The 10 Coolest Robotics Startups Of 2021 (So Far)

Makers of robots for construction, landscaping, e-commerce fulfillment and pizza-making are featured on our list of notable startups in the sector.

Rise Of The Robots

Judging by the growth and momentum at a number of leading robotics startups, it shouldn’t be long before you can expect to see autonomous robots coming to places they’ve never gone previously. Driven by advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies, as well as worker shortages in numerous industries, startups have launched robots for construction work, machine operating, landscaping and even pizza-making. Meanwhile, a number of robotics startups also continue to disrupt the warehousing market, including with AI-powered robots that are capable of performing labor-intensive tasks such as piece-picking. Our list of the coolest robotics startups this year so far also includes makers of drones (Skydio) and delivery robots (Starship Technologies), as well as a developer of autonomous motion planning technologies for industrial robots (Realtime Robotics).

What follows are our picks for the 10 coolest robotics startups of 2021 so far.

For more of the biggest startups, products and news stories of 2021 so far, click here.

Dusty Robotics

CEO: Tessa Lau

With its goal to “disrupt the $12 trillion building industry,” Dusty Robotics is developing construction robotics systems—starting with a construction layout robot. Called the “FieldPrinter,” the robot can work autonomously to print floor plans onto the floors at construction sites—printing with high accuracy and working up to 10X faster than typical construction crews, according to the company. The FieldPrinter has been used at several building projects so far—including in Los Angeles, in Austin, Texas, and in Leesburg, Va.—and Dusty Robotics says it’s now seeking a wider deployment for the robot. In June, the Mountain View, Calif.-based startup announced $16.5 million Series A funding round to support its expansion, led by Canaan Partners.

Locus Robotics

CEO: Rick Faulk

Locus Robotics is a maker of autonomous picking robots that provide automation for warehouse operations, enhancing fulfillment productivity. Key announcements from Locus during the first half of the year include an expansion of its work with DHL, which now plans to be using up to 2,000 assisted picking robots from Locus in its operations by 2022. Meanwhile, Locus Robotics in February announced raising a $150 million Series E round led by Tiger Global Management and Bond Capital, giving the Wilmington, Mass.-based company a $1 billion valuation.

Nimble Robotics

CEO: Simon Kalouche (pictured)

Nimble Robotics offers fleets of autonomous robots that provide assistance with fulfillment for e-commerce. Nimble says its robots can perform picking, packing and handling of products, using the company’s deep imitation learning technology. The ability to perform piece-picking—where items are picked off a shelf and packed into an order—distinguishes the company’s robots from other warehouse automation technologies, which mostly focus on transporting bins of products and still require human pickers, according to the company. Nimble Robotics counts “several Fortune 500 retailers” among its customers, and in March, the San Francisco-based startup announced a $50 million Series A funding round led by DNS Capital and GSR Ventures.


CEO: Clayton Wood

With its solution to automate repetitive food assembly tasks, Picnic has developed a pizza-making robotic system that aims to help restaurants and other commercial kitchens to “reduce costs, food waste and labor shortages in the kitchen.” The company’s Picnic Pizza System is expected to be deployed and go into production volume within this year, Picnic says. The Seattle-based startup so far has announced partnerships with OLM, a major supplier of pizza to convenience stores, and with Ethan Stowell Restaurants, which plans to use the system at events in the Seattle area. In May, Picnic announced a $16.3 million Series A funding round led by Thursday Ventures.

Rapid Robotics

CEO: Jordan Kretchmer

Rapid Robotics has developed what it calls “the first ready-to-work robotic machine operator,” which automates machine tasks and has seen major demand due to the shortfall in factory workers, according to the company. The Rapid Machine Operator is an “all-in-one robotics solution” capable of performing machine operating work such as injection molding, pad printing, heat stamping and pick-and-place, the company says. The robotic system leverages machine vision and pretrained AI, and since it’s connected to the cloud, the system can add capabilities over time, Rapid Robotics said. The San Francisco-based startup reports that its solutions have been used to produce more than 50 million parts over the past year—including in plastics, metals, automotive, medical devices and semiconductors—and in April, Rapid announced a $12 million Series A funding round led by NEA.

Realtime Robotics

CEO: Peter Howard

Realtime Robotics is developing new autonomous motion planning technologies for industrial robots, as well as for autonomous vehicles. In June, the Boston-based company announced the completion of a $31.4 million Series A funding round from investors including HAHN Automation and Toyota AI Ventures. Realtime Robotics says its technologies enable robots to operate autonomously “at full speed,” even in unstructured and dynamic environments. The company’s innovations include a “specialized processor” that enables the generation of “collision-free” motion plans in milliseconds for autonomous robots and vehicles. Realtime Robotics ultimately enables industrial robots “to proactively adapt their motions and avoid unwanted contact with humans, while continuously accomplishing their intended tasks.”

RightHand Robotics

CEO: Yaro Tenzer

RightHand Robotics is a developer of autonomous piece-picking solutions for order fulfillment, with the aim of offering improved efficiency and performance. In April, the Somerville, Mass.-based company announced its next-generation item-handling robot system, the RightPick 3. The system is “the world’s first autonomous piece-picking solution designed from the ground up to be integrator-friendly with a modular, industrialized hardware design, well-defined software APIs and international compliance,” RightHand Robotics said in a news release.

Scythe Robotics

CEO: Jack Morrison

In June, Scythe Robotics came out of stealth mode with its first autonomous robotic solution for landscaping—an autonomous commercial-grade mower. The mower is fully autonomous and all-electric, and includes eight HDR cameras and “a suite of other sensors”—allowing it “to operate safely in dynamic environments by identifying and responding to the presence of humans, animals, and other potential obstacles.” Additionally in June, Longmont, Colo.-based Scythe Robotics announced a $13.8 million Series A funding round led by Inspired Capital.


CEO: Adam Bry

Redwood City, Calif.-based Skydio has been continuing to expand its drone portfolio including with the launch in May of Skydio X2 drones with dual color/thermal sensors. The X2 drones with the added sensors are targeted for customers in defense, public sector and enterprise, according to the company. The Skydio X2 with the color/thermal dual sensor includes a 4K60 HDR color camera that offers 16X digital zoom and a narrow-angle lens, which is “optimized for long range situational awareness,” as well as a FLIR Boson 320x256 LWIR thermal sensor offering 8X digital zoom. The drone leverages Skydio’s AI-driven technologies for autonomous flight and obstacle avoidance. In March, Skydio announced achieving a valuation of more than $1 billion in connection with its $170 million Series D round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund.

Starship Technologies

CEO: Alastair Westgarth

In the realm of delivery robots, Starship Technologies continues to be among the foremost startups. The San Francisco-based company has developed autonomous wheeled robots that are capable of delivering food, packages and groceries—and Starship reports that its robots have completed “more than 1.5 million autonomous deliveries, travelled millions of miles and make more than 80,000 road crossings every day.” In June, the company announced that it has named Alastair Westgarth as its new CEO, succeeding co-founder Ahti Heinla, who moved into the CTO role at Starship. Westgarth was most recently the CEO at Alphabet’s Loon project, which used a network of balloons to provide internet access to unserved and underserved communities.