The State and Opportunities In Robotics, with Fady Saad of MassRobotics

This is the 15th episode of the podcast Deep Tech: From Lab to Market’ where Founders and Investors share how ‘deep tech’ innovation can go from lab to market. It is available on Apple Podcast and other platforms

It is hosted by Benjamin Joffe, Partner at SOSV, a global early stage fund focused on deep tech. SOSV runs multiple accelerator programs including HAX (intelligent hardware) and IndieBio (life sciences). To hear about new episodes, sign up to the newsletter or follow us on twitter at @LabToMarket.

Robotics often brings images of giant factories or sci-fi dystopias. But what is the reality beyond the hype and fear?

Fady Saad is a former engineer who got exposed to cutting edge technologies of DARPA, NASA, the NSF and the AirForce. He grew a passion for robotics, and founded MassRobotics in Boston as a robotics ‘escalator’ to help companies commercialize their innovations.

  • It is now a cluster of 350 robotics companies, with 50 resident startups and 40 strategic partners,

  • MassRobotics is also advising 150 VC firms, as well as investment banks, PE funds and corporates like GM and Lockheed Martin.

In this conversation, I believe the most important takeaway is that robotics today is vastly different from 10 years ago. We also discuss:

  • The nature of robots,

  • The power of complex systems and emerging properties,

  • The difficulty of finding viable business applications,

  • Why we have a Roomba instead of a two-armed Rosey,

  • Trends, Acquisitions (over $8 billion in 2019), Failures,

  • The legacy of Willow Garage,

  • How to apply lean startup to robotics,

  • What successful companies do beyond tech skills and raising capital.

Ask questions to Fady here

For other episodes covering robotics, check the episodes with Robert Gallenberger (btov Partners), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and John Ho (Anzu Partners).

Acquired

  • Auris Health: Robotic endoscopy. Acquired by J&J for $3.4B.

  • Blue River Technology: Automated agtech system for weeding. Acquired by John Deere for $305M.

  • Boston Dynamics: “Changing your idea of what robots can do”. Acquired by Softbank from Google for $100M.

  • Corindus: Robot for vascular interventions. Acquired by Siemens for $1.1B.

  • Kiva Systems: Warehousing robots. Acquired by Amazon for $775M. Over 200,000 robots are now in operation.

  • Six River Systems: Warehouse fulfillment robots. Acquired by Shopify for $450M.

  • Universal Robots: Collaborative robots. Acquired by Teradyne for $285M.

Closed

  • Anki: AI-powered robotic toys. Raised $182M. Closed.

  • Jibo: Social robot for the home. Raised $72.7M. Assets were acquired by NTT Data.

  • Laundroid: Laundry-folding robots. Raised $104M. Closed.

  • Rethink Robotics: Collaborative robots. Raised $149.5M. Closed.

  • Willow Garage (2006–2014): Robotics research lab. Creator of ROS (Robot Operating System) and the PR2 robot. Closed.

Operating

  • Fetch Robotics: Autonomous mobile robots for warehouses. Raised $94M.

  • iRobot: Inventor of the Roomba. Market cap: $2.1B.

  • Savioke: Indoor delivery robots, founded by Steve Cousins, former CEO of Willow Garage. Raised $34M.

  • Teradyne: Advanced test solutions and collaborative robotics. Market cap: $14.6B.

  • Vecna Robotics: Autonomous mobile solutions. Raised $63.5M.

SOSV Startups Mentioned

  • Avidbots: cleaning robots for commercial floors

  • EMYS: EdTech social robot for learning foreign languages.

  • Presso: Dry-cleaning robot

  • Rebartek: Robotic assembly for concrete reinforcement bars.

  • Simbe Robotics: robots for in-store inventory

  • SkyGauge: Drone for aerial contact inspections.

  • Somatic: commercial bathroom cleaning robots.

Other References

14. How Khosla Ventures Invests In Deep Tech — Kanu Gulati and Rajesh Swaminathan
13. Australia’s Deep Tech Ambitions — Phil Morle (Main Sequence Ventures)
12. Funding Science Fiction That Works — Habib Haddad and Calvin Chin (E14 Fund of MIT Media Lab)
11. How to Select Industrial Partners — Robert Gallenberger (btov Partners)
10. Science Entrepreneurship — Xavier Duportet (Eligo Bioscience & Hello Tomorrow)

And 10 others!