Warehouse piece picking arm is designed to handle e-commerce in a tight labor market, firm says.
Automated piece-picking startup RightHand Robotics Inc. has raised $23 million in funding from high-profile investors Menlo Ventures and Google Inc., and will use the capital to help its customers handle booming e-commerce growth given a scarcity of labor, the firm said today.
The funding round was led by Menlo Ventures, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm whose other 2018 logistics sector investments include $25 million for warehouse robotics firm 6 River Systems Inc., and $40 million for third-party logistics (3PL) and fulfillment technology provider ShipBob.
Additional funding came from Google Ventures (GV)—a Mountain View, Calif.-based venture capital arm of Google parent firm Alphabet Inc.—along with existing investors Dream Incubator, Matrix Partners, and Playground Global. Earlier this month, another Google VC unit, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Gradient Ventures, invested $7 million in artificial intelligence (AI)-based dispatch and routing software vendor Wise Systems Inc.
The funding follows earlier investment rounds of some $11 million, bringing RightHand to a total investment of $34 million, RightHand’s head of product and marketing, Vince Martinelli, said in an interview.
[EXCITING NEWS] We’ve raised $23M in Series B funding led by @msiegel11 from @MenloVentures! @GVteam has also joined this round. HT @dreamincubator1, @MatrixPartners, @Playground_VC. The invt. will position us for cont’d success in #ecommercesolutions. https://bit.ly/2R4BpfU
7:08 AM – Dec 17, 2018
With its reinforced bank account, Somerville, Mass.-based RightHand plans to expand its business and technical teams and broaden its suite of product applications, the firm said. “The funds will be used to support our growth and in hiring people as fast as we effectively can,” Martinelli said. “We’re getting follow-on orders and we need to support those orders and extend the product line, both for projects in the U.S. and in Europe and Japan.”
The company’s RightPick platform addresses challenges that arise due to the rapid shift to online shopping and the need for retailers to compete by delivering individual goods directly to consumers whenever and wherever they want, according to RightHand. Fulfilling such e-commerce orders is much more labor-intensive than traditional retail store restocking, based on the increased number of “touches” each item requires, the firm said.
Logistics providers seeking answers to those puzzles can pick from a fast-growing menu of rival tech startups offering competing solutions, Martinelli acknowledged.
However, RightHand says its offering is unique because the firm is focused solely on warehouse workflows—as opposed to serving other sectors such as agriculture or food processing—and has tightly packaged its piece picking platform to include mechanical gripper, computer vision, and machine learning components, he said. “We’re responsible for the pick; we own the pick,” said Martinelli. “You’ll see videos where people say they can pick things up and move them around, but that’s only part of the challenge when you look at the whole integrated warehouse. There’s a race to see who can solve piece picking the best or better than the others, so there’s a strong business case for the need for automation.”
As a part of the new funding, Mark Siegel, Partner at Menlo Partners, will be joining RightHand’s board of directors. The company also said today that Mick Mountz, founder and former CEO of warehouse robotics pioneer Kiva Systems—now a unit of Amazon.com Inc.—will join the Board of Directors. “RightHand is picking up where we left off,” Mountz said in a release. “Customers saw products coming directly to operators for picking and packing and would ask: ‘Why don’t you also automate this step with a robotic arm and gripper?’ But that was a difficult problem that we knew would require years of research and technical breakthroughs. RightHand has, in fact, developed that solution.”