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Shopify today announced it is acquiring 6 River Systems, a startup focused on fulfillment automation for ecommerce and retail operations. The deal is valued at approximately $450 million — 60% in cash and 40% in shares.

At its Unite partner and developer conference in June, the company announced its Shopify Fulfillment Network, which uses machine learning to ensure timely deliveries and lower shipping costs. Shopify’s fulfillment centers span California, Georgia, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The network, which is only available in early access, supports merchants that ship between 10 and 10,000 packages per day. The company hopes to eventually support between 3 and 30,000 packages per day. The 6 River Systems acquisition looks like an attempt to speed up that growth.

“Shopify is taking on fulfillment the same way we’ve approached other commerce challenges, by bringing together the best technology to help everyone compete,” Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke said in a statement. “With 6 River Systems, we will bring technology and operational efficiencies to companies of all sizes around the world.”

Robots in the warehouse

6 River Systems is best known for its Chuck autonomous vehicles that can move packages in warehouses. Indeed, Shopify believes that adding the robots to its fulfillment network “will increase the speed and reliability of warehouse operations by empowering on-site associates with daily tasks, including inventory replenishment, picking, sorting, and packing.”


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While Shopify plans to accelerate the growth of its AI-powered fulfillment network, it promises to keep selling 6 River Systems’ solution for warehouses. The startup’s solution operates in more than 20 facilities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe and fulfills millions of units each week for companies like Lockheed Martin, CSAT Solutions, ACT Fulfillment, DHL, XPO Logistics, and Office Depot.

Shopify doesn’t expect the transaction to have any material effect on its revenue in 2019, but it will increase the company’s expenses for 2019 by $25 million, including $10 million in operating expenses, $8 million in amortization of intangible assets, and $7 million in stock-based compensation. The company does expect 6 River Systems to generate annual billings of approximately $30 million in 2020.

Founded in 2015 by Jerome Dubois, Rylan Hamilton, and Chris Cacioppo, 6 River Systems is based in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company had raised $46 million from Eclipse Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, and iRobot. Dubois and Hamilton were previously executives at Kiva Systems (Amazon acquired Kiva Systems for $775 million in March 2012). Shopify specifically called that out in its release, noting that the acquisition will give it “experienced leaders from Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics).”

The deal has already been approved by 6 River Systems’ stockholders. Included in the $450 million amount is approximately $69 million for the startup’s founders and employees “that will vest subject to certain conditions and will be treated as stock-based compensation.” The acquisition is expected to close in Q4 2019.

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