By Brian Heater
The last few years have been a major accelerator for the robotics industry at large, but warehouse robotics may be the biggest winner of all. Stay at home orders fueled adoption in the early days of the pandemic, as some retailers stayed open after being labeled “essential businesses.” Even after things began reopening, those roles have remained difficult to fill, leading many firms to look toward robotic help.
All the while, Amazon has had a jump on most of the industry, dating back to the company’s acquisition of Kiva Systems a decade ago. The competition continues looking for angles to compete with the 800-pound e-commerce gorilla, and robotics startups have flooded the field, promising an edge.
Massachussets-based Locus Robotics has risen in the ranks, becoming one of the most prominent names in what is now a fairly crowded category. “We look at Amazon probably as the best marketing arm in the robotics business today,” Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk said at our robotics event in July. “They have set SLAs that everyone has to match. And we look at them as being a great part of our marketing team.”
Locus this week announced a $117 million Series F, led by Goldman Sachs, G2 Venture Partners and Stack, with existing investor Scale Venture Partners also participating. The company has been on a fundraising tear, with a $50 million raise last September that followed a $150 million Series E in February. Locus’s total funding is now north of $400 million. This latest round values Locus at “close to” $2 billion.
The firm’s promise is a brownfield solution, with systems that can be easily integrated into existing warehouses without much fuss. The company marked its one-billionth pick in September of this year and says it’s currently averaging around three million picks a day throughout its global operations.
“Locus is clearly the winner in the flexible warehouse robotics space, and the consistency with which the Locus team executes has been extraordinary,” G2’s Zach Barasz says in a release. “We are thrilled to be investors in Locus Robotics and to partner with the leading warehouse execution company in making global supply chains faster, more cost-effective, and more resilient and sustainable.”
He, along with Goldman Sach’s Mark Midle, will be joining the Locus board.
Asked about the challenges of raising in the current climate, CEO Rick Faulk tells TechCrunch:
In today’s environment, investors are focused on high-quality companies that have both strong growth/market leadership and business unit economics. Therefore, it is important to have a track record and forecast that supports both. Late-stage private companies are competing with beaten down public companies for investment dollars.
Companies are focused on improving operational efficiency and Locus assists with exactly that….therefore, there is strong excitement around being a differentiated solution in a very large end market. The raise will enable Locus to continue to extend its leadership in the market.