A leading industrial robotics firm in San Antonio has netted $33 million in investor funding to power it through a new phase of aggressive expansion.
Plus One Robotics CEO Erik Nieves said he believes it is “probably the largest round for a startup in San Antonio not named Rackspace.”
The 5-year-old company produces software and tools that allow warehouse robots to “see” their surroundings and respond intelligently. Its services have come into high demand as manufacturers, logistics firms, and suppliers use them to facilitate shipping. FedEx uses the company’s software for a parcel sorting system, which it aims to one day use for the majority of its packages.
The company’s model also rests on “supervised automation,” in which workers at Plus One take over when the robot encounters especially tricky inputs.
Plus One is in the middle of more than doubling the size of its facility at Port San Antonio, and Nieves said the company plans to increase its payroll from 44 employees to 60 by the end of the year. The positions it hopes to add include software developers, electrical engineers, and crew chiefs – the operators who pilot the robots remotely when they encounter unexpected items.
Paul Evans, director of research at the Southwest Research Institute, said the funding is “evidence that San Antonio is becoming well-known as a place for industrial robotics to meet, thrive, and grow.”
He called the company integral to the city’s blossoming industrial robotics scene, a tight-knit and collaborative community that is growing rapidly.
Other new industrial robotics firms in San Antonio include Reckon Point, which is developing room-scanning technology; Renu, which is crowdfunding a line of autonomous tractors for solar farms; and XYREC, a company providing aircraft maintenance services that recently launched the largest industrial robot in the world.
Many of these firms rely on the Southwest Research Institute, which Nieves said provided the underlying technology that became Plus One Robotics.
The Series B investment round garnered funding from North America, Europe, and Asia.
Nieves said the investment round marks the “internationalization” of Plus One, as the funding will support Plus One’s growing footprint in Europe, among other ventures.
Kasper Sage, a partner at BMW i Ventures, the strategic arm of the German luxury vehicle manufacturer, said Plus One’s technology marks “the start of a new era of robotics-driven automation.”
Other investors included Kensington Capital Partners, Perot Jain, and Ironspring Ventures. McRock Capital and Translink led the round. Those two companies’ co-founders, Whitney Rockley and Toshi Otani, respectively, have joined Plus One’s board of directors.