While businesses all over the world are looking to automate production lines and distribution chains, businesses that are developing robots are drawing huge investor interest. The most recent to be funded is Flexiv The company, which has completed the Series B round north of $100 million from investors , including China’s On-Demand Services giant Meituan , TechCrunch learned.
Other key investors who participated in this round include Chinese venture capitalist Meta Capital (Yuan Zhi Zi Ben), a major Chinese agricultural firm, New Hope Group, private equity firm Longwood, Jack Ma’s YF Capital, prominent Chinese venture capital companies Gaorong Capital and GSR Ventures, and Plug and Play’s China and U.S. ventures. The latest round has boosted the capital raised by the startup in the past to nearly $120 million.
The company operates from various important Chinese cities as well as California, with the majority of its employees based in China, as is standard practise for AI companies run by Chinese founders who have lived as students or worked in the U.S.
In 2016, Wang Shiquan, a graduate from Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab, created Flexiv with a primary focus on creating adaptive robots for production industries. With the capital boost, the company plans to deploy its AI-driven general-purpose robots into other fields like agriculture, logistics, and medical services.
With Meituan’s strategic investment, for example, Flexiv could deploy its solutions to the investor’s primary food delivery business, which is characterised by repetitive, high-volume work and is ripe to automate.
“While we wait, there’s plenty of potential for automation in the traditional manufacturing processes,” Wang explained to TechCrunch. The consumer electronics industry is in the need of precise and high-precision manufacturing processes, which means that the manufacturing line is frequently adjusted to meet the requirements of of an innovative product. Flexible’s robots, equipped with the aid of computer vision and feedback mechanisms for force are able to adjust to the changing environment and can help factory owners reduce time as well as money when making changes to their machinery, Wang claimed.
The robots’ flexibility employed by the company is the primary reason that makes it stand out from the established players the founder said.
“Conventional robotic arms are able to complete tasks in environments with no barriers in the way, but they’re less suited to working in complex conditions… “Many seem to be straightforward tasks, like dishwashing, require an extensive amount of AI-based recognition and decision-making.”
The company began manufacturing massive quantities at the end of the 2nd quarter this year, and has since produced over 100 robotics. The company hopes to earn profits through the sale of robots as well as software, and also licensing and providing after-sales service. The issue is finding customers and partners across many industries who be willing to trust the company’s new technology.
China remains the largest Flexiv market and North America is a key market to expand. “Each country has its own competitive edge in robotics,” Wang explained. “China’s advantage is in manufacturing, supply chains, and labour costs.”
“In the area of traditional and adaptive robotics, the gap between different countries is certainly narrowing,” the founder of the company stated.