I've been tracking venture capital (VC) funding of robotics companies for the better part of two years. Based on my (limited) data, VC funding in robotics exceeded $160 Million for 2011. This is just a rounding error compared to VC funding of Internet (web-based) companies, which hit a decade-long high of $6.9 Billion in 2011. My hope is that robotics will get more love in the next year(s), but getting VC funding for robotics is a decidedly tough nut to crack. Robotics companies have large capital requirements for robot hardware, few potential acquirers, and almost no "Google-scale" breakout success stories (ie. IPOs).
I mean, c'mon... one of the best known robotics companies, iRobot, has a market cap of just $700 Million. This makes robotics a difficult sell to your typical VC firm. My hope is that this list can give others courage to pursue "swing for the fences" type projects along with a source for robotics-friendly VC firms.
I certainly do not guarantee the completeness of this list. If I forgot something, be sure to ping me (preferably in the comments) and I'll add it. Further, if you come across any newer VC funding announcements related to robotics, be sure to contact me so that I can add it to next year's list!
Anyway, here is the summary of venture capital funding for robotics in 2011:
> $160 Millio
Restoration Robotics is an interesting robotics company -- they make an image-guided hair transplant robot, called ARTAS. ARTAS received FDA approval in April 2011, which precipitated an initial cash infusion of around $2 Million in June followed by massive third round of funding (Round C) of $41 Million in August, bringing their 2011 funding total to $43 Million. For those in the know, hair loss (ie. male pattern baldness) is a lucrative market. By some measures, it's a $1 Billion per year industry, and Restoration Robotics is hoping to capture a significant chunk through automation.