A PitchBook report documents a surge of investment in the warehouse robotics space.
Survey points to renewed investor interest in supply chain tech opportunities
Investment in warehouse robotics technology startups clocked in at $381 million in the first quarter of 2020, up 57% from the same period in 2019.
That's one of the key stats from PitchBook's new Q1 2020 Supply Chain Tech analyst report. The study examines venture capital (VC) investment levels, trends, new business models and notable startups within last-mile delivery, freight, warehousing and enterprise supply chain management.
While warehouse robotics investment exploded during this period, overall investment in supply chain tech declined in the first quarter of 2020. Supply chain technology companies raised $1 billion in VC across 59 deals in North America and Europe, a decline from $1.4 billion in Q1 2019.
The PitchBook report comes one month after the firm conducted a survey in partnership with last month's Collision From Home conference examining investor sentiment toward technology in a post-COVID-19 world.
The survey points to a major shift — from 2% to 11% — in investor attitude toward perceived opportunities within supply chain technology compared to a previous survey conducted in November 2019.
Supply chain technology jumped from last place to fourth in six months. (Image: PitchBook)
The PitchBook supply chain study covers the quarter before the coronavirus struck, when e-commerce was booming, albeit not as much as it did after the virus was established. But even in a pre-COVID world, brands were jumping on micro-fulfillment and automation solutions designed to reduce labor costs and improve e-commerce delivery times.
Among the outsize deals in the warehouse robotics space during the first quarter of 2020 are Berkshire Grey's $263 million Series B2 round led by SoftBank in January as well as Vecna Robotics' $50 million Series A1 round led by Blackhorn Ventures.
A flurry of new deals
Joining those deals are multiple seed and Series A investments in robotics tech companies that have taken place since the pandemic.
In the past month alone, robotics startup Third Wave Automation raised $15 million in Series A funding to scale its technology aimed at bringing shared autonomy to forklifts. CognitOps secured $3 million for its warehouse management automation system. SVT Robotics, a startup whose software aims to simplify robotics deployment, announced that it has completed a seed round of .5 million.
These post-Covid funding rounds reflect growing interest in touchless automation technology to replace or supplement human workers, make warehouses safer and make sure operations are not disrupted.
Here are a couple of other takeaways from the PitchBook report:
Supply Chain as a Service catches on: PitchBook sees growing demand for service-based solutions, from warehouse marketplaces Flexe and Stord, to suppliers of autonomous robots such as Locus Robotics, Mobile Industrial Robots and RightHand Robotics. The latter consist of subscription-based, full-service solutions as opposed to individual unit sales.
Warehouse risk management gains traction: The coronavirus has magnified concern about supply chain disruptions, putting an emphasis on real-time monitoring services that improve visibility and reduce risk. Startups providing these services, such as Interos and Riskmethods, have seen an uptick in venture investment.
March of the COVID-fighting robots
This autonomous robot isn't afraid to ask for help
Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Linda Baker.
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