Chinese logistics robot maker VisionNav raises $76M at $500M valuation

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Industrial robotics has become one of the most popular technology sectors in China in recent years. encourages the use of advanced technologies improve the efficiency of the production workshop.

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VisionNav Robotics, which specializes in autonomous forklifts, stackers and other logistics robots, has become the latest industrial robot manufacturer from China to receive funding. The Shenzhen-based automated guided vehicle (AGV) startup has received 500 million yuan (about $76 million) in a Series C renewal round led by Meituan, the Chinese food delivery giant, and 5Y Capital, a well-known venture capital firm in the country. Its existing investors IDG, TikTok parent company ByteDance and Xiaomi founder Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital also joined the round.

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Founded in 2016 by a group of PhDs from the University of Tokyo and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the valuation of VisionNav has risen to more than $500 million in this round, up from $393 million just six months ago when it received 300 million yuan ($47). million) in Series C funding, he told TechCrunch.

The new funding will allow VisionNav to invest in research and development and expand its use cases from horizontal and vertical movement to other functions such as stacking and loading.

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According to the company’s vice president of global sales Don Dong, the key to adding new categories is learning and improving startup software algorithms, not developing new hardware. “From control, dispatch to detection, we will have to improve the capabilities of our software as a whole.”

According to Dong, the main task of robots is to effectively perceive and navigate the world around them. The problem with a camera-powered autonomous driving solution like Tesla’s is that it can be easily affected by bright light. Lidar, a sensor technology known for its more accurate distance determination, was too expensive for mass adoption a few years ago, but Chinese players such as China have slashed the price significantly. Subsidiary of DJI Livox and Robosense.

“Before, we mainly provided indoor solutions. Now that we are expanding into unmanned truck loading, which often happens halfway outdoors, we will inevitably be working in strong lighting. That is why we are adapting a combination of vision and radar technology to navigate our robots,” Dong said.

VisionNav sees Seegrid from Pittsburgh and France-based Balyo as its international competitors, but believes it has a “price advantage” due to its location in China, where its manufacturing and R&D activities are located. The startup is already shipping robots to customers in Southeast Asia, East Asia, as well as the Netherlands, the UK and Hungary. The company is in the process of setting up subsidiaries in Europe and the US.

The startup works with systems integrators to sell its robots, meaning it doesn’t collect detailed customer information, making it easier to match data in foreign markets. It is expected that in the next few years it will receive 50-60% of its income abroad, compared with the current share of 30-40%. The U.S. is one of his main target markets, Dong says, as the forklift industry there generates “greater gross revenue than China, despite fewer forklifts.”

Last year, VisionNav’s total sales revenue ranged from 200 million ($31 million) to 250 million yuan ($39 million). The company currently has a team of about 400 people across China and is expected to reach 1,000 employees this year through active overseas recruitment.


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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