Yesterday, we officially announced another big name for the Top Contributor Session: Robots. I will spoke to Marty Walsh, the United States Secretary of Labor, at the July 21 event. It was a bit of a hassle in a day centered around discussions with startups, VCs, and researchers, but it’s something I was looking forward to discussing in a time.
Walsh was appointed to the position by President Biden last March. Prior to that, he served seven years as mayor of Boston – a combination of roles that give him a unique position to discuss the impact robotics and automation will have. available to the U.S. workforce of the future.
I predict that the people we will talk to at places like Amazon and the three companies in our performance panel (Locus, Berkshire Gray, and Fetch/Zebra) will generally agree that these technologies will instantly make the jobs of blue-collar employees easier while creating more jobs in the long run. One question I often ask in these conversations, though, is what happens to work in the meantime?
It is true that there is a jobs crisis at the moment. Many companies are having difficulty filling positions due to failure in the past 2 years. As a result, we are experiencing a tidal wave of automation adoption. But what does this mean for the workforce in the long run?
Are we really prepared for the impact all this technology will have on people with no technical background? Can the government do more on job creation and education? What about older workers who don’t have the time or resources to go back to school and learn how to program robots?
I have a lot of questions, and if you’re reading this, I’m sure you do too. I cannot think of more people in the world with whom I would rather discuss this subject than Secretary Walsh, given his background in employment; his work in local, state and national law; and his personal connection with one of the world’s largest and most vibrant robotics startup communities. I mentioned to a few speakers that he would be at the event, and it seems everyone on the Boston robotics team has met him at some point.
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A newsletter or two ago, we talked about some of the metrics that show how investments continue to grow in the robotics portfolio, despite the broader VC trend. Here’s some data from the other side of the equation. New figures from the International Federation of Robotics points to some impressive sales growth for industrial automation.
In North America, sales for Q1 2022 were up 28% year-over-year. That means the development we are seeing is not just forward. This is happening right now.
The strong recovery of the international robotics market is now underway: “Worldwide installations of industrial robots in 2021 will even exceed 2018 record levels,” IFR president Milton Guerry said in a research-related release. “In North America, first-quarter orders for both units and revenue were at all-time highs. Across all industries, the post-COVID boom generated double-digit growth year-over-year.”
It’s no surprise that automakers make up a large portion of that total, at 47 percent. Auto companies are a long way ahead here, decades or so. Even so, orders continued to grow in the category, up 37% year-over-year.
In the sponsorship department, FarmWise continues becoming one of the more successful agritech robotics companies, both in terms of VC support and viable product. Honestly, we could all use a little more weed in our lives. Earlier this week, the Central California firm announced a $45 million Series B, led by Fall Line Capital and Middleland Capital. That brings its total to $65 million.
“We started FarmWise with the belief that farmers should be provided with sustainable, cost-effective solutions to feed a developing world, and artificial intelligence is the ideal technology to make this happen. reality,” co-founder and CEO Sébastien Boyer said in a statement. . “With costs rising in the agriculture industry, we are continuing to expand our technology to work with more farmers.”
To date, the company’s technology has scored 15,000 commercial hours in the field (literally). This funding will be used to accelerate the rollout of existing products and R&D on new technology.
Meanwhile, the construction robot company Teleo announces $12 million Series A. The round was led by UP.Partners and featured K9 Ventures and Trucks Venture Capital, which led the startup’s seed round. As with FarmWise, the money will go towards implementing existing technology and growing the company’s roadmap. Specifically, Teleo develops technology to retrofit old heavy machinery into autonomous technology.
“With this Series A funding, we plan to double down on enhancing and deploying technology that allows our customers to operate their existing heavy equipment fleets semi-autonomously, ” Vinay Shet co-founder and CEO said in a press release.
Exciting piece here from Kyle. I consider it interesting, if not particularly surprising. The delivery market is finally returning to Earth after 2 years of people ordering Uber Eats or DoorDash for basically every meal. How long and short it is a loss will vary widely from company to company, based on specific patterns.
“DoorDash seems to work by charging all parties a fee to cover operating costs,” Hoxton Ventures partner Rob Kniaz told TechCrunch. “Fast-trade companies [like Gopuff] are competing on price and speed and have lower cart sizes to boot, so it’s much harder for them to break even. I think the model works where you can get very high returns and/or delivery fees, but this will never be a low-priced, everyday model. It’s a luxury business in my opinion.”
I refer to this in relation to what it ultimately means for all the money currently being injected into delivery robots. Given the sheer number of companies currently operating in that space, it’s probably safe to say there’s bound to be a setback, regardless. But if I were a VC firm betting on any of these myriad bots, I know I’d be asking some tough questions right now.
The SPAC world has also seen a significant cooling off this year (that is, I’m putting things as nicely as possible, be aware) after some adverse effects on many listed companies. share. However, the present is not all doom and gloom. Warehouse robot maker Symbotic has officially listed on Nasdaq, thanks to the support of SPAC with SVF Investment Corp. 3 (some really creative naming there).
The combined entity, Symbotic Inc., received some additional cash to help accelerate development. CEO Michael J. Loparco said in a press release:
Today marks a major milestone for Symbotic and its people, and we’re excited to accelerate our growth with a truly disruptive technology platform used by some of the biggest companies. world use. Symbotic’s longstanding partnership with SoftBank and other established investors will allow us to scale operations more quickly, introduce new technology innovations, and expand into new markets. .
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