TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 early bird price extended for one more day

I feel the need — the need for speed.” That could be the official mobility startup founder credo, amirite? Speed and agility are important, but don’t move so quickly that you miss the chance to save $100 on a pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9.

We’ve extended our early-bird price for just one more day. Slow your EV roll, reroute your autonomous vehicle or dock your scooter just long enough to buy a pass before the extended deadline expires on May 7, at 11:59 pm (PT).

TC Sessions: Mobility is where you’ll learn about the latest trends and tech advancements across the mobility spectrum — autonomous trucks, AI, EVs, the future of flight, regulatory issues, micromobility, robotics and more — from the brightest minds, makers and investors around the world.

Don’t just take our word for it. Here are what past attendees shared with us about their TC Sessions: Mobility experience.

“The virtual dynamic gave the conference a relaxed, conversational vibe. The speakers and TechCrunch editors were more accessible, and that was a welcome surprise.” — Rachael Wilcox, creative producer, Volvo Cars.

“TC Sessions: Mobility exceeded my expectations in terms of useful content. Every panel discussion I attended, every interaction I had was relevant to my work or to my daily life — because we don’t stop living at 5 pm.” — Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager, SAP.

“People want to be around what’s interesting and learn what trends and issues they need to pay attention to. Even large companies like GM and Ford were there, because they’re starting to see the trend move toward mobility. They want to learn from the experts, and TC Sessions: Mobility has all the experts.” — Melika Jahangiri, vice president at Wunder Mobility.

Did someone say experts? Here are just a few of the leading voices in the mobility ecosystem who will offer their invaluable insight and advice.

  • Kameale Terry, co-founder and CEO at ChargerHelp! Inc.
  • Ahti Heinla, co-founder, CEO and CTO at Starship Technologies
  • Clara Brenner, co-founder and managing partner at Urban Innovation Fund

Check the event agenda and start planning your schedule now. Your pass includes both live-stream and video-on-demand, so you won’t miss a minute of startup action.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, and you have just one last shot to save $100 on the price of admission. Buy your pass before the price goes up and the savings disappear on May 7, at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

SoftBank leads $15M round for China’s industrial robot maker Youibot

SoftBank has picked its bet in China’s flourishing industrial robotics space. Youibot, a four-year-old startup that makes autonomous mobile robots for a range of scenarios, said it has notched close to 100 million yuan ($15.47 million) in its latest funding round led by SoftBank Ventures Asia, the Seoul-based early-stage arm of the global investment behemoth.

In December, SoftBank Ventures Asia led the financing round for another Chinese robotics startup called KeenOn, which focuses on delivery and service robots.

Youibot’s previous investors BlueRun Ventures and SIG also participated in the round. The startup, based in Shenzhen where it went through SOSV’s HAX hardware accelerator program, secured three financing rounds during 2020 as businesses and investors embrace industrial automation to minimize human contact. Youibot has raised over 200 million yuan to date.

Founded by a group of PhDs from China’s prestigious Xi’an Jiaotong University, Youibot develops solutions for factory automation, logistics management, as well as inspection and maintenance for various industries. For example, its robots can navigate around a yard of buses, inspect every tire of the vehicles and provide a detailed report for maintenance, a feature that helped it rack up Michelin’s contract.

Youibot’s “strongest suits” are in electronics manufacturing and electric power patrol, the company’s spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The startup is also seeing high growth in its semiconductor business, with customers coming from several prominent front-end wafer fabs, which use the firm’s robots for chip packaging, testing, and wafer production. Youibot declined to disclose their names due to confidentiality.

Chinese clients that it named include CRRC Zhuzhou, a state-owned locomotive manufacturer, Huaneng Group, a state-owned electricity generation giant, Huawei, and more. China currently comprises 80% of Youibot’s total revenues while overseas markets are rapidly catching up. The firm’s revenues tripled last year from 2020.

Youibot plans to spend the fresh proceeds on research and development in its mobile robots and propietary software, team building and market expansion.

Less than 24 hours to save $100 to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Calling all frazzled procrastinators, feet-draggers, lollygaggers and last-minute decision makers. The best price on passes to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, which takes place on June 9, disappears in mere hours.

It’s now o’clock, baby. Shift your EV into gear, hail a robotaxi or tell Mr. Scott to beam you up — whatever it takes to buy your pass before the early bird deadline expires tonight, May 6, at 11:59 pm (PT).

