Hot money is eyeing the robot again

Under the “hot money”, how can domestic robots break through the problems of large-scale applications? Where will the robot companies go in the future?

Five years ago, the investment logic in the field of robotics was to replace traditional industrial robots such as manipulator arms. In contrast, this round of robot “craze” is more inclined to innovative companies that fit new application scenarios in terms of investment logic. At the same time, first-line institutions and technology giants have invested heavily in the market, and resources have further concentrated on leading companies.

The domestic robot racing track has set off a frenzy of “golden gold”.

In late June, IDG Capital, Zhongding Capital, and Sequoia China jointly invested in the 200 million yuan A+ round of digital robotics company Yida Technology, and the old shareholder SIG continued to invest more. This is another round of financing after Yida Technology completed its A round in February this year.

Two months ago, on April 8, the largest single financing in the field of domestic intelligent service robots in the first half of this year, “Hualuo” cloud robot company Dada Robot. The investment was jointly led by Chengding Fund, a subsidiary of Shanghai Urban Investment, and Guosheng Capital, a subsidiary of Shanghai Guosheng, with a total amount of more than 1 billion yuan.

Hot money is eyeing the robot again

Image source: Provided by Darco

Under the dual effects of epidemic stimulus and favorable policies, domestic robots, a hard technology track that has not been in the “C position” in investment and financing in the past, have received the attention of many mainstream capitals since 2020.

One detail is that at the Sequoia CEO Summit held in October last year, there were two industry forums, one focused on semiconductors, and the other on robotics.

According to the “2020 Global Robot Report” issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), China is currently the world’s largest and fastest growing robotics market.

According to statistics on robot project financing incidents disclosed by All Weather Technology based on the venture capital data platform Rhino Data, in the first half of this year, the number of domestic robot related project financing incidents reached 174, of which more than 40 single financing projects amounted to more than 100 million yuan.

According to the data provided by the company, last year, there were 242 investment and financing incidents in the domestic robotics field, with a total amount of approximately 26.77 billion yuan.

Compared with the previous round of robot boom, innovative companies that fit new application scenarios have become this round of fragrant pastries. At the same time, in addition to first-line institutions, technology giants with huge amounts of money have entered the market, and resources have further concentrated on leading companies.

In this wave of “golden gold”, who is the target of capital betting? Under the “hot money”, how can domestic robots break through the problems of large-scale applications? Where will the robot companies go in the future?

1 How hot is the track?

“Five or six years ago, friends gave gifts to drones, and then they gave mobile phones earlier. Two or three years ago, everyone realized that they started to send sweepers.” Feng Hua, a partner of Songhe Capital, believes that people who have passed the early market education At this stage, the recognition of robots in the hearts of consumers is getting stronger and stronger.

According to the application environment of robots, IFR divides robots into industrial robots and service robots. The Chinese Institute of Electronics considers that my country has a relatively prominent demand for special robots in response to natural disasters and public safety incidents at this stage, and divides robots into industrial robots. , Service robots and special robots.

So, how hot is the robotics track?

From the “Investment and Financing Analysis Report of Robot Industry in Recent Ten Years” launched by Qicha Big Data Research Institute, one or two can be glimpsed.

The data shows that in the past ten years, there have been 2,661 investment and financing incidents in my country’s robotics track, with a total investment and financing amount of over 138.5 billion yuan. As of the end of 2020, there were 205,000 robot-related companies in operation and surviving in my country. The number of registrations increased sharply in 2020, with a total of 70,400 newly registered companies, a year-on-year increase of 69%.

In 2021, the robot race track is still gaining attention, and it will cover multiple subdivisions such as heavy industry manufacturing robots, logistics robots, and medical robots.

In the robot investment and financing in the first half of this year, industrial mobile robots became the protagonist, reaching 84 transactions, accounting for 48%. This field includes categories such as robotic arm collaborative robots, warehousing and logistics robots.

Feng Hua, a partner of Songhe Capital, said that industrial robots pay attention to the efficiency of substitution. In recent years, under the wave of new infrastructure and intelligent manufacturing, the manufacturing industry hopes to achieve the goal of reducing costs and increasing efficiency through technical means, while solving the problem of “labor shortage”. Therefore, the financing boom in the field of industrial robots is directly transmitted from the demand side.

In 2020, when the epidemic broke out suddenly, factories could not start operations normally, and various aspects such as supply chain and enterprise management were faced with challenges. In this context, landing scenes of industrial robots continue to emerge.

Take the collaborative robot company Faor Robotics as an example. On June 25, the company announced that it had completed the Series A financing led by Shunwei Capital, followed by Qingliu Capital, and led by Hillhouse Ventures, Zhongding Capital , Shunwei Capital co-invested in the A+ round of two rounds of financing, with a total of approximately US$30 million.

This robot company can meet the needs of welding, gluing, spraying, handling, screwing and other tasks in 3c, logistics, manufacturing, automotive, medical and other industries.

