Munich If Olaf Gehrels has his way, the long-awaited breakthrough for collaborative robots in medium-sized companies could be imminent. “In ten years, a robot will be what the smartphone is today,” the co-founder of the start-up Coboworx told Handelsblatt. His company wants to make a decisive contribution to making the so-called cobots – robots that work side by side with people – a natural helper for small and medium-sized businesses.
Gehrels has already been able to convince investors of his vision. In a seed financing round led by the investment company Picus Capital, financed by Alexander Samwer, and the technology holding Team Global, the company raised 4.5 million euros. There are also Paua Ventures and business angels such as Rubin Ritter (Zalando) and Florian Huber (united-domains.de).
For Picus Capital it is the first commitment in the cobot segment on which many hopes are based in the industry. “We must have looked at 100 robotics companies,” said Picus co-founder Robin Godenrath. The market offers “huge potential” because small and medium-sized companies usually do not yet have any robots in use. Many providers only focused on individual components. Therefore, Picus relies on Coboworx, which offers integration into a broad ecosystem. “It can become a multi-billion company,” says Godenrath. Picus is also looking for further investments in the robotics sector.
Coboworx was founded in 2019. Gehrels has already worked for the industry giants Fanuc and Midea, among others. Co-founders are also Klaus Wagner, Georg Matheus and Ralf Zeisberger – they too have decades of experience in robotics.
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The company develops ready-to-use robot cells that are particularly easy to install. For a palletizing task, for example, there is an app with which the robot can be very easily switched over to the task. The exchange of the gripper on the robot arm is also possible with a single movement. Roboworx also wants to integrate solutions from other providers such as the trace pen from the Dresden start-up Wandelbots.
“We are developing a kit that the customer can easily adapt to his needs,” says co-founder Wagner. Many smaller companies have no experience with the use of robot-based automation solutions. Only the application that is really needed should be visible on the user interface. External developers should be able to easily dock onto the accompanying software platform, for example with their own apps.
Cobots are the hope of the robotics industry
Coboworx relies on cobots and lightweight robots with a payload of up to 30 kilograms. These have long been considered great hope in the robotics industry. So far, however, they have often been too expensive and difficult to program.
The industry can use fresh impetus. For years, manufacturers rushed from sales record to sales record. According to the IFR industry association, the number of deliveries has decreased in the past two years, most recently to 376,000 robots sold. According to industry estimates, the cobots accounted for around five percent of sales. The new, easy-to-program cobots from providers such as the world market leader Universal Robots, established manufacturers such as Kuka and ABB as well as newcomers such as Franka Emika, Robco and Coboworx are now reviving the market. However, the experts from Research-And-Markets expect annual growth of 30 percent through 2025.
This makes the segment increasingly interesting for investors. Picus Capital uses the money from Rocket Internet co-founder Alexander Samwer to invest in start-ups at a very early stage. For example, the venture capital firm was on board with the software company Personio from the start, which has now become a unicorn with a billion-dollar valuation.
There is currently a lot of money in the venture capital market, said Godenrath. In robotics, however, many investors do not yet have that much expertise. Therefore, there are great opportunities with targeted investments in the very early phase.
Team Global, which was founded by Lukasz Gadowski, is also in the lead at Coboworx. He was involved with Delivery Hero and Spreadshirt, among others. “Coboworx brings robotics and industrial automation into the Internet age,” said Gadowski. The company’s strength is the combination of hardware, software and services in a robot ecosystem.
More: Tesla introduces humanoid robots.