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 gathers the very best people in the mobility startup ecosystem to discuss the rapidly evolving trends, opportunities and challenges that come from inventing new ways to move populations — and all their stuff — around the planet and beyond.

This one-day deep dive will help you drive your startup forward, understand emerging trends and gain insight on what investors want and where they’re placing bets. Engage in hyper-focused networking and discover opportunities anywhere in the world.

We have a great line up, and here are just a few examples of the interviews, inter-active panel discussions and breakout sessions waiting for you. Don’t forget to check out the event agenda here.

Mobility’s Robotic Future: Automotive manufacturers are looking to robotics as the future of mobility, from manufacturing to autonomy and beyond. We’ll be speaking with James Kuffner, CEO, Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development, the head of robotics initiatives at one of the world’s largest automakers, to find out how the technology is set to transform the industry.

The Rise of Robotaxis in China: Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a hub for autonomous vehicle development. But another country is also leading the charge. Executives from three leading Chinese robotaxi companies (that also have operations in Europe or the U.S.) will join us to provide insight into the unique challenges of developing and deploying the technology in China and how it compares to other countries.

Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility? Clara Brenner (Urban Innovation Fund), Quin Garcia (Autotech Ventures) and Rachel Holt (Construct Capital) will discuss how the pandemic changed their investment strategies, the hottest sectors within the mobility industry, the rise of SPACs as a financial instrument and where they plan to put their capital in 2021 and beyond.

What are you waiting for? It’s now o’clock and time to save $100 — but only if you purchase your pass to Mobility 2021 before the price increase goes into effect tonight, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT). Let the learning, networking and scaling begin!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Hamburgers and hot rods

I’m going to be honest with you: It was kind of a slow week for robotics news. Honestly, that’s the first time I can say that since I started doing this thing weekly (happy 10 weeks to us, by the way). Of course, this stuff always ebbs and flows to a certain extent — even during what’s been a particularly active stretch in robotics investments.

From that standpoint, the $56 million Series B for Path Robotics is the big news of the week. And, indeed, it’s a sizeable round for the Columbus, Ohio-based company. It’s certainly cool seeing a big win for robots in the Midwest — particularly ones that fit pretty nicely into the manufacturing mold.

The company specializes in welding robotics — one in a long list of manufacturing jobs with a shortage of available workers. The company cites the American Welding Society, which puts the shortage potentially as high as 400,000 by the year 2024. Interest is also being driven by the pandemic, as more companies are looking for ways to move some of the process back to U.S. shores.

Image Credits: Symbio

Speaking of manufacturing, I spoke to a company called Symbio Robotics, way back in February. The big news then was that the Bay Area-based startup with partnering with Nissan and Toyota. Now it adds yet another massive automotive name to the list with the addition of Ford. The U.S. car giant has been making a lot of investments in robotics across the board in recent years.

“As the mobility landscape continues to rapidly change there is an increasing demand for much faster product life cycles,” Ford’s Advanced Controls and Digital Factory Manager Harry Kekedjian said in a release. “Using the Symbio technology, we’ve observed a 15% improvement in cycle time and greater than 50% reduction in adapting to new products over the previous manufacturing method.”

CookRight, the world’s first AI-powered cooking platform able to automatically identify and track products and tasks. Image Credits: Miso Robotics

We haven’t written a ton about Miso Robotics lately — at least not since the company announced a partnership with Harold and Kumar’s old haunt back in October. Interestingly, the Flippy maker’s latest bit of news removes the robotics bit altogether. This week, the company announced the launch of its CookRight software platform, which combines a touchscreen tablet with thermal imaging — basically it sends similar food prep instructions as the ones it would deliver to Flippy.

 

Just 72 hours left to save $100 on passes to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

So much can happen in 72 hours, and it’s easy to get distracted — especially when you’re building a startup in the fast lane that is mobility tech. But listen up: you have just 72 hours left to save $100 on your pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9.

Don’t let “busy” distract you. Buy your pass to Mobility 2021 before the price increase goes into effect on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Why should you attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? It’s where you can tap into the latest trends, regulatory concerns, technical and ethical challenges surrounding the technologies that will forever change how we move people and material goods across towns, cities, states, countries — and space.

Or, as Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager at SAP, told us:

“TC Sessions Mobility is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re an early-stage founder. You get to connect to people in your field and learn from founders who are literally a year into your same journey. Plus, you can meet and talk to the movers and shakers — the people who are making it happen.”

