Industrial robotics startup Gecko Robotics has raised $40 million in a series B round of funding led by Drive Capital, with participation from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Y Combinator, and Next47. Notable angel investors in this round include Mark Cuban, SoftBank senior managing partner Deep Nishar, and Gusto CEO Josh Reeves.
Founded out of Pittsburgh in 2016, Gecko Robotics develops several robots aimed at the power, gas, oil, and manufacturing industries. The robots, which are equipped with HD cameras, sensors, and transducers, can climb walls and equipment to inspect tanks, boilers, and pipes for thickness, cracks, and “other forms of degradation.” Importantly, they use non-destructive techniques such as acoustic, laser, and electromagnetic testing modules, and they can be controlled remotely or self-navigate (depending on the type of equipment they’re analyzing).
However, Gecko positions itself more as a software company, with robots merely serving as the tools that capture the all-important data that could potentially avert dangerous equipment failures in the future. This predictive analytics leans heavily on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and deep learning techniques.
“We are growing fast solving critical infrastructure problems that affect our lives, and can even save lives,” noted Gecko Robotics CEO and cofounder Jake Loosararian. “At our core, we are a robot-enabled software company that helps stop life-threatening catastrophes.”
Ultimately, Gecko’s robots are about enabling industrial companies to carry out regular inspections and capture data at a speed and scale that existing manual methods would be incapable of, and minimize the need for humans to engage in hazardous activities to inspect hard-to-reach equipment. And through the data that it gathers and analyzes, Gecko’s software can help predict when and where infrastructure failure is likely to occur.
“We’ve developed a revolutionary way to use robots as an enabler to capture data for predictability of infrastructure, reducing failure, explosions, emissions, and billions of dollars of loss each year,” Loosararian added.
Through Gecko’s software portal, clients can review all their assets in 3D, ensuring they get a holistic view of the equipment. For example, companies can choose to view only the areas of a pipe that have a thickness level below a specific threshold, which allows them to prioritize areas that are in need of urgent attention. And they can also zoom in to inspect visuals captured from a specific area of the asset.
Prior to now, Gecko Robotics had raised around $9 million, and with another $40 million in the bank the 2016 Y Combinator alum said that it plans to scale its business and hire more software and product engineers, having already expanded from 45 to 115 employees in the past 12 months.
A number of startups are using automation and AI to help companies inspect and evaluate assets. Just last week, San Francisco-based DroneDeploy raised $35 million to grow its image analysis platform for commercial drone operators, which can be used to inspect buildings or equipment from high up, while earlier this year Invert Robotics raised $8.8 million for inspection robots that cling to non-metallic surfaces. Elsewhere, Cape Analytics is using AI and aerial imagery to help insurance companies carry out property inspections as part of their underwriting processes.
“We are very excited for the future of robotics in industrial inspection,” added Drive Capital partner Mark Kvamme. “The Gecko Robotics team are revolutionizing an industry that is in need of a real upgrade and will save lives. I see amazing potential for Gecko’s business model; they are on the path to become a market leader in their industry.”