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Startups in fields as diverse as robotics, AI, the Internet of Things and 3D printing will transform our industry.

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A couple of Modex's ago, I co-presented with Jeff Hedges from OPEX on maintenance services in the materials handling industry. It was on a Thursday before lunch, the last day of the show, which meant the turnout was sparse. But at the end of the presentation, we were approached by a 30-something woman from a San Francisco-based venture capital firm who wanted to talk about robotics in materials handling. Specifically robotics startups. “We're trying to figure out who is the next Kiva,” she told us. And, who wouldn't, given the price that Amazon reportedly paid for Kiva.

Back then, pre-Locus Robotics, IAM Robotics and RightHand Robotics – three of the early entrants - we weren't hearing much about robotics in the supply chain. Or seeing much interest from the venture capital community in funding robotics or any other startups. But since then, it appears to have exploded. A day doesn't go by that I don't receive an email from a new startup in one of the areas of supply chain technology, an announcement from a startup that has just received funding or an announced acquisition. Similarly, at least once a month, I'm contacted by a venture capital firm looking for opportunities in our industry.

Some of those deals are pretty impressive: Last September, 6 River was acquired for $450 million by Shopify; this past January, Berkshire Grey raised $263 million in series-b financing from SoftBank, Khosla Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Canaan. Dozens of companies have announced more modest investments, ranging from $1 million or so in a seed round to the $20 million IAM raised from KCK Ltd. to the $66 million or more raised by Locus.

Clearly, there's something happening here, to quote Stephen Stills. That's what this new blog will explore. Each Friday, I'll feature conversations with venture capital firms financing the launch of startups in our space, startup firms and key industry players. You can click on the link to read my first blog on What Startups Bring to the Party.

The purpose isn't to promote any one firm – and a blog shouldn't be interpreted as an endorsement of a firm or its technology. Rather it's to start the dialogue between me, my readers and the people creating the NextGen Technologies that will power tomorrow's supply chains.

I hope you'll stick with me. And, if you have any feedback, suggestions for companies I should speak to – including your own – please contact me at [email protected].


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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, MMH Executive Editor and SCMR contributor
Bob Trebilcock's Bio Photo

Bob Trebilcock is the editorial director for Modern Materials Handling and an editorial advisor to Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered materials handling, technology, logistics, and supply chain topics for nearly 40 years. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at 603-852-8976.

View Bob's author profile.


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