Simbe Robotics lands $26 million in funding for rolling retail bot
Deals with Venrock, Softbank will help firm manufacture an additional 1,000 "Tally" robot models over the next two years.
Technology vendor Simbe Robotics Inc. will boost the production and deployment of its Tally robot for counting inventory in retail store aisles by 1,000 units over two years, thanks to two rounds of financing announced today, including $26 million in venture capital.
The growth is Simbe's latest expansion since launching its Tally robots in 2018 to the retail store chains Decathlon USA sporting goods and Schnuck Markets Inc. groceries.
San Francisco-based Simbe raised the new venture funding in a Series A equity financing round led by Venrock with participation from Future Shape, Valo Ventures, and Activant Capital. Following the round, Simbe has added three people to its board of directors: Tony Fadell, principal at Future Shape, David Pakman, partner at Venrock, and Ryan Gembala, managing partner at Pathbreaker Ventures.
The fresh funding will fuel business operations including hiring employees in sales, marketing, and customer success; and continued investment in R&D. In addition to growing its team, Simbe plans to expand its fleet of Tally robots into new markets, accelerating its deployments with existing partners, and add new capabilities for e-commerce level insight.
"The Simbe team is building one of the most interesting datasets in retail, capturing inventory and pricing data that hasn't been available before," Venrock's Pakman said in a release. "With Simbe, retail stores can free up scarce labor to spend more time doing high-value activities like interacting with customers. Retail is changing, and stores must modernize to succeed in today's environment."
The timing is right for Simbe to roll out more robots in future months because companies in many sectors are struggling to hire enough workers, with unemployment at historic lows of 3.7% in the U.S. and 3.8% in the U.K., Pakman said in a blog post. That challenge is compounded by high turnover rates in retail jobs, leading to unfilled positions and unfulfilled job functions.
One solution to alleviate this issue is to assign robots to perform many of the lower level, repeatable tasks humans dislike, such as relentlessly walking store aisles to tally up missing items or check prices, Pakman said. "As automation is more broadly adopted, just as is happening here, humans will be able to focus on higher-level tasks which drive more value to customers and to enterprises," he said in the post.
In a separate deal, Simbe said it will expand an existing partnership with SoftBank Robotics America, intended to scale Simbe's business globally by leveraging SoftBank's international reach and operational efficiencies.
Specifically, Softbank will provide the inventory financing to help Simbe manufacture an additional 1,000 Tally units over the coming two years. "Building on the momentum of our partnership with Simbe and our focus on augmenting the workforce through automation, inventory financing was a natural next step to bring more Tally robots to market, faster. The retail space is hungry for autonomous solutions to common pain points, and Simbe has exceeded expectations in designing, building, and deploying Tally robots worldwide," Kass Dawson, Softbank's head of business strategy, said in a release.
Simbe's autonomous Tally bot performing multiple store traversals per day, dodging customers during regular hours of operation while it executes a variety of inventory auditing tasks. Using both computer vision and RFID scanning technology, Tally provides retailers and their global consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand partners with actionable, e-commerce-level insights into shelf data up to three times per day, the firm says.
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