Ambi Robotics, a startup developing supply chain automation hardware, announced today that it has raised $32 million in additional funding led by Tiger Global and Bow Capital, with the participation of Ahren and logistics company Pitney Bowes. Pitney Bowes is a strategic investor in Ambi, having recently signed a $23 million deal with the company to deploy Ambi’s hardware at Pitney Bowes’ US fulfillment centers.
The new capital came in the form of a SAFE, or simple future equity agreement, which gives investors the right to buy equity in the company at a future date, allowing Ambi to delay negotiations on valuation and investment terms. CEO Jim Liefer says it will be deployed to continue implementations and installations of Ambi’s technology, expand the company’s product portfolio and increase the number of employees for engineering, customer support and operations teams.
“This additional funding round came about very quickly, stemming from a ‘normal’ business update for our existing investors and partners,” Liefer told australiabusinessblog.com in an email interview. “It sparked interest in further fuel production and implementations of our current and future categories of AI-powered parcel sorting systems… Only this year our team has more than doubled and we will continue to add technical talent and customer success talent and other areas to maintain equal keep up with customer demand for our robotic solutions in all their operations.”
Ambi’s co-founders — including Ken Goldberg, the chair of the industrial engineering and operations research division at UC Berkeley — discovered clever techniques years ago to train robots in simulation and transfer those lessons to the real world. After a breakthrough on a system called Dex-NetGoldberg and Jeff Mahler, a former doctoral student, launched the company in 2019, along with other scientists and engineers at UC Berkeley.
Dex-Net, short for Dexterity Network, is an AI system that trains on thousands of images of 3D models of objects. Using deep learning, the system scans the data and uses algorithms to learn how best to pick up the objects.
Ambi’s robotics platform builds on this to automate processes, especially in logistics and fulfillment. The company claims its products, including robotic arms and the software to operate them, can be “learned” to choose and pack millions of unique items, while adapting to different packaging (such as boxes and envelopes) on the fly. ).
Using “end effectors” such as suction cups, Ambi machines select, scan, place, place and package items in mail bags on the fulfillment center floors, together with employees. Software running in the background analyzes data on productivity, item sizes and weights, usage and more, identifying pick points on items in cluttered environments such as conveyor belts, bins and bins.
Customers prepay for Ambi’s robotics units and then pay a monthly subscription fee to use the software.
“The Ambi Robotics team brings a new way of thinking about traditional problems,” says Liefer. “With advanced technology that can solve a wide variety of real-world problems, the team has [has] decided to use their expertise to propel the exploding e-commerce industry towards a sustainable supply chain so that the burden of sorting parcels does not rest on our most valuable asset: people.”
Liefer says Ambi’s current focus is on deploying the latest generation of its robotic technology, AmbiSort A-Series v3, which has a “soft-touch” end effector that can handle both deformable and rigid items. Ambi claims warehouse workers can work with three to four of these systems to increase average throughput per worker to over 1,200 sorted items per hour.
Ambi competes with Covariant, Nomagic, Soft Robotics, Pickle, Hai Robotics, XYZ Robotics and RightHand, among others, in a favorable investment climate for robotics. According to to Crunchbase, more than $17 billion deposited into VC-backed robot startups in 2021 — nearly triple the investment in 2020. In April, Amazon announced it would create a new $1 billion fund to support companies active in the field. of customer handling, logistics and supply chain sectors. And in May, Walmart expanded its partnership with robotics startup Symbotic to install the latter’s machines at all of Walmart’s distribution centers in the U.S.
As of 2019, the global warehouse automation market was worth approximately $15 billion, according to to Statistics. That number is expected to double in the next four years, with supply chain executives in an Accenture questionnaire mention automation as one of their top three investment priorities — Employee concerns about the technology aside.
Leifer says Ambi, for its part, started monetizing commercial deployments in October 2020, installing systems ahead of the peak holiday buying season. The company is currently installing 80 parcel sorting systems and supporting more than 80 “full-stack” sorting systems in 15 sorting hubs.
Gregg Zegras, EVP and president of global e-commerce at Pitney Bowes, added in an emailed statement: “Ambi Robotics is an important part of an innovation strategy that helps Pitney Bowes improve service to our customers and improve our global e commerce business to grow efficiently. In Ambi Robotics, we see the same commitment to customer-centric innovation that has helped Pitney Bowes evolve and win in the marketplace for over 100 years. We look forward to continuing to work together to drive innovation in our global e-commerce hubs.”
Berkeley-based Ambi, which recently moved into new headquarters, has raised $67 million to date and has more than 50 employees.