Wired’s Chris Anderson points to a new report by the Hizook robotics portal on the relatively limited levels of venture capital funding for robotics. I was surprised – I assumed there was more. Information is hard to come by, Hizook says, but the post has a chart with annotations on various VC investments in robotics for 2011. The comparison for 2011 is on the order of $160 million for robotics versus $6.9 billion for web-based companies. The robotics figure almost certainly undercounts and probably by a lot, and the category of web-based companies in some ways is too inclusive to mean very much. It’s an order of magnitude comparison, really, but I am struck at the relative paucity of VC funding for robotics. That means, of course, that much of the robotics development takes place within large existing technology corporations. Hizook points to some of the barriers for VC funding in robotics (comments are open):
[G]etting VC funding for robotics is a decidedly tough nut to crack. Robotics companies have large capital requirements for robot hardware, few potential acquirers, and almost no “Google-scale” breakout success stories (ie. IPOs). I mean, c’mon... one of the best known robotics companies, iRobot, has a market cap of just $700 Million. This makes robotics a difficult sell to your typical VC firm. My hope is that this list can give others courage to pursue “swing for the fences” type projects along with a source for robotics-friendly VC firms.