Maybe it’s the Last holiday weekend here in the US, or maybe it’s the simple truth that we’re currently staring into the midsummer doldrums, but holy moly, it’s been a slow week on the robotics news front. I know – you’re supposed to captivate readers with a compelling first paragraph, but the truth is that things like this ebb and flow, and as we swing into mid-July, we’re experiencing the former.
I’ll of course use some of my column space to share another great tidbit about our July 21st robotics event (100% available to stream 100% free). We’ve officially announced the three judges for our pitch-off (I hope you participated, because submissions close today), and boy howdy the lineup is a disgrace to riches.
We will be joined by Ohio State University Dean of Engineering Ayanna Howard; E14 Venture Partner and founder of ittleBits, Ayah Bdeir; and DCVC partner, Kelly Chen. The pitch-off is a highlight of any londonbusinessblog.com event, and while I’m probably (definitely) biased here, I think that’s doubly true for Robotics, where we’re all getting a rare chance to see some real-world companies in to see an early stage.
As you probably know, getting things just right to demonstrate robotics startup companies can be difficult. You really need to hit that goldilocks, where you have technology to showcase but haven’t raised significant capital yet. We’ll be announcing those companies shortly, but for now I’m excited about the three judges, who bring really unique perspectives to the conversation, from the research, startup and VC sides of the fence.
Register here for free!
From where I sit, the biggest robotics financial news this week is the planned acquisition of Airobotics by American Robotics — or rather, the planned acquisition of Airobotics by American Robotics’ parent company. The former was acquired in August last year by Ondas, who now plans to acquire the latter in a deal valued at $18.4 million. The two companies produce fully autonomous surveillance drones tethered to a base station.
There will no doubt be some layoffs (and the Airobotics brand will probably eventually be swallowed up by the American Robotics banner — a sad end to a fun name), but the deal will create a joint company headquartered in both Massachusetts and Tel Aviv. American Robotics CEO Reese Mozer told me:
American Robotics and Airobotics have matured several elements of the DIB ecosystem, and this business combination is accelerating offerings that further our leadership in a broader set of market opportunities. In other words, in the short term we will learn from each other to further mature our respective systems. In the longer term, the Scout system and the Optimus system will be different models existing within the same product family, each specializing in a different set of use cases.
In much less exciting news, last-mile delivery platform Starship Robotics has announced that it is… lay off about 11% of the global workforce† Not entirely surprising, given the ubiquitous layoffs in the tech sector of late, but a robotics industry that has adequate funding has done well to largely avoid such disasters. The company said in a press release that the news comes in the wake of a large increase, but that unforeseen forces have forced it to adapt.
[D]The aforementioned changes in the economy and investments mean that Starship must now make difficult changes to focus on cost savings and improving profitability. These changes mean we will be closing a small number of service locations in the US and Germany over the next two months. The locations we need to close don’t have the right mix of salespeople and customer base to meet our near-term profitability targets. In addition to the staff affected by these decisions, we are also reducing the team at the company level.
Speaking of old-fashioned bits of news just now resurfacing (Listen, I told you it was slow, folks), Jaia Robotics closed out June by announcing a $1 million seed round. The company makes small underwater drones designed for data collection. Co-Founder/CEO Ian Estaphan Owen comments: “This investment in Jaia Robotics is a strong vote of confidence in the company as an investment opportunity and has led us to keep the round open for 90 days leading to a second close to allow us to bring them closer together. to the ceiling of $1.75 million. This will give us more flexibility and really accelerate the growth of our team.”
Some fun research with even smaller robots concludes us this week. The University of Pennsylvania shows off some ‘proof-of-concept’ researchand shows how a “shape-shifting robotic microswarm could one day act as a toothbrush, rinse and dental floss all in one.”
Professor Hyun Koo comments: “It doesn’t matter if you have straight or misaligned teeth, it adapts to different surfaces. The system can adapt to every nook and cranny in the oral cavity.”
As you can no doubt see from the above, this is all still at a very early stage.
No time is a good time to say goodbye, but now is the perfect time to sign up for Actuator.