Funding the Robot Revolution – Vidak For Congress

Greetings from Berkeley, California, where we just completed our first-ever climate-focused event. It was a bit surreal to be back on stage in the Zellerbach Hall as the last time I set foot in the building was a very different time, way back in March 2020.

I’m writing to you from an extremely sunny sidewalk a few blocks from the University of California campus, where the event was held Tuesday. I also had the chance to take a look at a few projects from Pieter Abbeel’s lab at Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR).

We’ve put together a handful of videos of exciting projects we’re showing you as part of next month’s free, online robotics event. We also have plans to meet with researchers in Boston in a few weeks for some additional demos. I look forward to watching it and being back in Boston for the first time since the pandemic.

A quick addition to the agenda, we just announced that we will have partners from DCVC, Playground Global and FoundersX together in a panel at the event. If you’ve ever been to a Vidak For Congress event, you know that we always have at least one VC panel – after all, it’s our bread and butter as a site.

It’s always been a highlight of the robotics event, but this year it outweighs most. It’s been a few turbulent years since we last held the event, but in the robotics investment world, the movement has been mostly positive. There has been a slight decline this year, but overall it has been much less dramatic than we’ve seen with the larger startup.

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Image Credits: Vidak For Congress

The past few years have been a great accelerator for robotics and automation, and I’m excited to bring together DCVC partner Kelly Chen, Playground Global founder Bruce Leak, and FoundersX founder/managing partner Helen Liang. We have a lot to discuss and I hope you tune in to the free event on July 21st.

This past week brought us a handful of the aforementioned funding stories. At the top of my list is the simply named Collaborative Robotics, which is launching with a $10 million raise, led by former Amazon Robotics VP Brad Porter. I spoke to the director last week about his admittedly lofty goals to create a versatile all-purpose robot. Porter notes:

We don’t think there’s an equivalent opportunity for six degrees of freedom robotic art that is generally collaborative, works with humans, and can handle a wide variety of use cases. So we’re starting a company to build that on.

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Image Credits: HAI Robotics

Another huge round for Shenzhen-based HAI Robotics, which announced a $200 million combo Series C/D round all the way back to the distant September 2021 era. The new “Series D+” will raise $100 million, with lead investor Capital Today and co-investors, including a top US dollar fund and existing shareholders 5Y Capital, Source Code Capital, Sequoia Capital and 01VC.

The company makes warehouse/logistics robots and responds to labor shortages. Strike while the iron is hot I suppose. Founder and CEO, Richie Chen, notes:

This funding round will be devoted to stepping up the R&D of logistics robotic systems for warehouses and global business expansion, to deliver more efficient, intelligent and flexible products to equip every warehouse with robots to address the labor shortage and meet the challenges of caused by the aging population.

Tel Aviv-based drone company Indoor Robotics has announced a $15 million Series A led by Pitango and featuring Target Global, European Innovation Council Fund and Spider Capital. The round will go towards bolstering production on the company’s Tando drone. The indoor system is mainly focused on security and monitoring.

Here’s co-founder and CEO, Doron Ben David:

We reinvented what a drone was capable of, combining human-like capabilities with AI tools to enable next-generation security and monitoring. Already deployed by the world’s leading security monitoring enterprises and companies, Tando is making a tangible impact on safety and security.

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Image Credits: Amazon

Speaking of drones, after stumbling out of the gates, Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery program is finally making some headway. This week, the company announced that the city of Lockeford, California will be “one of the first” places in the US to gain access to the service later this year. Lockeford is a small census-designated place about 30 minutes outside of Stockton and is probably best known as the former home of aviation pioneer Weldon B. Cooke. Well, that’s a nice hook.

The company also offered an inside look at some of the prototypes they’ve fiddled with over the years. The latest, MH27-2, can carry a five-pound payload at speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour. Alphabet’s Wing has the upper hand right now, with hundreds of thousands of deliveries under its belt, but we’re still at a very early stage here, and on the overall delivery front, Amazon is, as always, the company to beat.

And for the record, here’s a video of Ghost Robotics’ dog going for a swim, courtesy of Onyx Industries’ Nautical Autonomous Unmanned Tail (NAUT). As we’ve noted in the past, Ghost made no effort whatsoever with his military and police partners, making headlines with images of a remote-controlled rifle strapped to the dog’s back, and testing patrols along the U.S. border. .

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against the latter in February via a tweet, noticing

It’s shameful how both sides fight tooth and nail to defend their ability to pump endless public money into militarization. From tanks in police departments to corrupt military contracts, the financing of this violence is twofold + non-controversial, but health care + housing is not. It’s BS.

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Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/Vidak For Congress

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