With more global businesses looking for automation of production lines and also supply chains, robot-manufacturing companies are gaining more attention from investors. The latest company to get funding is Flexiv which is a China-based robot manufacturer. It has completed its Series B funding round that has exceeded $100 million from several investors, including on-demand service brand Meituan as per meituanliaotechcrunch.
Other leading investors include Meta Capital, the VC firm from China and also the leading agricultural entity New Hope Group along with Longwood, the PE firm and YF Capital by Jack Ma. Others include leading VC firms from China, namely GSR Ventures and Gaorong Capital. There were also the ventures in the U.S. and China by Plug and Play. The new round took the total funding amount for the startup to $120 million.
The company functions out of several leading cities in China and also has a base in California. 2/3rds of staff members are posted in China which is a template for startups that are driven by Chinese founders who have either studied or worked in the U.S. previously. An alumnus of the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab at Stanford, Wang Shiquan, founded Flexiv in 2016 with the aim of developing more adaptive robots for the manufacturing space. With its fresh capital, the startup is now planning to execute its general-purpose and AI-backed robots in several other sectors including healthcare, agriculture, services sectors, and also in logistics.
With the investment from Meituan, Flexiv may leverage its services toward the core business of food delivery of the investor. This covers tasks with higher volumes and repetition while being suitable for automation. There is sufficient scope for automation throughout conventional manufacturing industries as well according to Wang.
Wang also feels that consumer electronics segments require higher degrees of precision along with manufacturing procedures that are more delicate in nature and this equates to revamping the production line for making room for newer products. The robots at Flexiv come with computer vision and force feedback-based systems and can adapt to newer scenarios and save both money and time in establishing new equipment. The flexible robots of the company work as its biggest differentiator according to the founder.
Wang also feels that traditional robotic arms can execute jobs in a safer way when there are no hurdles in the immediate environment, although they cannot be as capable if they are functioning in complex settings. Many jobs like dishwashing need intensive AI-backed decision-making abilities and recognition alike. The company has already ventured into mass manufacturing and has already churned out close to 100 such robots. It has already gone down the monetization route by selling its licensing software and robots while offering after-sales support and service alike. The main challenge is in finding more customers and partners throughout diverse industries who will have faith in these new-age technologies.
Flexiv still has China as its biggest market at present and North America represents a major future market and will be a core zone for its expansion blueprint in the future. Wang has also stated that every nation has its own advantages in terms of robotics. For China, Wang has outlined these as supply chain, production, and costs of labor, while adding that gaps are steadily reducing between several countries with regard to adaptive and conventional robotics alike.