September 9, 2019

Shopify acquires 6 River Systems for $450 million

Canadian e-commerce platform will deploy "Chuck" collaborative robots to accelerate growth of its fulfillment network.

By Ben Ames

Warehouse robotics startup 6 River Systems Inc. (6RS) was acquired Monday for $450 million by Shopify Inc., an e-commerce platform for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that plans to deploy 6RS' collaborative "Chuck" robots in its newly launched fulfillment network.

Waltham, Mass.-based 6RS was founded in 2015 by a group of robotics experts from Kiva Systems, the warehouse robotics pioneer that was acquired by Inc. for $775 million in 2012. When Amazon took Kiva private, a number of tech startups sprouted up to fill the gap, and 6RS launched an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) named Chuck, which directs and aids warehouse workers as they pick items.

6RS soon landed funding, including a $25 million venture round in 2018, then rolled out developments such as its "Mobile Sort" smart kiosk product and an integration with Soft Robotics' "SuperPick" piece-picking and order fulfillment solution.

Ottawa-based Shopify will now use 6RS' "collaborative warehouse fulfillment solution" to accelerate the growth of its Shopify Fulfillment Network, an initiative launched in June with the promise of ensuring timely deliveries, lower shipping costs, and excellent customer experience for both merchants and their customers.

Adding 6RS' cloud-based software and collaborative mobile robots to the Shopify Fulfillment Network will increase the speed and reliability of warehouse operations by empowering on-site associates with daily tasks, including inventory replenishment, picking, sorting, and packing, according to Shopify.

The arrangement will not be exclusive to Shopify, but will allow 6RS to continue building and selling its solution for warehouses in the general market, a Shopify spokeperson said in an email. In addition, 6RS will maintain its Massachusetts headquarters and more than 130 6RS employees—including the company's leadership—will join Shopify as part of the acquisition, the spokesperson said.

Subject to various closing conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019. And Shopify expects the deal to pay off quickly, saying 6RS is expected to generate annual billings of approximately $30 million in 2020.

"Shopify is taking on fulfillment the same way we've approached other commerce challenges, by bringing together the best technology to help everyone compete," Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke said in a release. "With 6 River Systems, we will bring technology and operational efficiencies to companies of all sizes around the world."

Shopify has also grown in recent months by building integrations with logistics partners such as transport and logistics giant UPS Inc. and logistics software provider TrueCommerce.


About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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