inspections of infrastructure, such as wind turbines.
Rapyuta is an ETH Zurich spinout, which raised $3 Million to build robots for physical security purposes.
Harvest Automation is well known (and has raised a lot of money) to automate tree nurseries. They recently raised $2.9 Million to enter the industrial (warehouse) material transport sector.
SynTouch makes a unique type of tactile sensor for robots. I've seen them used to some effect in academic contexts. With $2.5 Million in new funding, they're hoping to land some more industry sales.
Another drone company, Flyability is targeting the visual inspection space and recently raised $2.5 Million.
Dronomy does aerial image capturing for drones and raised $1.5 Million.
Catalia is building personal healthcare robots (tabletop?) that interact with patients and doctors. It seems that it's the successor to Intuitive Automata, as it was also founded by Cory Kidd. They recently raised $1.5 Million.
MIR is a Danish logistics company, which raised $1.4 Million.
Dash Robotics is a spinout of a UC Berkeley robotics lab that did research on unique construction methods. After a successful $60k in preorders via Kickstarter, they raised $1.4 Million. Given the low COGS, I imagine Dash could be insanely profitable if they can nail the distribution deals -- sort of like HexBugs. I like their prospects if they can keep burn low.