Osaro, a San Francisco startup developing AI-based solutions for industrial robots, today announced that it’s closed a $16 million series B funding round led by King River Capital (KRC), with participation from Alpha Intelligence Capital, Founders Fund, Pegasus Tech Ventures, GiTV Fund, and existing and strategic investors. It brings the startup’s total raised to $29.3 million coming after a $10 million series A in April 2017, which cofounder and CEO Derik Pridmore said will bolster Osaro’s hiring, international deployment, and R&D efforts.
Alongside the funding round, Osaro revealed that Applied Digital Access, Mahi Networks, and Calix veteran Kevin Pope has joined as VP of engineering. Chiefly, he’ll support the company in scaling its solutions worldwide.
“A key element of our competitive advantage is Osaro’s … deep learning algorithms,” said Pridmore, an MIT computer science and electrical engineering graduate who cofounded Osaro in 2015 with a team hailing from UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Massachusetts. “These algorithms generalize picking tasks with minimal training data and no SKU registration for quick, scalable solutions. In addition, as a software company, we support a wide array of commodity hardware and robotic arms which lets our customers select options that best fit their needs.”
Osaro works directly with partners to procure the machines with which it integrates its software, including those bound for grocery distribution centers, food packaging plants, and ecommerce fulfillment centers. Its machine learning algorithms — which Osaro trains using reinforcement learning, a technique that employs rewards to drive software policies toward goals — recognize, sort, kit, pack, and assemble objects even in the face of imprecise container placement, jumbled items, and variable lighting. Moreover, they tap a cloud-based and GPU-accelerated backend to self-improve, so that they become more robust over time.
Osaro’s flagship product, Pick, automates stationary picking stations in distribution centers. But the company intends to tackle more dynamic fulfillment scenarios in the future as it expands into industries like electronics, apparel, groceries, and pharmaceutical.
“[Our] approach of developing hardware-agnostic AI software for industrial robotics allows us to work in close collaboration with our customers, integrating Osaro products for their specific use cases, with a focus on scalability and robustness, providing our customers with a long-term competitive advantage,” said Pope. “Our focus in the next year will be to increase our deployments in North America, Australia, Korea, China, Japan, and Germany.”
King River Capital partner Megan Guy, who plans to join Osaro’s board of directors, added, “We are very excited to be leading this funding round. It is rare and exciting to work with a team that has both world class deep learning talent and a highly commercial orientation. Osaro’s perception and control software enables full automation of some of the most difficult vision, picking, and manufacturing problems, and its ability to integrate with a wide range of robotics hardware means that it can be deployed not only in greenfield environments but also as a retrofit solution to transform industrial automation.”
Investment in warehouse and logistics automation is anticipated to climb from $8.3 billion in 2018 to $30.8 billion by 2022, according to Tractica. Amazon acquired robotics company Kiva Systems for $775 million in March 2012, and last November, DHL announced it would invest $300 million to modernize its warehouses in North America with internet of things sensors and robots. Separately, startups like Attobocits and CommonSense Robotics have raised tens of millions of dollars for compact automated fulfillment centers that can slot into tight spaces like underground garages.