April 27, 2020
Brain Corp announces an additional $36 million in series D funding to support continued growth and expansion worldwide. This round was led by returning investor SoftBank Vision Fund 1, and includes new investors ClearBridge Investments, LLC and Satwik Ventures, and an additional investment from Qualcomm Ventures LLC. Lead investor SoftBank first invested in Brain Corp in 2017. While SoftBank is struggling with other areas of their portfolio, SoftBank was happy to invest in Brain Corp in this round with the inclusion of the new investment partners.
"Brain Corp exemplifies the innovative, market leading businesses we seek as partners," said Aram Green, Managing Director, ClearBridge Investments. "World events have brought the value of automation sharply into focus, and we see Brain Corp playing an integral role as market adoption for robotics accelerates."
The new funds will be used to further expand Brain Corp's growth into new robotic applications beyond floor care, including inventory delivery, shelf analytics, and other applications that improve employee productivity, reduce costs, and enhance customer experiences. The capital will be used to support the manufacturing and sales efforts of OEM partners in new markets, such as those in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Brain Corp is a robotic AI software company that created BrainOS with a focus on developing and implementing the software “brains” for autonomous mobile robots. Since 2009, San Diego based Brain Corp has delivered and continually refined their software control platform to manage both individual autonomous mobile robots (AMR) as well as fleets of AMRs.
Brain Corp was co-founded by Dr. Eugene Izhikevich and Dr. Allen Gruber. To date, Brain Corp has successfully deployed its software and controls on more than 10,000 machines in North America and Europe. Izhikevich says that the company plans to deploy an additional 20,000 units over the next 12 months. Brain Corp’s largest North American customers include Walmart and Kroger. Growth in both of these keystone accounts validates the additional $36M investment and the opportunity for growth that Brain Corp is planning in the future.
Brain Corp’s go to market strategy is unique in the AMR market. Brain Corp does not manufacture any robotic hardware and instead relies on its OEM partners to manufacture and deliver the physical machines. What Brain Corp delivers is the software, vision and controls for converting a manual machine (like a floor scrubber) into an automated machine.
Brain Corp’s domination of the automated commercial floor care market was not an accident. According to CEO Eugene Izhikevich, “The commercial floor care market is a $13B per year labor market. That’s how much is spent per year to pay people to sit on the floor care machines or push or pull them. We’ve set up licensing agreements with all of the top commercial floor care providers. Through our OEM partners, such as Tennant we can address 60% of this market”.
As proof that this business model works for both Brain Corp and its OEM partners, wIthin 9 months of signing the commercial agreement with Brain Corp, Tennant became the largest worldwide supplier of commercial robotic cleaning machines.
Brain Corp is now expanding to material handling with their AutoDelivery solution. They have signed agreements with two OEM’s: Unicarriers and Dane Technologies. From there, Brain Corp is looking to automate applications such as security patrol robots or wheelchairs for elder care, airports and hospitals. Izhikevich described his vision this way: “Robots ten years from now will be as commonplace as mobile phones or printers are today. They will be everywhere, taking care of us. My goal is for all of those robots to have Brain Corp software controlling them.”
When asked about the impact of the coronavirus on the market, Izhikevich believes that applications such as commercial floor cleaning have become especially critical to the commercial success of retailers. Izhikevich said: “in the past cleanliness was about looking good for the store, but now customers are concerned about safety. If a customer goes into a store and it doesn’t appear to be clean, then the customer worries if they are safe there. They may ask if you can’t keep the floors clean and disinfected, what else haven’t you cleaned?”
In March of 2020, the usage of Brain Corp robots was 13% higher than a year earlier (based on usage stats from Brain Corp fleet management software). Izhikevich mentioned that they are seeing more incidents of clients running the robots until the batteries are depleted, all in an effort to maintain cleanliness of the retail store public spaces. Everyday, Brain Corp is providing 8,000 hours per day of autonomous driving in their deployed fleets of floor cleaning equipment.
Izhikevich believes that Brain Corp is fortunate to be uniquely positioned in the current market conditions. In his words, it’s a “perfect storm of the maturity and evolution of AI and robotic controls, the impacts on society and the retail market as a result of the pandemic along with Brain Corp’s deep experience in automating commercial floor cleaning equipment.”
In a related story, Brain Corp announced a program to offer up to $1.6M in cleaning services to essential businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Final Note: Brain Corp is the largest robotics company in San Diego county. They work closely with local university's, especially the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), by providing support for on-campus engineering labs and frequently hiring UCSD students for interships. With Brain Corp as an anchor and the ongoing STEM investment by Qualcomm (also a San Diego company), San Diego is quickly becoming a hub for robotics innovation.