Billion-Dollar Babies #8: 4 Unicorn Startups in The Drone/Robotics Industries

James Dargan

Not So Orwellian After All

One area of deep tech which is expanding at an unprecedented rate is in drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and autonomous robotics. With surveillance techniques stepping up to control citizens movements a fear for many, there is also a more human side to the technology with such innovations arriving like agri-robots (driverless tractors and automated harvesting systems) in agriculture, freight drones in logistics, ambulance drones in healthcare, and passenger drones in the tourism industry.

You see, it’s not all so 1984!

According to a report published by Insight Slice, The Global Drone Logistics and Transportation Market Share, Trends, Analysis and Forecasts, 2020–2030, the industry was estimated to be valued at $9.9 billion as of 2019, with a global CAGR from the period 2020 to 2030 set at 16%, impressive numbers.

With the industry ramping up, let’s take a brief look at some of the movers and shakers revolutionizing the sector and making — in many cases at least — our lives much easier.

1. Anduril Industries (Estimated valuation: $4.6B)

Anduril Industries is a defence product company that builds technology for military agencies and border surveillance. Made up of experts from Oculus, Palantir, SpaceX, Tesla, and Google, the Orange County, California-based startup was established in 2017 by Brian Schimpf, Joseph Chen, Matt Grimm, Palmer Luckey, and Trae Stephens.

Anduril is developing the next generation of technology that will aid and protect those who serve on the front lines defending the nation by exploiting breakthroughs in consumer and commercial technology to radically evolve our defence capabilities through its products like the Lattice AI Core that performs sensor fusion, target classification and multi-track reconciliation at the edge, sentry towers equipped with the latest sensor and networking technology using Lattice to fuse data, the Ghost 4 Lattice AI platform, the autonomous VTOL sUAS, and the kinetic element of our end-to-end cUAS capability, Anvil.

According to a post from June 2021 on the startup’s blog on Medium, Anduril Industries announced $450 million in Series D funding and a post-money valuation of $4.6 billion, more than double the company’s previous valuation in July 2020.

Anduril Industries has raised a total of $691 million in funding over five rounds.

2. Berkshire Grey (Estimated valuation: $2.7B)

Berkshire Grey combines AI and Robotics to automate omnichannel fulfillment for retailers, eCommerce, and logistics enterprises serving today’s connected consumers.

Founded in 2013 by Tom Wagner, a former CTO of iRobot, the Boston-based company is reimagining fulfillment in warehouses, distribution centers, and other industrial environments.

In February 2021, Berkshire Grey announced that it planned to go public through a merger with special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp., bringing its valuation to $2.7 billion. On July 22nd, 2021, the company made its debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market on the same day it raised $165 million from a Post-IPO Equity round.

To date, Berkshire Grey has raised a total of $428 million in funding over three rounds.

3. Skydio (Estimated valuation: $1B)

Skydio is a Redwood City, California-based drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight that leverages breakthrough AI to create the world’s most intelligent flying machines for use by consumer, enterprise and government customers.

Founded in 2014 by Abraham Bachrach, Adam Bry and Matt Donahoe, Skydio is made up of leading experts in AI, robotics, cameras, and electric vehicles from top companies, research labs, and universities from around the world.

According to The Verge, Skydio was valued at $1 billion as of March 2021, becoming the first US drone maker to gain unicorn status. This comes after raising a total of $340 million in funding over eight rounds.

4. Zipline (Estimated valuation: $2.75B)

Zipline is a California-based automated logistics company that designs, manufactures and operates drones to deliver vital medical products. Founded in 2014 by Keenan Wyrobek, Keller Rinaudo and Will Hetzler, Zipline was created to deliver medicine to those who need it most.

Since its founding, the company has developed the world’s fastest and most reliable delivery drone and the world’s largest autonomous logistics network.

Zipline has raised a total of $483 million in funding over eight rounds. Its latest funding round, a $250-million Series E led by Baillie Gifford, Katalyst. Ventures and Temasek Holdings, was in June 2021, taking the company’s valuation, according to TechCrunch, to $2.75 billion.

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