Thursday, June 4, 2020

A robotics company founded by four Waterloo Engineering graduates announced this week that it has secured US $29 million in funding to accelerate its worldwide growth.

Otto Motors, the industrial division of Clearpath Robotics, has now raised US $83 million in backing since its launch in 2015.

“Mobile robots are no longer a luxury in the workplace; they are a necessity,” Clearpath CEO and co-founder Matthew Rendall said in a media release.

A fleet of Otto robots in a warehouse.

A fleet of Otto Motors robots are shown at a Fortune 500 company.

Based in Kitchener with more than 250 employees, Otto Motors provides autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for material handling in manufacturing facilities and warehouses.

More than 70 per cent of its AMRs are at work in Fortune Global 500 companies, including GE, Toyota, Nestle and Berry Global.

The company has seen a surge in demand from essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in food, beverage and medical device manufacturing, and expects the need for automation to continue growing as companies come out of the crisis.

The new investment was led by Kensington Private Equity Fund with participation from BMO Capital Partners, Export Development Canada (EDC), and previous investors iNovia Capital and RRE Ventures.

“Otto’s technology leads the market for core infrastructure for the factory of the future,” Rick Nathan, senior managing director of Kensington, said in the release. “It is becoming increasingly important for customers across all manufacturing and a compelling opportunity for our investors.”

'We were passionate about robotics'

Clearpath was founded in 2009 by Rendall and fellow Waterloo mechatronics engineering graduates Ryan Gariepy, Patrick Martinson and Bryan Webb.

In a blog post, Rendall noted the investment comes almost exactly 11 years after Clearpath was launched “in a cold basement with lime green carpets” during a worldwide financial crisis.

“It was a horrible time to start any business, let alone one focused on autonomous vehicles,” he wrote. “And yet, that’s what we did, against all odds. We were passionate about robotics and committed to figuring out a way to make it work.”

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