Syrius Robotics, a Chinese startup that makes autonomous robots for warehouses, just secured 50 million yuan ($7.4 million) in a Series B funding round, lifting its total raised so far to $40 million.
The four-year-old company specializes in what’s called automated mobile robots (AMR), in contrast to some of its competitors that offer automated guided vehicles (AGV). In essence, AMRs are robots that can plan routes and react to circumstances in real time and are considered more advanced than AGVs, which follow pre-determined paths.
Think of Syrius’s robots as mini autonomous driving bots that can maneuver narrow warehouse aisles and lift and put away parcels. The company sees itself more as a software than hardware firm, with proprietary algorithms that tell robots how to move indoors.
Its latest round of funding is exclusively backed by Harvest Capital, a Chinese investment firm focused on technologies applied to traditional industries. Syrius raised capital in dollars — $20 million of it — as part of its Series B back in August, with TikTok parent ByteDance as a lead investor. The startup is also funded by Sequoia Capital China.
China’s warehouse robots have become investors’ darlings in the past two years, during which the COVID-19 pandemic and its control measures have stranded millions of workers. Shenzhen-based Hai Robotics, which makes casing handling robots, announced banking $200 million in September.
Like many robotics startups from China, Syrius has ventured abroad and derives half of its revenues from overseas markets. In Japan, where robots are addressing the labor shortage issue, it runs a subsidiary and has served trading house giant Mitsubishi Corporation and logistics firm Kantsu Co. The startup also has clients in Singapore and South Korea, and is looking to expand operations in Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe.
Syrius appears to have the right founding team for its line of business. Its co-founder and CEO Jiang Chao was a leader of Project Tango, the mobile augmented reality project that Google initiated and later shut down; the other co-founder Luo Xuan worked on AMRs as a product management director at Alibaba Robotics, which should have given him much insight into the business considerations of Chinese e-commerce companies when it comes to investing in robots.
Based in Shenzhen and Beijing, Syrius employs 200 people and is profitable, it told TechCrunch, though the firm declined to disclose its revenues. Its source of income comes from selling robots, offering monthly robots-as-a-service subscriptions, and also making its Android-based operating system available to third-party robot makers, which allows the startup to expand beyond its familiar turf of e-commerce.