As the e-commerce industry continues to explode, one startup that’s benefitting is Boston-based 6 River Systems.
The business, which builds robots that speed up production in warehouses, has raised $25 million Series B financing in a round led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Eclipse Ventures and iRobot.
6 River says it has gained early traction with its robot, “Chuck.” Jerome Dubois, founder and CEO said that he believes 6 River has built “the first and only collaborative robot with the associates in the aisles doing the work.” In other words, 6 River aims to help humans be more efficient.
Chuck keeps warehouse employees on task by guiding them through the facility through each step of the packaging process. It can glide around the room and also has a touchscreen to help workers locate items. Chuck uses sensors to help detect worker productivity. It’s also been designed to help with employee training.
6 River isn’t worried about eliminating humans and instead believes that there is an opportunity to help industries that have a “massive labor shortage” for warehouse suppliers. “There aren’t enough people to fill the jobs,” Dubois claims.
Right now 6 River has deployed 600 robots to 30 sites. These robots have helped pack medical supplies, retail products and “nuts and bolts” in industrial spaces.
The team is comprised of former Kiva Systems executives. Kiva developed a different type of warehouse robot and was acquired by Amazon for $775 million in 2012.
There’s “been very little automation outside of conveyor belts,” said Matt Murphy, at Menlo Ventures, about why he invested. Murphy, who’s on the board at 6 River, “there needed to be a second generation robotics system to replace what Amazon started six years ago when they bought Kiva.”
6 River is particularly focused on building relationships with Fortune 100 businesses and offers its robots through SaaS licensing. They can also be rented for a one or two-year term.
The startup plans to use the funding to build out its own software. It also wants to expand to Europe.
It previously raised $21 million in funding over the past two years.