French robotics startup iFollow has raised €7.5m (US$8.4m) in funding led by Supernova Invest, alongside Socadif – taking over from historical seed investors Axeleo Capital and NCI Waterstart, all with the support of BPI France.
The latest round of funding enables iFollow to expand its assembly line, currently based in Gentilly, France. Production is planned to increase tenfold to reach 1,500 robots manufactured per year. With over 100 robots already operational, iFollow is aiming to deliver at least 500 new AMRs in 2022.
The slimline autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can transport loads of up to 1,000kg and are built to withstand traveling on rough floors. The AMRs can carry two roll cages at once in cold stores and ambient warehouses. They are built to withstand temperatures from -25° C to +40°C, without degradation to battery life. As a full charge from 10% to 100% requires 1.5 hours, uptime is maximized through opportune charging.
As they are just 17cm high, these robots can also fit under lower roll cages. Using the common combination of camera and QR-code navigation, these compact robots are designed to offer easy movement in cramped environments and have the flexibility to transport different storage units such as pallets, trolleys and roll cages.
Founded in March 2017 by CEO Vincent Jacquemart and chief technology officer Nicolas Menigoz, the iFollow team was previously focused on R&D and made up of approximately 40 employees. The team will be gradually strengthened to reach 80 employees within 18 months with new strategic areas to include deployment, maintenance, logistics and marketing.
Frazer Watson, country manager of iFollow’s UK and Ireland divisions, said, “With labor shortages being a major challenge, the ability of iFollow robots to transport two roll cages at once will clearly transform the operational performance of grocery DCs. Designing and manufacturing our own robots and using our own software allows us to tailor solutions to meet the needs of individual applications. Intelligent robots offer a flexible solution that can be easily adapted to changing needs, which makes iFollow’s technology ideal for supporting an era post-Covid-19 in grocery warehouse operations, which are facing demands for ever-shorter delivery times from growing e-commerce channels as well as store orders.”
Nicolas Menigoz, iFollow’s general manager, commented, “This new round of financing marks a major milestone for the company, as our objective for 2022 is to scale up existing installations at several major French customers in the industrial and logistics sectors. Our ambition is to duplicate these well-established robotization models and become a world leader in this significant market (€10bn [US$11bn] in 2023).”
David Hansen, investment director at Supernova Invest, said, “We are very impressed with iFollow’s value proposition, based on cutting-edge technology that offers significant benefits over existing solutions, including the absence of dedicated infrastructure, the thinness of the robots to fit under any surface, a payload of up to 1 ton and the ability to operate in extremely cold environments. We are therefore delighted to become a leading partner of iFollow and to accompany them in their future successes.”
Samya Glangetas, investment director at Socadif Capital Investissement, concluded, “We are delighted to join the founders of iFollow in this industrial endeavor which should lead them to become one of the world leaders in AMRs for logistics players. We were attracted as much by the technological advancements of the proposed solutions as by the quality and enthusiasm of the entire team.”