Watch Now

Medical drone delivery startup Zipline raises $190 million in funding (with video)

Medical drone delivery startup Zipline raises $190 million in funding (Photo: Facebook/Zipline International Inc.)

Healthcare drone delivery startup Zipline has raised $190 million in a new round of funding, taking its valuation to over $1 billion. The new funding will be used to further expand its reach across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Zipline operates autonomous drones across remote areas that are hard to reach by road, airlifting medicines during emergencies.

The investment round saw the participation of previous investors Katalyst Ventures, Temasek, GV, Baillie Gifford, Bright Success Capital, Goldman Sachs, Oakhouse Partners, Toyota Tsusho Corp., the Design to Improve Life Fund, with equity firm TPG’s Rise Fund joining in as a new investor. The fundraiser was split across two phases, with $70 million flowing in 2018 and the rest coming in early this year. Since its inception in 2014, Zipline has raised a total of $225 million.

Zipline’s largest market currently is in Africa, with the company now functioning in Ghana, Rwanda and Tanzania. The idea is simple to deliver medicines in under 30 minutes once health workers place orders via a text message. To expedite deliveries, Zipline opens its distribution centers in strategic locations, where it stocks vaccines, blood for emergencies and life-saving medications.

Zipline drones can carry four pounds of cargo at a maximum speed of around 70 mph, with an all-weather range of 100 miles. Currently, every distribution center can provide medicines for 7,700 square miles, without the need for any additional infrastructure at ground zero for landing and take off.  

The autonomous drone market has seen significant interest recently, as various use cases – with both freight hauling and human transport – receiving visibility. Several startups have cropped up in the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) space, looking to transport freight and humans across densely populated urban areas to decrease transit times that are lengthened due to traffic-clogged streets.

The company’s entry into Ghana has been recent; Zipline formalized a partnership with the Ghanaian government in April. The company has opened four distribution centers in the country, with each inventory catering to 2.5 million people on average. Zipline’s operations in Ghana are financially supported by the vaccine alliance Gavi, founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the UPS Foundation. Buoyed by the fresh round of investment, the company plans to support 700 million people within its ecosystem over the next five years.

In many ways, Zipline has slowly come to be at the heart of on-demand medical supplies delivery within the countries it expands into. For instance, the startup now delivers over 65 percent of all the blood supply needs of Rwanda outside of the country’s capital.

“There is a growing feeling around the world that technology is not benefitting the vast majority of people,” said Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, in a statement. “The old conventional wisdom has been that building a successful technology company requires exploiting people’s personal information or hijacking their attention. Zipline wants to establish a new model for success in Silicon Valley by showing the world that the right technology company with the right mission and the best team can help improve the lives of every person on the planet.”