January fundings, acquisitions, IPOs and failures

03 February 2017

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January fundings for robotics-related startups totaled over $123 million – a reasonable start for the new year. For acquisitions, three of the six companies acquired reported that $390.5 million traded hands. All in all, another strong month for robotics.


Moon Express, a Cape Canaveral, FL.-based commercial company building robotic space crafts to explore the moon, raised $20 million in a Series B funding. Investors include Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund, and Autodesk. MoonEx was given government permission to travel to and land on the Moon in 2017. The change in U.S. policy begins a new era of commercial lunar exploration and discovery.

Rethink Robotics, the Boston-based maker of the Baxter and Sawyer robots founded by iRobot co-founder Rodney Brooks, raised an additional $18 million in an unfinished $33 million Series E round led by private equity firm Adveq. Previous investors who also participated in the round included Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions, CRV, Highland Capital Partners, Goldman Sachs and GE Ventures. This brings cumulative funding to $131.5 million. The new funding will be used for Rethink’s global expansion initiatives, as well as new product development. Scott Eckert, President and CEO of Rethink said:

As we did previously with our Series D round, we expect two closings for different investors. $18M was the initial closing and we will announce additional financing when the transactions are complete.

Sawyer is outselling Baxter ten to one, and we tripled our revenue in 2016. In China, the appetite for Sawyer has been quite high. We’ve sold a large quantity of Sawyer robots. In addition, we are looking to 2017 to be a big year for our deployments in Europe, as we expect to have additional distribution agreements in place in that region soon as well.

Starship Technologies, the Estonian mobile robot startup now testing delivery of hot and cold food products in London, got $17.2 million in a seed round led by Daimler with Grishin Robotics, HOF Capital, Matrix Partners, Morpheus Ventures, Playfair Capital, Shasta Ventures and ZX Ventures also participating.

Flirtey, a Reno, NV-based medicine and food delivery drone startup testing in NZ, raised $16 million in a Series A funding. Investors include Menlo Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Y Combinator, World Innovation Lab, Goodwater Capital, Amity Ventures, and Partech Ventures.

Two Bit Circus, a Los Angeles-based “experiential entertainment company building products at the crossroads of entertainment and technology,” has raised $15 million in Series B funding. JAZZ Venture Partners led the round with participation from Foundry Group, Techstars Ventures, Intel Capital, Dentsu Ventures and Georgian Pine.

Measure, a drones-as-a-service company, which serves the farming and crop insurance markets among others, closed a $15 million Series B led by New Jersey-based IT and consulting firm Cognizant Technology Solutions with participation from private equity firm Hudson Bay Capital Management.

Neurala, the AI company that developed the Neurala Brain, got a $14M Series A investment that will be used to accelerate deep learning platform deployment to its customers. The round was led by Pelion Ventures with participation from Sherpa Capital, Motorola Ventures, 360 Capital Partners, Draper Associates Investments, and Idinvest Partners through its Electranova Capital II Fund and in partnership with Ecomobility Ventures. Neurala is headed by Massimiliano Versace, 2nd cousin to Donatella and the late Gianni Versace. Neurala’s software can be used in devices like drones, robots, automobiles, and toys. It’s tailored to work with the sensors and processors in those devices.

Exotec Solutions, a French material handling robotics startup, raised $3.5 million (in December) from 360 Capital Partners, Breega Capital and several original investors. Exotec recently unveiled their Kiva-like mobile robot, portable shelving and fleet control system and is planning deployment to its first paying client in Q1 2017.

Otto Robotics, a startup developing automated systems to support food prep and delivery, raised $1.5 million in funding led by seed-stage venture capital firm Draper Associations and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s venture firm, Vulcan Capital. The company says it is developing low-cost modular robotic solutions for the restaurant industry – semi-autonomous systems that are designed to assemble, cook and deliver food “with no human intervention.”

Iris Automation, a Canadian startup bringing sense and avoid technology to drones for industrial tasks, raised $1.5 million in a Series A funding led by Bee Partners and included Paul Buchheit, Kevin Moore, Liquid2 Ventures, GGV Capital and Social Capital.

Rubedo Sistemos, a Lithuanian mobile robotics for medical systems software startup, raised $500,000 (in December) in a seed round from Practica Venture Capital, a Lithuanian VC.


NOTE: Our December story about the acquisition of Liquid Robotics by Boeing didn’t have any financial details but a flurry of leaks and rumors suggest that Boeing paid $300 million for LR. Both companies won’t comment.

Autonomos, a 2012 spinoff from Free University of Berlin, was acquired by Amsterdam-based TomTom for an undisclosed amount. Autonomos has provided consultancy services for automated vehicle assistance systems and has built up expertise and technologies in the process, including a full demonstration-level autonomous driving software stack, 3D sensor technology, and digital image processing.

“This is an important development for TomTom as it will help us to continue to strengthen our capabilities for the future of driving and expand our knowledge and expertise,” says Harold Goddijn, CEO and co-founder of TomTom. “With this deal we are further positioning ourselves as one of the leaders in autonomous driving.”


Zodiac Pool Solutions has sold to global asset management firm, Rhône, for an undisclosed amount. Zodiac’s products include a Wi-Fi connected and app-controlled Polaris Sport robotic pool cleaner and its iAquaLink pool automation app.

“We had an exciting, record year of growth in 2016 and look forward to building on it. We see a lot of opportunity in the coming years, and we will maintain our focus on customer-driven innovation across our product portfolio,” said Bruce Brooks, CEO of Zodiac.


Copellia Robotics, a Swiss startup that developed V-REP. a robot simulator, was acquired by Danish startup Blue Workforce, a developer of a Delta-style fast-grasping robot system. No financial details were disclosed. The first joint product from the newly merged company is BlueReality, a customized V-REP system configurator which enables drag-and-drop training.

“We have been able to frame this so anyone with the capability to play an online computer game would be able to setup, run and optimize their own ideas on how to solve a Robotics System and this is just the beginning. We will shortly announce a large pool of tutorials and real world industrial production and packaging line scenarios.”


  • None, nor were any filed for the near future.


Lily, a Silicon Valley startup with a stylish camera drone, announced that although it had $34 million in pre-sales, it couldn’t get additional funds to meet production demands and was closing down. What remains of the company is focused on handling refunds and dealing with a suit filed by the San Francisco district attorney’s office over claims that the drone maker engaged in false advertising and unfair business practices.

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Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.
Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.

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