Soft Robotics’ Series B Attracts Plenty of Attention
Lane Long posted on February 28, 2020 |
The automation company raised $23 million in an offering headlined by Honeywell, Yamaha and FANUC.
(Image courtesy of Soft Robotics.)
(Image courtesy of Soft Robotics.)

Soft Robotics, an industrial automation firm specializing in gripping solutions, announced earlier this month the conclusion of a Series B funding round worth $23 million. The company had no trouble securing investment, with an oversubscribed Series B featuring all the participants in its Series A funding plus several other industry heavyweights. Soft Robotics plans to use the new resources to further develop its material handling, machine vision, and software solutions for a wide variety of manufacturing applications. CEO Carl Vause said, “This new funding will allow us to power the next phase of our growth strategy and continue to provide solutions to our customers’ greatest challenges.”

Automating High Variance Processes

Soft Robotics serves customers in industries such as advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, e-commerce, and more with tailored—but similar—products and systems. The company found its best early success in its ability to handle high variance tasks that are difficult for other robotics systems. One relatively new focus area for the company is in “reverse supply chains,” which deal with a major pain point for online retailers: customer returns in retail.

Loosening an E-Commerce Bottleneck

The high cost of returns made by online shoppers got a lot of attention this past holiday season, when UPS announced that it expected to process 1.9 million returns in a single day. The cost of customer indecision can be astronomical, particularly given the difficulty of automating the return process. The growing number of returns is exacerbated by what remains a historically tight labor market in the U.S. There simply aren’t enough workers available to do the job. This has created an opportunity for Soft Robotics to fill the void using its “patented and proven technology and unique ability to handle the most unstructured and delicate items.”

A Growing List of Investors

The obvious size of this market opportunity, coupled with the proprietary material handling tech of Soft Robotics, caught the eye of many industrial players during the company’s latest funding round. The Series B, co-led by original lead investor Calibrate Ventures and Material Impact, also included Honeywell, Hyperplane, Scale, Tekfen Ventures, and Yamaha among its participants. Perhaps most notably, industrial robotics leader FANUC got in on the action. FANUC and Soft Robotics announced in late 2019 a partnership allowing Soft Robotics’ gripping system to interface with any of FANUC’s robots.


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