The 10 Hottest Robotics Startups Of 2018
Makers of next-gen robots for warehousing and manufacturing, along with developers of cutting-edge drones and home robots, are featured on our list of top robotics startups of the year.
Rise Of The Robots
Yes, the robots are coming. They're already here, in fact—if you know where to look. Warehouses and manufacturing facilities are quickly becoming hotbeds of autonomous robot activity, and—judging by the activity on the robotics startup scene—offices and homes are the next waves coming. Research firm IDC reports that global spending on robotics and drones will hit $201.3 billion as of 2022, up from an expected $86.6 billion this year. Industrial robots are predicted to drive the most spending, though service robots and consumer robots are expected to grow steadily, as well, according to IDC. Startups that are developing cutting-edge robots in all of these areas have seen significant traction in 2018, with an array of new product releases and major funding rounds over the past year.
What follows are CRN's picks for the hottest robotics startups of 2018.
6 River Systems
CEO: Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton
Touted as the world's "first and only collaborative fulfillment solution," the robot developed by 6 River Systems enables warehouses to more quickly onboard new employees—by having the robot itself lead pickers through each step. The robot, which is named "Chuck," also allows warehouses to fulfill a greater number of orders with fewer robots thanks to Chuck's large capacity, according to 6 River Systems. The Waltham, Mass.-based startup was founded in 2015 by former executives of warehouse robotics maker Kiva Systems, which was acquired by Amazon. In April, the company announced a $25 million Series B round led by Menlo Ventures and including investors such as iRobot. As of August, 6 River Systems had deployed nearly 300 robots across 20 customer sites.
CEO: Youssef Saleh
Ava Robotics is a developer of autonomous mobile robots for telepresence uses, such as video collaboration. The company's Ava robot can move autonomously—allowing a remote user to move around in a distant location "as if they were physically there," Ava Robotics says. Ava leverages video technology from Cisco for high-definition video conferencing, according to the company. Cambridge, Mass.-based Ava Robotics was founded in 2016 by the team behind iRobot's Ava 500 remote presence robot, and the company's robot serves as an update to the Ava 500. In March, Ava Robotics announced the launch of its Ava robot, which is available through Cisco channel partners.
CEO: Amar Hanspal
Bright Machines says it's bringing a software-defined approach to robotics, by combining intelligent software with flexible factory robots and machine learning. The company is still nascent, founded just in May (originally as AutoLab AI) as a spinout from electronics manufacturing services firm Flex Ltd. But San Francisco-based Bright Machines has already landed major executives—including CEO Amar Hanspal, formerly the co-CEO of Autodesk—and in October announced raising $179 million in funding.
CEO: Melonee Wise
Fetch Robotics is a developer of autonomous mobile robots for distribution centers, which are designed to safely operate alongside human workers. The San Jose, Calif.-based company's robots also stand out by not requiring human guidance or fixed paths to operate. Founded in 2014, the company has raised $48 million from investors including Softbank. In October, the company announced a partnership with Honeywell to bring Fetch Robotics systems to customers of Honeywell Intelligrated.
CEO: Joel Reed
Pittsburgh-based IAM Robotics offers Swift, an autonomous mobile picking robot, which aims to alleviate worker shortages and reduce logistics costs. The focus of Swift is on e-commerce and warehousing operations. Founded in 2012 by alums of Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center, IAM Robotics raised $20 million from KCK Ltd. to ramp up its robot production, sales and marketing activities.
CEO: Dor Skuler
Intuition Robotics is the developer of ElliQ, an "active aging companion" robot aimed at seniors. The goal of ElliQ is to encourage older adults to maintain an engaged, active lifestyle through offering suggestions and conversation. ElliQ is powered by artificially intelligent cognitive computing technology. Founded in 2015 and based in Ramat-Gan, Israel, Intuition Robotics has run a beta test for ElliQ this year in California and Florida. The company has raised $20 million from investors including Toyota Research Institute, iRobot and Bloomberg Beta.
CEO: Kristian Kassow
Kassow Robots is the maker of collaborative robots, or "cobots," for safe use in industrial settings. The Copenhagen, Denmark-based company says that its cobots enable customers to achieve complex automation without the need for a robotics specialist on staff. Kassow Robots was founded in 2014 by CEO Kristian Kassow, who formerly co-founded collaborative robotics pioneer Universal Robots. In June, Kassow Robots announced a partnership with its first system integrator, the Project Group of Germany.
CEO: Matt Delaney
Marble is the developer of autonomous robots for "last-mile" delivery of goods, with its robots that are able to travel short distances on sidewalks. The company's robots have handled deliveries in San Francisco, including for Yelp's Eat24 food delivery service. San Francisco-based Marble was founded in 2015, and in July, the company raised a $10 million Series A round from investors including Tencent.
CEO: Adam Bry
In February, Skydio launched its first drone—a "fully autonomous" flying camera dubbed the R1. The drone is powered by Skydio's Autonomy Engine, "enabling it to see and understand the world around it so that it can fly safely at high speeds while avoiding obstacles, even in dense and challenging environments," the company said. "It can see people and anticipate how they will move, letting R1 make intelligent decisions about how to get the smoothest, most cinematic footage in real-time." Founded in 2014, Redwood City, Calif.-based Skydio has raised $70 million in funding from investors including Nvidia, Accel and Andreessen Horowitz.
CEO: Carl Vause
Soft Robotics is a designer of robotics solutions that are meant to mimic the human hand in grasping and manipulating items. The company's AI-powered, autonomous robots include the SuperPick—which can handle bin picking and sorting for industries such as e-commerce, retail and grocery. In May, Cambridge, Mass.-based Soft Robotics raised $20 million from investors including Scale Venture Partners and Honeywell Ventures.