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).
Like many readers of this site, I’m planning to start a robotics company. So when I saw Hizook's list of VC Funding in Robotics in 2011, it cried out to me: Who is investing in robotics? And how can I get some of that VC money? I did a bit of research to identify the robotics-friendly venture firms behind Hizook's list, with the hope of understanding how capital is allocated in robotics. Unfortunately, most robotics investors are following a healthcare, consumer, or some other industrial hypothesis and end up investing in robotics by accident, not because they are eager for robotics per se. As a result, the list is probably not as much help as a guide to fundraising as I had hoped. Still, I think my research and results may be helpful to other budding robotics entrepreneurs... so many thanks to Hizook for letting me share.
I've been tracking venture capital (VC) funding of robotics companies for the better part of two years. Based on my (limited) data, VC funding in robotics exceeded $160 Million for 2011. This is just a rounding error compared to VC funding of Internet (web-based) companies, which hit a decade-long high of $6.9 Billion in 2011. My hope is that robotics will get more love in the next year(s), but getting VC funding for robotics is a decidedly tough nut to crack. Robotics companies have large capital requirements for robot hardware, few potential acquirers, and almost no "Google-scale" breakout success stories (ie. IPOs). I mean, c'mon... one of the best known robotics companies, iRobot, has a market cap of just $700 Million. This makes robotics a difficult sell to your typical VC firm. My hope is that this list can give others courage to pursue "swing for the fences" type projects along with a source for robotics-friendly VC firms.