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Exotec, a French robotics company used by some of the world’s biggest retailers and enterprises, has raised $335 million in a series D round of funding at a $2 billion valuation.
The raise comes as the global pandemic and the rapid acceleration of e-commerce has exerted huge pressure on the global supply chain, leading companies to explore automated alternatives to their existing solutions to ensure they can keep up with customer demand. Ultimately, global retailers are scrambling for solutions that promise to “improve supply chain resilience,” Exotec CEO Romain Moulin told VentureBeat.
“From inventory delays and labor shortages, to warehouse capacity constraints and parcel surcharges, businesses have faced an onslaught of logistics challenges,” Moulin said. “Historically, retailers and brands would scale up their operations by hiring seasonal workers to accommodate for busy peak periods. However, the past two years illustrated that ‘just-add-more-workers’ or ‘incentivize overtime’ aren’t always the best or even feasible solutions.”
Founded out of Lille in 2015, Exotec has created autonomous industrial robots called Skypods that move horizontally and vertically, constituting part of a broader “goods-to-person” picking system that promises to improve companies’ productivity while also alleviating human works from physical exertion.
At its core, Exotec helps companies of all sizes keep apace with the mighty Amazon, which has long invested in warehouse automation technologies via its Amazon Robotics subsidiary.
A big year for Exotec
Since its $90 million series C funding round in September, 2020, Exotec has inked deals with a slew of enterprise customers, including global retail giant Gap, sporting goods powerhouse Decathlon, and French logistics company Geodis. And perhaps more importantly for the company (and its investors), it claims that its revenue has doubled and its overall customer base has tripled.
From a technology perspective, Exotec also bolstered its existing Skypod system with robotic “Skypicker” arms that can manually shift up to 600 items per hour.
Prior to now, Exotec had raised around $113 million, and with another $335 million in the bank, the company is looking do double its current headcount of 300 by next year.
A quick peek across the industrial landscape reveals that robotics is creeping into just about every orifice of the supply chain, and investors are betting accordingly. While some of the reasons behind this surge is obvious — it improves productivity and efficiency, for starters — Moulin points to broader societal reasons as to why more companies are looking to automation.
“Fewer young people choose to join the field, as the work tends to be highly manual and often located far from the urban centers where most young people live,” Moulin explained. “And there’s constant pressure to compete with giants like Amazon that leverage their scale to outbid most warehouses for talent with monetary benefits and brand-name recognition.”
Collectively, these problems are why Exotec and its ilk are flourishing, and is why they’re attracting big-name backers — Exotec’s series D round was led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, with follow-on investments from Dell Technologies Capital and 83North.
Perhaps more importantly, there is little sign that any of these trends will be going into reverse any time soon, paving the way for companies like Exotec to bring Amazon-like technologies to warehouses globally.
“Logistics workforce challenges are not going anywhere –Exotec offers a clear alternative,” Moulin said. “Our robotics systems improve operations’ efficiency, improves working conditions for operators, and eliminates repetitive, physically intense tasks for human workers such as bending, lifting and relentlessly tracking their movements.”
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