- French startup Exotec sells robotics fulfillment systems for e-commerce warehouses.
- The company more than tripled its funding with a $335 million round led by Goldman Sachs in January.
- Check out the 14-page pitch deck below.
When people are scarce, robotics startups get a boost. And while geopolitical uncertainty may trigger a pause in tech spending in some corners, retailers remain keen to spend on anything that can combat the ongoing labor shortage. That’s according to Romain Moulin, CEO of warehouse robotics company Exotec.
Exotec makes robotic fulfillment systems that collect the items for online retail orders.
The startup’s hardware resembles a massive jungle gym, with small, square robots scuttering around the floor and even climbing the racks moving bins around with products in them, for robotic arms to pick up and place in other bins, depending on which customers want what. (Humans load products into the first set of bins, and unload completed orders.)
Exotec’s system is currently used by Gap, Carrefour, and Uniqlo among others. It’s claim to fame is the thorough use of every cubic foot available in a warehouse — up to the ceiling — which Moulin said is key to speedy order packing at scale.
From 2020 to 2021, Exotec doubled its revenue to $100 million with a sizable uptick in US business and at least seven systems in use. That growth trajectory proved to Moulin that a big raise was in order, even though it had recently reached breakeven.
Exotec raised $335 million in a Series D round in January, more than triple what it had pulled in before. Goldman Sachs Growth Equity led the round that brought the French company’s valuation to $2 billion.
In the grand scheme of tech startups, warehouse robotics is a small club, and Moulin said investors were primed for the next opportunity to buy in. Goldman Sachs Growth Equity had surveyed the field when Exotec opened the round, according to Moulin, so they were a natural anchor.
“Having an investor that understands our analytics, our finances, our business model was super important,” he said, noting that hardware-heavy business isn’t a traditional VC investment target.
The fresh funds are intended to boost R&D and show customers that Exotec will be a viable partner well into the future, Moulin said. Further R&D will help Exotec serve any customer of any size, from micro-fulfillment centers to massive
A long runway is particularly important for Exotec since it is on the high-investment, high-reward end of the robotics spectrum, according to Moulin. Setting up a new facility takes around 6 months, as opposed to the days or weeks of onboarding required for robots designed to fit into existing buildings with minimal retrofitting. After two years of COVID-19 and the tightest labor market in recent memory, retailers are ready to spend if it means reducing dependence on human labor, the CEO said.
“They know that logistics needs will increase and increase and labor availability will not increase that much,” Moulin said.
Exotec doesn’t compete on convenience, Moulin said. It competes on speed and performance — meaning orders picked per hour — which often puts it in competition with more established players. Here’s the pitch deck that reeled in its latest funding round.