Jaka Robotics, a Chinese startup that makes collaborative robots, has just secured a hefty Series D funding round of more than $150 million from a range of heavyweight investors to help it expand globally.
The round is led by Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek, TrueLight Capital, Softbank Vision Fund II and Prosperity7 Ventures, a growth fund under Aramco Ventures, an investment subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco.
Collaborative robots, also known as ‘cobots’, are meant to work alongside humans rather than in isolation. Based in Shanghai and Beijing, Jaka’s robotic arms can help people with a range of tasks, from assembling electronic parts, pouring a coffee maker, to packaging smartphones.
Jaka plans to devote his new funding to R&D and global expansion, making Prosperity7’s investment all the more important.
“We have the unique background to help [companies] to go global by leveraging the global outlets of the Aramco ecosystem and our strong connection to Saudi Arabia with the Middle East,” Scott Cai, managing director at Prosperity7 who had stints at SoftBank and Baidu, told londonbusinessblog.com .
“Today, the Middle East is one of the most important developed markets that also has a very good relationship with China and many Chinese entrepreneurs trying to get their first foothold in the Middle East,” the investor continued. “We can help bring those tech companies into those markets.”
Jaka already counts Toyota and Schneider as his closest partners, who, together with the startup, are developing large-scale applications using its robotic solutions.
While Cai could not reveal Jaka’s financial performance, he said the robot maker’s growth has been “very impressive” in recent years. Overseas companies currently account for “a material portion” of Jaka’s revenue and are expected to reach a 50% share in the long term.
Aramco in China
Founded in 2014, Jaka is exactly the type of tech startup that Prosperity7 is looking for in China. Saudi Aramco has been active in China’s oil and gas and chemical markets since the 1990s, and last year it began deploying capital through Prosperity7 to bet on Chinese technology that “can solve major problems at the global level and generate huge returns.” to generate”.
Jaka’s robots can do heavy lifting, which is useful for energy companies in the Middle East. In oil drilling, for example, rock cores are still carried around manually for testing. “It’s not efficient at all,” Cai suggested, adding that robots can perform better in this type of work.
Companies like Jaka, which fits in with China’s national goal to improve efficiency in its traditional industries, are coveted by many investors. Prosperity7 believes its ability to invest in the long game gives it a unique appeal to startups.
“Prosperity7 is backed by Saudi Aramco. We look to the long horizon and build long-term relationships,” said Cai.
Being relatively new to China is not a disadvantage for Prosperity7, Cai said, as his investment outfit looks for opportunities in “disruptive tech” such as industrial internet (China’s term for using advanced technology such as smart sensors to boost productivity in industrial production). improve), robots and medical technology.
Major USD funds operating in China have focused on the lucrative consumer internet space for the past two decades, with the likes of Tencent and Alibaba fueling an internet boom. Many of them have also started looking at semiconductors, autonomous driving and other advanced technologies, but they too are new to the field.
Cai also doesn’t seem concerned about the current economic slowdown in China, saying, “It’s normal to see the ups and downs in the market.”
“We still believe in the long-term trend of technological advancement in China and more and more world-class companies will become winners of the Chinese market.”