Take a gander at just some of the fascinating people and topics waiting for you and see the event agenda here.

  • Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.
  • EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. We’ll chat with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.
  • The Future of Flight: Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt spent more than a decade quietly developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Now he is preparing for a new phase of growth as Joby Aviation merges with the special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and Linked co-founder Reid Hoffman. Bevirt and Hoffman will come to our virtual stage to talk about how to build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Pro tip: Between the live stream and video on demand, you can keep your work schedule on track without missing out.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have only 72 short hours left to save $100 on all the info and opportunity that TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 offers. Kick distractions to the curb. Buy your pass before the early bird price disappears on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Path Robotics raises $56M Series B for automated welding

Columbus, Ohio-based firm Path Robotics today announced the completion of a $56 million Series B. The round, led by Addition (featuring Drive Capital, Basis Set and Lemnos Lab) brings the robotic welding company’s total funding to $71 million.

Adding another piece to the broader automated manufacturing puzzle, the company is focused on robotic welding. The system uses scanning, computer vision and AI to adjust itself to different parts, understanding that sizing parts is a kind of imperfect science. Add to that the additional difficulty of working with highly reflective metals and you’ve got some interesting robotics problems to solve.

“Current industrial robotics have very little ability to understand their environment and the task at hand. Most robots merely repeat what they are told and have no ability to improve themselves,” CEO Andrew Lonsberry said in a release tied to the news. Our goal is to change this. The future of manufacturing hinges on highly capable robotics.”

The company says it’s looking to address a shortage in the welding workforce, which the American Welding Society says will experience a shortage of around 400,000 by 2024. The pandemic has also driven a number of companies to look for a more localized solution, apparently somewhat curbing the trend of offshoring the industry has seen in recent decades.

Head, tail, knees and trees (knees and trees)

Some fun ones this week, so let’s get all of those pesky business transactions out of the way first, shall we? I mean, not that tens of millions of dollars changing hands for future robotics technology is boring, he said, tugging at his collar for comedic effect.

Image Credits: Plus One Robotics

Big raise this week for Plus One Robotics. The San Antonio-based company raised a healthy $33 million Series B, bringing its total funding above $40 million. The company mostly traffics in the warehouse and logistics space — obviously a category with a lot of excitement around it after last year’s massive shut down. As many companies have told me, most clients are simply looking for a way to help their footing in the competition against Amazon.

In addition to its massive headcount and seemingly bottomless resources, the e-commerce giant has deployed a huge army of robots in its warehouse. Plus One, for its part, doesn’t make the robots, but rather the vision software that works with them. The company’s product is designed to work across a broad range of robotic arms and grippers, allowing workers to control up to 50 systems at once.

Image Credits: Roam Robotics

We’ve talked about exoskeletons quite a bit on these pages, but Roam offers an interesting alternative to a number of bigger, bulkier and harder products on the market. The company’s latest device I liken to a standard knee brace, with AI and robotic capabilities that assist with movement. Specifically it helps with things like walking up stairs and standing up from a seated position.

And here we have a tiny tree man. Project Kiwi is kind of like Pinocchio if he really leaned into the whole wooden thing in the process of becoming a real boy. Obviously Disney’s going for the (sometimes) littlest Guardian of the Galaxy, Groot, for its latest extremely impressive animatronic.

Matthew was extremely impressed seeing the beautiful little tree guy in action and, living vicariously through some YouTube videos, I definitely have to confirm.

A fun bit of research out of Carnegie Mellon this week. The latest bit of biomimicry is a bit surprising. Obviously Cheetah has been a big inspiration for a number of quadrupedal robots (MIT in particular has a whole lot going in the Cheetah department). Specifically, though, the CMU researchers are looking at the big cat’s tail. Per CMU:

The cheetah’s lightweight furry tail is known as an aerodynamic drag tail; that is, it acts sort of like a parachute. Most robotic tails have high inertia, but the cheetah manages to retain low inertia. Inertia is a physical quality that describes an object’s resistance to changes in motion — high tail inertia means the tail can apply high forces. Aerodynamic tails instead use a different principle — aerodynamic drag — to achieve high forces without a large inertia.

Roam Robotics introduces a smart knee brace

There are lot of companies out there making robotic exoskeletons. In fact, it’s one of the more active categories in the space — and for good reason. These sorts of technologies have the ability to profoundly impact the future of how people work, move and rehabilitate.

