© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Technology & Entrepreneurship

Port San Antonio's Plus One Robotics Hauls In $33 Million In Funding Round

Plus One Robotics.jpg
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
/
Testing at Plus One Robotics

Three years ago when Plus One was just a dozen or so employees working out of a small Port San Antonio office, they were thrilled to announce more than $8 million in Series A funding.

In three years they have more than tripled that with $33 million from many of those same funders and some new ones including BMW.

The company builds vision software for robotic arms. It teaches robots to see.

Those robots pick, pack and and ship items as part of the trend of warehouse automation. In the era of pandemic ecommerce, there’s a lot of things being shipped and a lot of warehouses being built. Their customers want to use automation to ensure they can always meet the demand even through ongoing labor shortages of the high employee-churn industry.

“Tomorrow, your labor could dry up for another (COVID) surge. How do you get the orders out then?” posed Erik Nieves, CEO of Plus One Robotics. “So, warehouse automation continues to grow, but certainly what we do has drawn a lot of interest in the market. And the investors, you know, understand that.”

Series B rounds are often a signal that a company has an established product and is ready to scale. Plus One’s success — Nieves said — comes from its understanding that the automation will always need a “human in the loop.” Their product offering is one where remote “crew chiefs” can be monitoring several machines simultaneously.

“We tell you from the beginning that the world class AI software we're building you is going to disappoint you on occasion,” he said.

Erik Nieves.jpg
Erik Nieves

Nieves said they are going to be expanding both space and staff in coming months. The company moved into a new 11,000 square foot facility at Port San Antonio just last year, but have outgrown it already. Nieves declined to say how many people they would be adding, and how much space other than to say it will “grow considerably.”

And not just in the United States.

“We believe that Plus One Robotics' technology will usher in a new era of smart, adaptive robot systems to bring automation to new heights across supply chain, logistics and manufacturing," added Kasper Sage, Partner at BMW i Ventures.

Nieves said that BMW is their European anchor and that the continent will be an important market, noting that it has more warehouses than North America. Riding its customer’s coattails Plus One expects to cross that continent continuing into Asia as well.

“We’re excited to play a part in this growth, as well as their growth in the Asian markets,” Toshi Otani, incoming board member and managing director of TransLink.

That $33 million is one of the bigger funding round’s in recent San Antonio history. McRock Capital and Translink Ventures led the funding round with BMW i Ventures, Kensington Capital Partners and others joining past investors. Translink will gain a board of directors seat as part of the deal.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.