Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Robotics start-up raises $25m to add AI to warehouses

Steve Rogerson
April 17, 2018



Massachusetts-based robotics start-up Six River Systems (6RS) has announced a $25m series B round of financing to help bring machine learning and artificial intelligence to warehouse management.
 
The round was led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from all existing investors including Norwest Venture Partners, Eclipse Ventures and iRobot.
 
“The hypergrowth in ecommerce and demand for near real-time delivery of goods has put enormous pressure on the logistics, operations and workforce of virtually every retailer,” said Matt Murphy, partner at Menlo Ventures. “Six River Systems’ smart, autonomous robot and next gen fulfilment system is the ideal solution to the problem. The 6RS team’s background at Kiva Systems, the first generation of mobile robots for warehouses, has uniquely qualified them to innovate quickly, execute to the market needs, and build a leadership position in a massive market with a huge pain point.”
 
6RS will use the investment to enhance the first collaborative fulfilment robot Chuck, support development of a decision-making engine for warehouses and add more than 80 employees over the next 12 months, mostly on the engineering side.
 
The ongoing ecommerce evolution and the disruption of retail markets have changed the world of business, says the company. Consumers demand better service, but operators are stuck in the trenches and left fighting today’s problems with yesterday’s tools.
 
6RS believes that fulfilment is key to customer satisfaction. Starting with Chuck, which has already increased warehouse productivity and reduced training costs, 6RS is building fulfilment products to power warehouses.
 
The company has deployed its system at three of the top five third-party logistics providers and some of the largest retailers in the world. It claims that retailers and manufacturers are realising two to three times better pick rates at half the cost of warehouse investments of the past.
 
“Barrett Distribution Centers is a leader in the use of innovative technologies,” said Lewis Frazer, senior vice president at Barrett Distribution Centers. “6RS’s software and their collaborative robot Chuck has increased our productivity, reduced error rates by 50 per cent and reduced training times to a matter of hours. The 6RS team has been a strong partner, scaling up to support our increased usage in the last year.”
 
The company recently expanded its management team by hiring Naresh Wignarajah (formerly at Vistaprint) as vice president of engineering and Fergal Glynn (formerly at Docurated) as vice president of marketing.
 
“The hardware and software systems that most warehouses use today were built for a world that is facing extinction,” said Jerome Dubois, 6RS co-founder and co-CEO. “We live in an on-demand world and operations teams are struggling to keep up. A few leaders have adapted to this reality, but most need to modernise quickly for their business to survive. At 6RS, we are 100% focused on helping operators win.”
 
He said the money would let the company move into Europe a little bit earlier than expected.
 
“And on the software side, we’re making some very substantial enhancements around decision-making abilities with further investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning and deepening our functionality in the warehouse management space,” he said.
 
Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, 6RS is a venture-backed company. Dubois, Rylan Hamilton and Christopher Cacioppo founded 6RS in 2015. Dubois and Hamilton are former executives of Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics), a Boston-based mobile robotics company acquired by Amazon in 2012 for $775m. Lior Susan, Eclipse founder and general partner, has joined the 6RS board of directors.