Fao Robot publicly stated that it will further enrich the scenes and process packages based on the existing standardized industry accessories and solutions.

Compared with industrial robots, under the new crown epidemic, the original intelligent service robots have taken the front line of epidemic prevention in medical, distribution, inspection, household and other fields, playing the role of auxiliary medical care, public disinfection and daily services.

Taking the medical field application scenario as an example, in the investment and financing events in the first half of the year, medical robots received a total of 22 financing, accounting for 12.6%. Among them, 13 financing projects amounted to 100 million yuan.

Hot money is eyeing the robot again

 Cartography: All-weather technology

Among them, Shenzhen Jingfeng Medical, established in 2017, became the winner of the “largest order” with a financing amount of nearly 600 million yuan. Public information shows that this company, which was established less than 5 years ago, focuses on surgical robots. It currently has three major product pipelines centered on robotics, including the most widely used porous laparoscopic surgical robot system, which represents the development of surgical operations. Directional single-port laparoscopic surgical robot system and ultra-high-definition stereoscopic endoscope.

In addition, service robots active in households, restaurants, shopping malls, hotels and other fields are also favored by capital. The robot catering and distribution services that were once regarded as tasteless have become a rigid demand in the industry during the epidemic. Companies that specialize in catering robots such as Purdue and Qinglang, as well as Internet vendors that also have catering scenarios such as Cheetah, are very active.

“Since last year, the’contactless economy’ has highlighted its importance. The increased demand for smart reception, unmanned cleaning and disinfection, unmanned distribution, and unmanned retail has brought new demands to the Chinese service robot market.” CMO Ge Xin told All-weather Technology that compared with last year, this year’s robot industry has seen a new upsurge in financing. Judging from the number of financing and the amount of financing, the service robot field undoubtedly has outstanding performance.

Under the epidemic, Dart also accelerated the landing speed of cloud robots. One of the measures is to cut cloud robots into epidemic prevention applications. At the beginning of last year, Darco’s cloud robots appeared in major hospitals and airports.

In the first half of this year, Dana won the largest single financing in the field of domestic intelligent service robots, with a total amount of more than 1 billion yuan.

The cloud robot architecture is composed of “cloud brain”, “neural network”, “robot control unit” and “robot body”, which can support the efficient operation of a large number of robots.

Dart’s cloud brain provides AI capabilities such as smart vision, smart hearing, and smart actions required by robots. These capabilities are then transmitted to remote robot controllers and various types of robots through safe and high-speed network nerves all over the world. On the body of service robots and smart devices, it can realize a large number of functions such as welcome, security, cleaning and sales.

In addition, judging from the data in the first half of the year, many robot companies including Weiyun Artificial Intelligence, Jiazhi Technology, Tage Zhixing, Dajie Robot, Mega Robot, Lingxi Robot, Yunji Technology, and Yida Technology have obtained Two or more financings. Among them, the two rounds of financing of Weiyun Artificial Intelligence, Mega Robot, Jiazhi Technology, and Yitu Technology both exceeded 100 million yuan.

2 What is the difference between the two waves?

This is not the first wave of robot racing.

Around 2014, the robotics track entered the peak of entrepreneurship. A year later, this field set off a wave of investment boom, and developed to its peak in the following year or two.

According to the company’s data, since 2014, the investment and financing activities of the robot track began to be active. In 2016, financing incidents were in a blowout state, with a total of 519 incidents, and the number of financing incidents decreased year by year. A total of 501 investment and financing incidents occurred in 2017, with a total amount of approximately 52.47 billion, making it the highest amount of investment and financing in the past ten years.

Hot money is eyeing the robot again

Summarizing the previous wave of investment and financing events in the robotics field, we can find that at that time, the investment logic in this field was “domestic substitution.” It includes not only the replacement of traditional industrial robots such as the form of manipulators, but also the imitation and innovation of new solutions on a global scale.

A typical case is Li Qun Automation. Its original intention was to start from a labor-intensive enterprise with a large production scale, relying on its technological advantages in the field of light industrial robots, to create automated production solutions in different industries that can meet the production needs of enterprises. In short: complete the substitution of machines for humans.

Public information shows that this robot company received two rounds of financing from October 2014 to April 2015. Investors include Sequoia China and Mingshi Capital.

Compared with the previous wave of “financing wave”, the robot “capital wave” set off in 2020 has more obvious new characteristics in investment logic: innovative companies that closely fit new application scenarios.

For example, robot intelligence companies with the blessing of new technologies use AI, voice, vision and other technologies to try to create smarter robots that are more adaptable to a variety of new tasks from a variety of perspectives.

This change can also be derived from the investment strategies of first-line investment institutions in the field of robotics.

Sequoia China has deployed more than ten companies in the robotics field, and it is the first-line VC with the most active investment in the robotics field. Around 2015, its investment in robotics companies include companies established more than 5 years ago, such as DJI and QKM Automation (QKM). At present, Sequoia China’s investment in the field of robotics has expanded to innovative companies that are closely aligned with new application scenarios.

