Wilmington-based Locus Robotics became a unicorn recently. The robotic startup raised $150 million in Series E funding led by Tiger Global and Bond. Locus Robotics is now worth $1 billion, a 177% jump over its $361 million-valuation last year.
Jay Simons, General Partner at Bond said: “The Locus operation unlocks substantial productivity gains, while significantly lowering expenses, improving employee morale, and providing customers with unmatched visibility into warehouse operations.”
What Is Locus?
Locus makes autonomous mobile robots called LocusBots, primarily used in warehouses. The company has put over 4,000 robots in the field today, catering to over 40 customers. Locus Robotics spun out of Quiet Logistics 1n 2014. Rick Faulk, the 71-year-old with a track record of three successful tech company exits, took up the mantle from cofounder Bruce Welty in 2016.
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“Warehouses facing ongoing labour shortages and exploding volumes, are looking for flexible, intelligent automation to improve productivity and grow their operations. Locus is uniquely positioned to drive digital transformation in this enormous global market,” said CEO Rick Faulk.
The startup provides robot-as-a-service on a subscription basis. The company claimed its robots have been able to bring about a 2-3X increase in productivity. Locus clientele includes CEVA Logistics, DHL, Material Bank, Boots UK, GEODIS, Port Logistics Group, Verst Logistics, Radial, etc.
Locus Robotics aims to use the fresh capital for global expansion. The proceedings will also go to accelerate the efforts in research and development. The startup also plans to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance its capabilities.
State Of Play
Reports suggest the robotics industry will grow from $76.6 billion in 2020 to $176.8 billion in 2025. Robot technology development requires a lot of initial investment. In a recent article, we covered how robotic startups are attracting investments across stages. In 2020, the global robotics industry saw a total investment of almost $50 billion.
Despite the money pouring into the robotics industry, not many startups have hit the unicorn milestone of late. The numbers are meagre compared to startups in AI and data science space.
Some of the popular unicorns in robotics are Automation Anywhere, UIPath, and UBtech Robotics. In 2019, Automation Anywhere raised $290 million in Series B funding at a valuation of $6.8 billion. Romania-based UIPath is another RPA software company that reached a $1 billion dollar valuation in March 2018. In India, robotic companies such as ABB Robotics and GreyOrange Robotics are showing a lot of promise.
Reasons For Growth
Increase in automation: Many industries require automation in day-to-day operations. The pandemic has pushed the need even further. The shortage of labour, the high growth of sectors such as logistics, ecommerce etc., have driven the demand for flexible and intelligent automation.
Increase in demand: A report projected the need for commercial robots to hit around 4 million from over 50,000 warehouses worldwide by 2025. In 2018, only 4,000 warehouses required robots. This increased demand is resulting in more robotics installations across industries.
Improved state of funding: As mentioned earlier, the robotic industry requires a huge initial investment. Some of the renowned investors in the robotics domain are SOSV, Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, and Softbank. The backing of big-ticket investors is giving a leg up to these robotics startups.
State-of-the-art facilities: Companies are focusing on enabling infrastructure to boost research and development of robotics technology. For instance, ABB robotics recently inaugurated a robot facility centre in India to help researchers work on cutting-edge robotics and digitalisation technologies.
The robotics industry has witnessed a radical transformation over the years. The bots have diversified from shop floors into surgical assistants, personal assistants, delivery executives and more. The industry is now taking full advantage of the progress made in artificial intelligence and machine learning to push technological boundaries.