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Robotics company Berkshire Grey will go public in a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company. The move comes amid a surge in AI and automation vendors going public and considering initial public offerings.
Revealed Feb. 24, Berkshire Grey's merger with the Revolution Acceleration Acquisition SPAC will put a value of $2.7 billion on the combined company.
A SPAC, also called a blank check company, is a public firm formed solely to merge or acquire an existing business. For the target business, this is an alternative to filing for an IPO.
Berkshire Grey had raised $263 million in Series B financing in early 2020.
Founded in 2013 and based in Bedford, Mass., the vendor sells robotic picking systems for warehouses, fulfillment centers and distribution centers. Among its products is a robotic arm that sits on picking lines. Armed with cameras, barcode scanners, computer vision and a gripper, the machine can automatically identify and sort products.
The cloud-based software that runs the system continuously logs data from cameras and sensors, using the data to better identify objects and automatically calibrate arm movements, including its grip force, accelerations and swing velocities, based on the product it is picking. Users can link individual systems, allowing them to learn collectively.
The software also uses data logs to help predict when a machine or sensors will fail.
Fueled by increased demand from e-commerce and retail companies, business is picking up for warehouse automation robots, even if the buzz tends to be more around delivery drones, said Kashyap Kompella, CEO of RPA2AI Research.
To automate operations, warehouse operators are looking to deploy robots for an array of tasks such as loading and unloading, sorting and picking, packaging and storage, transportation and more," Kompella noted.
Berkshire Grey is the latest in a line of AI and automation companies taking steps to go public. C3.ai, which sells products for building, deploying and using machine learning models, went public late last year, opening at more than double its IPO price of $42 a share.
This apparent trend is the result of a combination of factors, including more demand for AI and automation products in the wake of the pandemic, as well as acceleration of digital transformation initiatives across industries, Kompella said.
Likewise, "the tech sector has performed spectacularly since the lows seen last year at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic," Kompella said. "The AI companies are also benefiting from this upward trend and demand for tech stocks."
Kashyap KompellaCEO, RPA2AI Research
Companies that target clear applications and business problems, particularly established enterprise AI vendors, are well-positioned to capitalize on this, he said.
Robotics vendors are also benefiting. The same day Berkshire Grey announced its merger, software startup Symbio Robotics officially launched with $30 million in funding.
Currently working with automotive companies, including Nissan Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., Symbio Robotics sells an industrial robotics middleware and python programming framework that it claims can simplify the programming of industrial robots.
Using the software, SymbioDCS, which the company said is compatible with most well-known industrial robot brands, programmers can create new automations, or improve existing ones, for their robots.