Greetings from BerkeleyCalifornia, where we just finished Climate-focused event. The return to the stage at Zellerbach Hall is a bit bizarre, as the last time I stepped foot in the building was a very different time, back in March 2020.
I am writing to you from a sunny sidewalk a few blocks from the campus of the University of California, where the event is being held on Tuesday. I also had the opportunity to peruse a few projects from Pieter Abbeel’s lab at Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR).
We’ve shot some videos of cool projects that we’ll be showing you as part of next month free online robot events. We also plan to meet with the researchers in Boston in a few weeks for some more demos. I look forward to checking those out and returning to Boston for the first time since the pandemic began.
A quick addition to the agenda: We just announced that we will have partners from DCVC, Playground Global, and FoundersX join a panel at the event. If you’ve ever attended a TechCrunch event, you know we always have at least one VC board – it’s our bread and butter, after all, like a website.
It’s always been the highlight of the robot event, but this year it’s even heavier than most. It’s been a tumultuous few years since we last held the event – but in the world of robotics investing at least, the movement is mostly positive. There’s been a slight setback this year, but overall it’s much less dramatic than what we’ve seen with the larger startup.
The past few years have been a huge accelerator for robotics and automation, and I’m so happy to be together DCVC partner, Kelly Chen, founding partner of Playground Global, Bruce Leak, and FoundersX founder/managing partner, Helen Liang. We have a lot to discuss and I hope you will Free event tuning on July 21.
The past week has brought us some of the aforementioned funding stories. At the top of my list is the simple name Cooperative robot, launched with a raised $10 million, under the leadership of former Amazon Robotics CEO Brad Porter. I spoke with the CEO last week about his acknowledged lofty goals of creating a versatile, versatile robot. Porter notes:
We don’t think there is an equivalent of six-degrees-of-freedom robotic art that is typically cooperative, works with humans, and can accommodate a wide variety of use cases. So we’re starting a company to build on that.
Again big ring for TWO Robotics based in Shenzhenannounced a $200 million Series C/D matching round all the way back to the distant past in September 2021. The new “Series D+” brings in $100 million, with top investor Capital Today and co-investors including a dollar fund Leading US and existing shareholders 5Y Capital, Source Code Capital, Sequoia Capital and 01VC.
The company makes warehouse/logistics robots and is taking advantage of the labor shortage. I suppose hit while the iron is hot. Founder and CEO, Richie Chen, noted:
This funding round will be spent on accelerating R&D of warehouse logistics robotic systems and expanding the global business, to deliver more efficient, intelligent and flexible products to deliver energy. capacity for every warehouse with robots to address labor shortages and address challenges posed by an aging population.
Tel Aviv-based drone company Indoor robot announced a $15 million Series A, led by Pitango and featuring Target Global, the European Innovation Council Fund and Spider Capital. This round will go towards ramping up the company’s production of Tando drones. Indoor systems focus primarily on security and surveillance.
Here’s the co-founder and CEO, Doron Ben David:
We’ve re-imagined the capabilities of a drone and combined human-like capabilities with AI tools to enable next-generation surveillance and security. Tando has been deployed by the world’s leading enterprises and security monitoring companies and is making a clear impact on safety and security.
Speaking of drones, after stumbling out of the gate, Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery program finally made some progress. This week, the company announced that the town of Lockeford, California will be “one of the first” in the US to use the service later this year. Lockeford is a small, census-designated site about 30 minutes outside of Stockton that is perhaps best known as the one-time home of the aviation pioneer Weldon B. Cooke. So that’s a nice hook.
The company also provided a look at some of the prototypes it has been working on over the years. The newest aircraft – the MH27-2 – is capable of carrying a 5-pound payload at up to 50 miles per hour. Alphabet’s Wing is very advantageous at the moment, with hundreds of thousands of deliveries, but we’re still very much in the early stages here, and on the shipping front in general, Amazon is still the beating company.
And for good measure, here’s a video of Ghost Robotics’ dog swimming, courtesy of Onyx Industries’ Natural Autonomous Tail (NAUT). As we’ve noted before, Ghost has been oblivious to its military and policy partners, drawing attention through images of a remote-controlled rifle strapped to the dog’s back, as well as test patrols along the US border.
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against the issue in February via a tweet, note:
It’s a shame that both sides fight each other to protect the public’s ability to pump loads of money into militarization. From tanks in police stations to corrupt military contracts, funding this violence is bipartisan + undisputed, but health care + housing is not. That’s BS.
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