Slowdown Update – TechCrunch
throw things this week with data collected by the folks at Crunchbase that totally matches what we’ve been saying about Actuator all along. The past two years have been truly transformational for robotics. Since the start of the pandemic, the conversations I’ve had with startups and VCs about an automated future have shifted to the present. A highly transmissible virus coupled with an ongoing labor crisis has a knack for moving mountains.
That said, there are some external forces and inescapable realities to investing. As Alex and Anna noted late last month in an article titled “The corporate slowdown is impacting fundraising for startups of all sizes and in all industries” (TechCrunch+ subscription required):
The value of tech stocks began to fall in late 2021, a decline that continued into 2022, leaving many tech stores trading at a deep discount from their recent valuation highs. Since the valuations of late-stage startups are the most easily comparable to those of public companies, growth-stage investors were expected to shake up their pricing models and perhaps reduce their risk appetite.
These forces appear to have had some impact on robotics – but given the tailwinds of the past two years, the sector continues to perform well. Automation is something businesses invest in to prepare for tough times – whether it’s labor issues, supply chain crises, competition, or meeting demand. increased. The current moment reminds us how important it is to be prepared for future problems.
All these factors are confirmed by The latest figures from Crunchbase on the category,
Last year, more than $17 billion was poured into VC-backed robotics startups, nearly tripling the investment in 2020. This year is a bit behind that pace, but the industry has already seen more than $5 billion flow to startups.
Anecdotally, I’d say that’s pretty consistent with what we’ve seen on our end: a pandemic-fueled surge in investment, followed by a slight slowdown. But that slowdown pales in comparison to the broader funding issues that startups are currently facing. As always, some subcategories within robotics will regress towards the average, but warehousing/fulfillment, manufacturing, agtech, medical, and food seem well positioned here.
Extremely small sample size, I realize, but another flurry of activity this week indicates continued interest among investors. The first comes to us from GreyOrange, which recently entered into a partnership with Walmart Canada. Although the company has opted for less traditional debt financing here, with backing from Mithril Capital Management and BlackRock. The $110 million increase follows rumors last year that the India/Denver-based company was planning an IPO (which again, given current market conditions, would not have may not have been the wisest decision).
On that note, CEO Samay Kohli tells me:
For us, success looks like solving big execution challenges for as many customers around the world as possible. We are firmly focused on how we can meet growing customer demand as quickly and efficiently as possible. An IPO is certainly a viable option for this to happen in the future.
Haje has the latest on Boston-based Flexxbotics as it strives to provide work cell manufacturing in the cloud. The company raised a Series A round of $2.9 million for software solutions to connect robots to other manufacturing tools.
“Flexxbotics is focused on the mission of helping discrete manufacturing companies drive their digital transformation,” CEO Tyler Bouchard told TechCrunch. “These companies struggled with the challenge of connecting ERP, MES and other modern enterprise systems with existing production equipment on the shop floor,” says Bouchard. “Our vision is to change that by providing a turnkey toolkit to seamlessly connect robots, CNC machines, PLCs and other fabrications to each other via a workshop communication mesh.”
Some interesting news from DeepMind this week as well. The Alphabet-owned company unveiled Gato, a “general purpose” AI system that has made some pretty amazing progress. The system is capable of performing a wide range of different tasks, from captioning images to stacking blocks with robotic arms.
“Most AI systems today operate on a single task or narrow domain at a time,” co-creator Scott Reed told TechCrunch. “The significance of this job is primarily that an agent with a [model] can perform hundreds of very different tasks, including controlling a real robot and doing basic captioning and chatting.
Uber Eats this week announced a pair of deals to pilot last-mile delivery in the Los Angeles area. The partners are self-driving company Motional and Serve Robotics, an Uber spin-off that makes sidewalk delivery robots.
“We will be able to learn from these two pilots what customers actually want, what merchants actually want and what makes sense for delivery as we begin to integrate our platform with AV companies,” a doorman said. -word from Uber Eats to TechCrunch. “The hope is that they succeed and that we learn over the next few months and then figure out how to scale up.”
Businesses will start with a number of merchants, Serve taking care of shorter trips to West Hollywood and Motional heading to Santa Monica hungry and hollow for whatever you’ve packed.
A few notes from investors this week on the build space and the role robotics and automation will play in shaping the industry going forward. Here is Momei Qu, Managing Director of PSP Growth:
In the long term (five to 10 years) there will be breakthrough innovations around new materials, automation techniques and robotics that could fundamentally change the way things are built and create a better and safer environment for industry players, which will hopefully also help with the labor shortage. I often look out my window at construction sites and think, “Humans shouldn’t do this.
Last week, we discussed how Qualcomm is aggressively pushing into the robotics development space alongside companies like Nvidia. Now it’s AMD’s turn, with the announcement of the new Kria KR260 robotic starter kit. According to Senior Director Chetan Khona, “Roboticians will now be able to work in their standard development environment on a platform with all the necessary interfaces and capabilities to be up and running in less than an hour. The KR260 starter kit is an ideal platform for accelerating robotic innovation and easily bringing ideas into full-scale production. »
The system is available now, priced at $349.
To learn more about the highs and lows of robotics investing, subscribe to Actuator.