Six months worth of funding deals thus far in 2016 indicate that investments in robotics – equity fundings, and acquisitions – are accelerating, particularly in big deals involving Chinese money.
Deals so big they need a category of their own
- Kuka AG shareholders were offered $120 per share (a 59.6% premium over the price on the day before the announcement) by Chinese appliance maker Midea. Midea plans to acquire up to 49% of the shares – an investment of up to $2.5 billion predicated on a market value for Kuka of $5.2 bn. Kuka, one of the Big Four of global robot manufacturers, has negotiated a non-domination agreement with Midea which will be in place until the end of 2023. With that agreement, Kuka gave its backing to Midea's offer.
- The Kion Group, with funding from their Chinese partner, has acquired Dematic Corp. for $2.1 billion. Kion said that it expects the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, to close in Q4 2016. Kion’s biggest single shareholder is Chinese diesel-engine maker Weichai Power with a 38.3% stake. The company will initially fund the transaction via a €3 billion bridge loan from a group of banks. Kion has been on a tear acquiring all sorts of companies in the logistics sphere: Egemin, Linde, Retrotech and now Dematic.
Although Uber isn't really a robot company, they acquired a whole robotics department from CMU and have plans to work with car manufacturers to make unmanned Uber cars in the near future, hence they are included in this recap. Just last week Uber announced a strategic partnership – which included an investment of an undetermined amount – with Toyota.
- Uber raised $3.5 bn from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and placed a director on Uber's board. Dan Primack of Forbes was adamant in his criticism of the deal:
Uber has taken a $3.5 billion investment from a government that effectively prohibits women from driving—let alone driving for Uber. Uber also has accepted a $3.5 billion investment from a government that requires women to have male guardians. Uber also has accepted a $3.5 billion investment from a government whose court system has sentenced men to jail time and corporal punishment for the “crime” of homosexuality—not to mention all of the harsh sentences, sometimes including death, for political protest.
Moreover, this is no passive investment. By naming political appointee Al Rumayyan, the company has basically invited the Saudi government into its board room. To my knowledge, no other Silicon Valley startup has a director from the sovereign wealth fund of a repressive political regime.
Uber needed the money, and where else are you going to get $3.5 billion? No doubt, it must be tough to fundraise after you've already tapped out venture capitalists, private equity firms, mutual funds, hedge funds, Wall Street high-net worth clients, and strategic corporate and other sovereign wealth funds (yes, including from noxious Qatar). But there is another option: Go public. Pretty sure Uber could have raised at least $3.5 billion via an IPO.
- 3D Robotics filed an SEC Notice for a $45 million offering of which $26.7 million had been raised as of the date of filing. Autodesk was an investor and said that 3DR is using their Autodesk Forge Platform “to develop one of the industry’s most trusted aerial data capture and analytics platforms for enterprise field professionals within infrastructure, construction, survey, mapping, telecom, and energy industries.”
- Anki, a maker of robotic race-cars and other consumer robots, has raised $52.5 million in new VC funding. J.P. Morgan led the round, and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures and Two Sigma.
- Arevo Labs, a 3D printer using composite materials for production applications, announced a $7M Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures. Arevo enables direct digital additive manufacturing of ultra strong composite parts for end-use applications using robot-mounted 3D printers.
- Resson, a global ag data analytics startup, has raised $11 million in a Series B round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures. Other investors include a group of Canadian early stage investors.
- Kespry, a Menlo Park developer of automated drone systems for commercial use, has raised $16 million in Series B funding. DCM Ventures led the round, and was joined by a group of VCs and individuals.
- Sentera, a Minneapolis-based integrator of aerial data and analytics software, raised $8.5M in a venture capital round with a group of undisclosed strategic investors. The money will be used to make key hires and to boost product development efforts.
- Tempo Automation, a San Francisco prototype chip manufacturer, just received an $8 million Series A funding round led by Lux Capital, along with SoftTech, AME, and Bolt, to improve its manufacturing facility, which is already at capacity.
- uSens Inc., a San Jose, CA-based developer of natural hand-and-head tracking technologies for augmented and virtual reality, has raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Fosun Kinzon Capital.
- Square Robot, a Boston startup, has entered into a strategic partnership with Kraken Sonar for the development of inspection robots for the oil and gas industry. Kraken acquired a minority interest for an undisclosed amount.
- AGERpoint closed a $1.2M venture capital round. AGERpoint provides information management solutions to tree and vine crop growers. Based in Orlando, FL, the company’s platform includes data acquisition, analytics, and action scenarios for growers.
- IAM Robotics, a Pittsburgh, PA logistics technology startup, got $450k in convertible debt funding from Comet Labs (in April).
IPOs and stock manipulations
- Ekso Bionics did a 7 for 1 stock split (in May) to get the stock price out of the penny category in the hopes of qualifying to get onto the NASDAQ exchange. In April Ekso received FDA approval for the use of their GT products for spinal cord and stroke recovery. In Dec 2015 Ekso acquired the ZeroG and AR technologies and IP from Equipois whose technology allows payloads to be maneuvered as if weightless.Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam® camera stabilizer as well as the technology incorporated into the Equipois arms, said:
Adding the Equipois product portfolio provides us with core technology to meet customer demand and immediately expands our customer reach from construction to industrial and manufacturing end-users as well.
It's exciting to see our technology go from helping people shoot movies to making peoples' lives better on the job site by helping to reduce fatigue, protect from injuries and increase productivity.
It's wonderful to see Ekso Bionics bringing their exoskeleton technology into the industrial construction market for able-bodied workers, much as they've already done for patients in medical rehabilitation. I'm excited to be a part of this new success.
- Deveron Resources Ltd., a Canadian mineral resources company listed on the Toronto Ventures OTC market, acquired a UAS company and is repositioning itself as a UAS service provider. Deveron finalized a non-brokered private placement financing of $550k.
- SVIA , a Swedish integrator of machine-tending solutions and cells, was acquired by ABB for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition expands ABB’s machine tending portfolio with a wider variety of advanced and vision-integrated applications for industries including automotive, plastics and electronics, such as smart phone manufacturing.
- Gimatic, an Italian gripper maker, was acquired by European-Asian equity fund Agic Capital for an undisclosed sum estimated by the Financial Times to be between $112-$169 million. In January, Agic Capital, together with China National Chemical Corp and Chinese state fund Guoxin International Investment Corp, purchased Germany's KraussMaffei Group for 925 million euros.
- Sun Synchrony
- QBotix (last year)
- Torquing Group (Zano) (Dec 2015)