In a sign the pandemic continues to bolster – and strengthen — the global delivery and logistics market, warehouse robotics startup Geek+ today announced that it extended its series C funding round to $200 million, up from $150 million in July 2019. The company says the deal, which closed sometime earlier this year, will accelerate the expansion of its robot-as-a-service program and support its relationships with technology and ecosystem partners.
Worker shortages caused by the spread of coronavirus have prompted some retailer, fulfillment, and logistics companies to accelerate the rollout of mobile robots. For instance, Gap more than tripled the number of item-picking machines it uses to 106 in total, while Amazon says it’s relying more heavily on automation for product sorting. According to ABI Research, more than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in over 50,000 warehouses around the world by 2025, up from just under 4,000 warehouses in 2018.
Geek+, which was founded in 2015, develops a range of AI-imbued logistics robots addressing scenarios in warehouses, factories, and sorting centers. The company claims its line of picking robots can autonomously carry thousands of pounds, and it says its “smart factory” system — which replaces traditional conveyor-belt-style assembly line setups — can almost double production capacity with a combination of internet of things devices, 5G, edge computing, and real-time computer vision.
Geek+ also supplies the planning software that drives its autonomous robots, most of which employ lidar, collision sensors, RGB cameras, and visual simultaneous localization and mapping technologies to make their way around factory floors. Algorithms facilitate things like order grouping and finding the right box size according to a products’ weight and measurements by mining and analyzing historical data, and they reposition inventory to easy-to-reach places within warehouses and factories based on predicted demand:
- Robot Management System (RMS) handles tasks like path planning, traffic management, task allocation, and capacity optimization.
- Intelligent Warehouse Execution System (WES) manage all available picking, moving, sorting, and forklift machines.
- Intelligent Warehouse Management System (iWMS) orchestrates tasks like robot picking, sorting, cross-warehousing, handling, access, and manual management.
- Simulation Platform (SP) helps optimize configurations before projects begin with a simulation environment, planning tools, and mapping modules.
- Data Platform (DP) provides storage for Geek+’s other software solutions.
According to Geek+, last year during the Chinese shopping holiday Singles Day, iWMS helped to process 8.11 million delivery orders combined for ecommerce customers.
Geek+’s funding round extension comes after the Beijing-based company brought its warehouse robots to the U.S. via a partnership with Conveyco, a North American order fulfillment and distribution center system integrator. Overseas, Geek+ recently worked with Walmart to deploy robots in the retailer’s Shenzhen distribution center, improving picking efficiency by a claimed 3.5 times. It also installed dozens of picking robots in Dell’s Xiamen spare parts warehouse and Decathlon’s Kunshan warehouse to reduce the need for on-site operators. And in Japan, it teamed up with Nike to enable same-day delivery in the Greater Tokyo area.
Geek+ says that it has over 300 customers (including Alibaba and Suning) who’ve deployed more than 10,000 of its robots to date in over 20 countries.
This latest “C2” funding round, which was led by V Fund with participation from Redview Capital and Vertex Ventures, brings Geek+’s total raised to nearly $390 million a reported post-money valuation of $2 billion. (GGV Capital, D1 Capital Partners, and Warburg Pincus contributed to last year’s C1.) In addition to Beijing, the 800-employee company has offices in Germany, the UK, the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore
Geek+ competes in the $3.1 billion intelligent machines market with Los Angeles-based robotics startup InVia, which leases automated robotics technologies to fulfillment centers; Gideon Brothers, a Croatia-based industrial startup backed by TransferWise cofounder Taavet Hinrikus; robotics systems company GreyOrange; and Berkshire Grey, which combines AI and robotics to automate multichannel fulfillment for retailers, ecommerce, and logistics enterprises; and Otto Motors. Fulfillment alone is a $9 billion industry — roughly 60,000 employees handle orders in the U.S., and companies like Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn have deployed tens of thousands of assistive robots in assembly plants overseas.