Seegrid, a company that builds autonomous industrial vehicles for transporting materials, has raised $25 million in a round of equity funding from venture capital firm G2VP. Terms were not disclosed, but the company said its valuation was somewhere in the “multi-hundred million dollar” region.
More notably, the raise comes as industries struggle to operate amid the global COVID-19 crisis, which broadly requires non-essential workers to adhere to social distancing measures and remain at home. Although many jobs can be performed remotely from a home-working environment, plenty of roles require people to be physically present on-site — something Seegrid’s technology could help with.
The Pittsburgh-based company has developed two vision-guided vehicles (VGVs) that use what the company calls “proprietary vision technology” to move materials in warehouses and manufacturing sites, leveraging cameras and machine learning algorithms to navigate dynamic environments. The tow tractor can shift up to 10,000 pounds of goods, while the pallet truck can transport up to 8,000 pounds.
The vehicles can be retrained in-house to follow new routes, without Seegrid engineers needing to intervene. Companies can drive or “walk” with their vehicles along their desired route while the vehicle maps the environment for future reference.
Although automation is increasingly infiltrating warehouses around the world, with the like of Amazon and Ocado investing heavily in facilities that can operate without much human intervention, Seegrid’s investment is a timely reminder that companies could be more likely to embrace automation as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. If another pandemic was to occur, manufacturing facilities would be better positioned to operate with a minimal number of humans on-site.
UBS Investment Bank, which served as Seegrid’s advisor for this investment, noted that the fundraising was a “strong testament to the strength of Seegrid’s technology and its growth prospects” despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
Founded in 2003, Seegrid had previously raised around $60 million, and with another $25 million in the bank it plans to double down on its growth and hiring plans and bring forward new products that were originally planned for the next couple of years.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we already have orders in hand to assure continued growth in 2020,” added Seegrid CEO Jim Rock. “The investment from G2VP allows us to more quickly meet demand and accelerate new product introductions previously scheduled for 2021 and 2022.”