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Amazon's new $1bn Industrial Innovation Fund

Amazon Automation retail retail technology Robotics Venture Capital Warehouse

Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund

On April 22, 2022 Amazon announced their $1bn venture capital fund focusing on customer fulfillment operations, logistics, and supply chain solutions.

Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund

Existing investments include Agility Robotics (legged robots), Bionic Hive (racking robot), Mantis Robotics (safety), modjoul (IoT, Safety) and Vimaan (inventory tracking)

More questions than answers...

STIQ has plenty of questions... such as:

Why would anyone use a company that has Amazon as a backer?

The reason for this question is that Amazon has a track record of removing acquired companies from general sale. This happened to Kiva Systems (link) in 2012 and to Canvas Technology (link) in 2019. 

Whilst none of Kiva's customers had robots withdrawn, they were unable to scale up their systems and were provided with an end-date for support. In the case of Canvas Technology, the company actually contacted customers and asked for the robots to be returned.   

Whilst STIQ does not know of any company that was backed by Amazon with a successful exit from Amazon, this does not mean that Amazon will buy all the companies they invest in... perhaps simply the better ones...  

What about the current crop?

Amazon released the names of five companies they have invested in publicly on the new website. 

But, are these really all the companies that Amazon has invested in or are they just mentioning them as a representative crop of companies that could potentially apply to the fund? 

STIQs usual cynical view is that these companies were highlighted to show the width of type of companies that the fund is investing in. 

Are these companies at the bleeding edge of development?

If we look a bit closer at the companies, there is a range of maturity, the oldest companies being 7 years in 2022, including Bionic Hive (2015), Agility Robotics (2015), modjoul (2016), Vimaan (2017), Mantis Robotics (2020).


Twitters > Post on Bionic Hive + response by Elon Musk (link)

Digit by Agility Robotics showcased a neat video some 2+ years ago re box delivery.

 STIQs view is that each company may be more interesting than commercially deployed in warehouses right now. But who knows, these may be trialled by and with Amazon as we write this... that's the fun thing about Amazon backing, perhaps there is more than meets the eye

Why now?

Why is Amazon starting up a public VC fund in April 2022? 

It is not like Amazon has lacked the fire power and need to showcase their muscles and they have tended to be publicity shy (most acquisitions have been very hush hush until signed).

Could it be that plenty of new funding avenues for startups have opened up since the pandemic and larger and larger investment rounds have cropped up with astronomical valuations?

Or are there so many new startups and the sectors moving so fast that it is increasingly difficult to gain required visibility of winners?

 STIQ speculated in their latest G2P Solutions report, there may be reason that Amazon needs to look for new insights and technologies - and that reason may be that they have come to the end of the road (or very near) for how much they can optimise, re-assign and re-deploy Kiva System robots in Amazon warehouses. There is simply no more efficiencies to be drawn out. 

Nowadays it is an open secret that Amazon are also working with other warehouse automation vendors, such as Opex and their Sure Sort solution. (don't tell anyone, but our sources indicated that Sure Sort was developed together with Amazon)

How does AWS & Robo Maker play into this? 

In 2020 (ish) Amazon or AWS also released Robo Maker, a simulation tool for mobile robots.

Some may say this is a great tool to simulate your robot in a relatively cheap environment. And, STIQ wouldn't know as we haven't talked to anyone that has used it (yet).

Others (including STIQ) might say that Amazon are increasingly opening up channels + adding their ears to the ground as a way to gain a front row seat to identifying future superstars.

Whether or not this means that Amazon will remove a particular company from the market if they acquire them... but its most likely they would keep it to themselves as it would be a competitive advantage... or?

STIQs VIEW

STIQs view is that Amazon has started looking for their next Kiva System acquisition, the golden solution that would lift efficiencies in Amazon's warehouses and future proof them into the 2030's. 

 

Read more

Read more on Amazon's new website: https://www.industrialinnovationfund.com/

+ Download a free report on "Amazon Robotics" from us at STIQ - download here 

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