I spent a bit of time at Figure’s Sunnyvale offices during a recent visit to the South Bay. The firm is currently in that semi-awkward phase where it’s ready to talk about what it’s working on — but only to a point. That means things like its process and plans are on the table, while actually showing its robot is not.
We got some renders when the company came out of stealth back in March, but beyond that, the Figure 01 robot hasn’t traveled beyond its office walls. Having seen a pre-working model, I can attest to the ambition of the whole project, but as I wrote in my long piece last week, the merits of work like this should be assessed every step along the way.
The company did, however confirm with TechCrunch that its assembled robot (bottom half+top half) took its first step ahead of its one year anniversary. “We believe that this is the fastest timeline in the industry to date,” it notes.
This morning the company announced a sizable vote of confidence in the form of a $70 million Series A. The round is led by Parkway Venture Capital and features Aliya Capital, Bold Ventures, Tamarack Global, FJ Labs and Till Reuter, the CEO of industrial arm maker, Kuka Robotics. It follows founder and CEO Brett Adcock’s self-financed $100 million seed to get things up and running.
“We’re focused on investing in companies that are pioneers in AI technology, and we believe that autonomous humanoid robots have the potential to revolutionize the labor economy,” Parkway Venture Capital’s Jesse Coors-Blankenship said in a prepared statement. “We are impressed by the rapid progress that Brett and the team of industry experts at Figure have made in the last year and are thrilled to be a financial partner to provide resources to accelerate the commercialization of Figure 01.”
These are, indeed, big rounds. There was a pre-pandemic moment when early-stage rounds were ballooning, but economic factors have brought many of them back down to earth. But robots are expensive. I mean, hardware in general is expensive, but robots are next level. That’s especially true with (1) a relatively unproven form factor and (2) the notion of “general purpose” systems.
There’s a reason you don’t read about purpose-built humanoids: There are far more efficient ways to build robots that do things very well. You start exploring something like a bipedal humanoid robot when you want a system that can do the things a human can.
Figure is still quite young, having only celebrated its first birthday on May 20, but it’s been aggressively hiring talent from places like Boston Dynamics, Tesla, Apple and automotive manufacturers. In spite of speedy iterations, however, we’ve not seen much in the way of timelines from the company thus far.