The category also houses a surprisingly broad range of solutions, with something like the sci-fi Sarcos at one end and Roam on the other. Roam’s solution is really putting the wearable back in wearable robotics. Specifically, the company makes assistive devices out of fabrics, rather than metal or plastic.

Ultimately, that means the loss of some of the strength of more industrial solutions, but it also means they’re more suited for every day use. That’s precisely why something like the robotic smart knee orthosis makes a lot of sense. The product, which recently cleared the FDA as a Class I medical device, utilizes AI for an adapted technology that senses the wearer’s movements and adjusts accordingly.

Image Credits: Roam Robotics

“Roam is focused on a massively underserved market. More than 20% of the global population is limited by their body’s mobility, and as medical advancements help people live longer that number is only going to increase,” co-founder and CEO Tim Swift said in a release tied to the news. “Our approach to wearable robotics works seamlessly with the human body to help people lead healthier, happier and more active lives, unhindered by physical limitations.”

The product, which joins the company’s skier and military-focused offers, sports embedded sensors that can detect things like movement up and down stairs and standing up from a seated position. It utilizes a power source and air compressor to create motion to assist in movement.

The device is up for preorder and starts shipping later this summer.

Robotic vision startup Plus One raises $33M

San Antonio-based Plus One Robotics today announced a $33 million Series B. The round follows an $8.3 million Series A announced in 2018 and brings the company’s total funding to north of $40 million. The round, led by McRock Capital and TransLink Ventures, features BMWi Ventures, Kensington Capital Partners and Ironspring Ventures, along with existing investors.

Launched in 2016, the company is primarily focused on computer vision software for robotics in logistics and warehouse settings — clearly a hot category as more companies look to automate their back end. Specifically, the system is designed to be adaptable to a wide range of robotic arms and grippers, which tend to fill different needs for the end user.

The company plans to use the funding to expand operations internationally to keep up with the accelerated demand for robotics. The system also allows for group management, controlling up to 50 robots at once.

“We are excited to grow alongside our clients here and abroad. Like our clients, our investors have a global footprint representing Asia and the EU as well as North America,” CEO and co-founder Erik Nieves said in a release tied to the news. “This potent combination sets Plus One on a course to continue growing our international installed base.”

The round also finds Whitney Rockley of McRock Capital and Toshi Otani of TransLink joining Plus One’s board.

Hear about building AVs under Amazon from Zoox CTO Jesse Levinson at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Last year, autonomous driving startup Zoox was acquired by Amazon in a deal worth $1.3 billion. Since then, Zoox has continued to pursue its existing strategy of developing and deploying autonomous passenger vehicles, revealing the design of its long-anticipated robotaxi late in December. From concept to reveal, Zoox spent six years developing its built-for-purpose passenger AV, and the plan is to launch them initially with commercial deployments in Las Vegas and San Francisco following testing. At TC Sessions: Mobility this year on June 9, we’ll have the chance to speak to Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson about the company’s progress toward those goals, and what it’s like for Zoox nearly a year on as an Amazon company.

[Did you know? Early-bird ticket sales end next week! Save $100 before prices go up]

In an interview with TechCrunch from last year, Levinson told us that life under Amazon at the AV company has been essentially business as usual since the acquisition — with greatly expanded access to resources, of course, and potentially with even more autonomy than before, he said, since they’re not beholden to a host of outside investors as they pursue their goals.

Of course, the natural assumption when considering Amazon and its interest in autonomous vehicles is package delivery — which is why it’s so interesting that Zoox is, and has always, prioritized movement of people, not parcels, in its AV development roadmap. Zoox’s debut vehicle has been designed entirely with passenger transportation in mind, though the company’s CEO Aicha Evans has acknowledged in the past that it could definitely work on package delivery in partnership with its new corporate owner in the future.

We’ll hear from Levinson if there are any updates to Zoox’s plan or focus, and what Amazon’s ambitions are for autonomous vehicles in the long term. We’ll also talk about the AV industry overall, and the major shifts its undergone in the years that Zoox has been operating, and what that means for growing and attracting talent. Levinson knows the industry and the state of the art in AV technology better than most, so be sure to grab tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 ASAP and check out our chat on June 9.

Book your early-bird pass today and save $100 before prices increase next week and join today’s leading mobility-startup event.