Robotics is playing an increasing role in the world of e-commerce logistics and fulfillment – where they are seen not only as a way to speed up operations, but also drastically reduce their costs – and today a startup that offers software and hardware developed specifically in the field of robot picking announces some financing.
nomagica Polish startup that has built a robotic arm that can identify and extract an item from a disordered selection (e.g., from objects in a box) and then move it to another place or pack it in has raised $22 million, funding it will use for both the growth and expansion of his business.
Nomagic’s robotic arms were first used to pick up and move small consumer electronics and related items – telephones, cables, small toys – before expanding to items such as bagged clothing. Kacper Nowicki, the CEO who co-founded the company with Marek Cygan (CTO) and Tristan d’Orgeval (CSO), said the plan is to add more categories over time, such as groceries, as a result of changing consumer habits and what people are buying online today. “That’s the long-term goal,” he said.
The company already has a number of customers in sectors ranging from fashion, e-commerce and third-party logistics providers – one of the most prominent being Brack.ch, a Swiss-based ‘everything’ store that offers physical product offerings. And while it currently bases its technology on computer vision to identify objects and read codes, it will likely incorporate other types of technology over time, such as scanning radio waves to identify items.
Berlin-based Khosla Ventures and Almaz Capital led the round along with the European Investment Bank, which also saw past lenders Hoxton Ventures, Capnamic Ventures, DN Capital and Manta Ray.
Nomagic last raised funding — an $8.6 million starting round — in February 2020; and in the meantime, it’s been a wild ride in the world of e-commerce.
Covid-19 led to a massive increase in online shopping, as well as a reassessment of how people might work in warehouses under pandemic concerns and restrictions, and in some cases some serious reassessments of how operations were conducted, and a curtailment of investments to adapt to changing (and sometimes hard-hit) business conditions. Nomagic’s technology responds to all these developments in different ways.
The most obvious of these is the digital transformation, where companies are using robotic hardware as part of a broader update to their systems and achieving greater automation. Nomagic cites data from Research and markets and mordor which estimates that the global warehouse automation market will be worth $31 billion by 2025, and that the piece-collecting robot market specifically will grow by 62.5% and be worth $2.9 billion by 2026.
In addition, there is an obvious opportunity for robots to operate in environments where humans would not be able to, either because the environment is unsuitable for them and for modern labor laws (e.g., no lighting, small spaces, no heating or cooling, and long hours) ; or because companies cannot afford that labour. Although Nomagic is also building out some hardware components, today the company focuses most of its R&D on software development, which According to Nowicki, this means the technology will eventually be able to work across a wide variety of hardware.
Given that much larger e-commerce giants like Amazon and Ocado are investing in their own robotics technology, it’s essential to build third-party services that can be taken over by smaller players to make them compete. Nowicki argues that it’s not about putting people out of work, but getting them to focus on less repetitive tasks that robots can’t handle — a factor that may be even more important for smaller organizations, with a smaller workforce and fewer resources. This is also the opportunity that investors see.
“An increasing number of everyday tasks will be increasingly automated by robots in the coming years,” Kanu Gulati, partner at Khosla Ventures, said in a statement. “We’re coming early to support companies build promising technologies that are bold and impactful like Nomagic and are excited about the momentum they’ve shown with customers.”