Autonomous mobile robot (AMR) vendor Locus Robotics will accelerate its product innovation and global expansion for warehouse fulfillment automation thanks to a $150 million venture capital round, the company said today.
The “series E” round was led by Tiger Global Management and the technology investment firm BOND, with additional support from existing investors including Scale Venture Partners and Prologis Ventures, the venture capital arm of logistics real estate giant Prologis. It follows a $40 million venture round in 2020 which brought the firm’s backing at the time to more than $105 million.
According to Locus, the round is also significant because it values the seven year old startup as being worth $1 billion, which is a threshold that venture capitalists call “unicorn” status. In fact, that milestone makes Locus Robotics the first AMR vendor to gain the unicorn badge, according to Ash Sharma, senior research director at market research consultancy firm Interact Analysis.
"The AMR industry had already been growing rapidly prior to Covid-19, and a large number of companies emerged following Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems. Covid-19 acted as an accelerant, not only because it caused a massive spike in e-commerce, but also because of the social distancing measures it forced on e-commerce retailers, to which additional automation has been a crucial solution," Sharma said in a release. "The market is growing exponentially following years of successful pilots and proof-of-concepts by retailers and logistics companies. These same companies are now going from installing tens of AMRs to installing thousands."
Locus' new investors cited similar reasons for backing the firm. Their funding comes as warehouse operators face rapidly growing e-commerce volumes, rising labor costs, and increasingly demanding customers, Griffin Schroeder, Partner at Tiger Global, said in a release. To meet that need, Locus plans to use the money to expand its markets around the globe and support ongoing research and development (R&D).
Wilmington, Massachusetts-based Locus currently serves more than 40 customers and 80 warehouses around the world. Its bots can improve the efficiency of both inbound ("putaway") and outbound (“picking”) fulfillment by collaborating with warehouse employees and delivering mobile totes to them as needed. Each bot can automatically recognize workers, and use its large-screen display to share information in the worker’s preferred language, facilitating greater productivity and reduced error rates, the firm says. The company also uses real-time analytics, dashboards, and "gamification" to track individual performance statistics and motivate workers to greater achievement, Locus said.
"This new round of funding marks an important inflection point for Locus Robotics,” Locus CEO Rick Faulk said in a release. “Warehouses facing ongoing labor shortages and exploding volumes, are looking for flexible, intelligent automation to improve productivity and grow their operations."
Editor's note: This story was revised on February 18 to include input from Interact Analysis.