According to incomplete statistics from All-weather Technology, Sequoia China invested in robotics companies such as Lesen Robotics, Fuzhi Technology, Purdue Technology, Mecamand, and Yuanhua Intelligence in the first half of this year, covering consumption, services, and medical care.

Sequoia China believes that, inspired by domestic daily consumption, industrial applications and other different levels of market demand, robotics companies are increasingly focusing on technology research and development to make products meet the real needs of users and solve real problems of users, so as to seek technological breakthroughs. And application innovation.

Compared with a few years ago, the investment environment in the field of robotics has also changed more or less. “Before the platform type was a bit more, now it is more inclined to the direction of the industry.” Feng Hua told All Weather Technology.

Compared with the previous wave of “capital boom” in the robotics field, another obvious manifestation of this round of financing boom is the entry of first-line funds and technology giants CVC, and these resources are concentrated in leading companies.

In the first half of the robot field investment and financing events, not only Sequoia China, Hillhouse Capital, Shenzhen Venture Capital and other well-known institutions that frequently appeared in the column of investors, but also giant companies such as Meituan, Tencent, and ByteDance will also be tentacles. Reached out to the robot track.

At the beginning of this year, Meituan and ByteDance appeared in the list of investors of Yinghe Robotics at the same time.

“Robots are one of the key vertical areas of Meituan’s investment.” Meituan founder Wang Xing once said on the earnings call that this is the core of Meituan’s strategic investment landscape. “In the second half of 2020, we invested in some start-up companies. The names of all companies have one thing in common, they all contain robots.”

According to public information, All Weather Technology found that the companies invested by Meituan include Gaoxian Robot, Fexi Robot, Yinghe Robot, Purdue Robot, Mecamand Robot, etc. It is worth mentioning that the list of investors in Purdue Robotics also includes Tencent.

3 Under the hot money, the challenge is unabated

According to the data from the China Research Institute of China’s Robotics Industry Supply and Demand Trends and Investment Risk Forecast Report 2021-2025, China’s robotics industry market size will be approximately US$10.72 billion in 2019. From 2020 to 2025, the overall compound growth rate of the industry will remain stable at About 22%, the market size of China’s robotics industry is expected to reach US$40.25 billion by 2025.

Can this influx of “hot money” accelerate the large-scale application of domestic robots? After the heat, how will robot companies develop?

The founder of the robot company Jiang Xin told All Weather Technology that according to the development cycle of the domestic robot industry, the industry has experienced a round of budding, bubble and recession periods, and some companies have emerged. The industry has now entered a growth period. In this period, the market will be relatively rational, and resources will be focused on the head.

Feng Hua believes that in the huge market space, companies that run faster and farther are valuable companies. These companies can break through the pain points of homogeneous competition in the existing market, and avoid the shackles of homogeneous competition from the perspective of technological breakthroughs and landing application scenarios.

But behind the tuyere means fierce competition. The robot track is no longer a blue ocean. In the cruel fight, the core competitiveness of the company has become the key.

“The challenge behind the investment boom is still the large-scale application of robots. For robot companies, whether they have independently innovative products and technologies is the key to forming their core competitiveness.” Ge Xin told All Weather Technology.

At the same time, under the wind, the shackles of industry development still need to be broken.

Take the field of cloud robotics as an example. At present, there are still problems such as the lack of industry norms and standards, the scarcity of professional and technical personnel, and the incomplete innovation system.

Hot money is eyeing the robot again

Image source: Provided by Darco

Ge Xin introduced that cloud robots are similar to the development of mobile phones as a new business growth point of the mobile communication network industry. However, the cost of technology research and development, supply chain, and production related to cloud robots is much higher than that of the development of smart phones.

At the same time, the research and development of 5G, AI, blockchain, and robots also requires a large number of elite talents. The industry clusters of the upstream supply chain have not yet formed too much foreshadowing, the heat has not been fully formed, and the cost is correspondingly high. This has caused cloud robots to face multiple challenges such as capital, talents, and markets in the upstream and downstream industries.

“Because of the acceleration of the epidemic, it will definitely draw a wave of attention to robots in the short term, and will also stimulate a part of the demand to a large extent, but the technological iteration will not make a major leap due to the epidemic.” Jiang Xin said.

Feng Hua does not deny that hot money can accelerate the large-scale application of domestic robots, and enough funds can even break through the problems of large-scale application, but the premise is that the company has accumulated and polished in technology, products and application scenarios for a long time, and can give Customers bring value.

“Compared with the financing craze, I care more about whether the product can be implemented and bring real value to customers. Only if the company’s products have application value can the company achieve hematopoiesis. Otherwise, it will be useless to raise capital.” Feng Hua That said, whether it is an industrial robot or a service robot, the scene landing is the key.

(In the text, Jiang Xin is a pseudonym)

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