In the logistics space, China has continuously remained at the bleeding edge of innovation, with home-grown startups mushrooming in the robotics and AI vertical, as retail and ecommerce businesses rush to automate their supply chains to make them leaner and more robust. FreightWaves spoke with Geek+, a Beijing-based robotics startup, in the event of the company raising $150 million in its Series B round last week.
Geek+ is pioneering AI-enabled logistics robots for warehouses, and as Yunfan Gao, the marketing director at Geek+ puts it, is leading the technological transformation of the logistics industry. The company’s fresh round of funding was led by Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm based in New York, with the total financing now standing at nearly $240 million, raised over four rounds.
Gao outlined the different sections that Geek+ concentrates its energies in, with the company catering to a diverse portfolio of ecommerce and 3PL players in China and beyond. The startup’s lynchpin product is their automated robots, which help clients with material handling.
Geek+ has also partnered with companies like China Post and DHL to assist them with automated parcel sorting, a solution critical to improving efficiency in their networks, as the volume of incoming parcels makes it a challenge for distribution operations. Another solution is their line of automated forklifts, that help around in warehouse management.
“We provide warehousing and one-stop supply chain service to ecommerce companies, and across different FMCG verticals – like cosmetics, food, and daily consumables,” said Gao. “We will keep expanding our partner portfolio, but we are now focused on robotics solutions. For example, we are developing a robot arm that we can place near the operator in a warehouse.” Apart from warehousing solutions, the company has also developed transit cars dedicated to last-mile delivery networks.
Gao contended that the industry Geek+ operates in is still a very niche segment, albeit one with immense potential. “Though we have a lot of competing players in China who are developing similar solutions, based on our marketing analysis, Geek+ accounts for the biggest market share in China,” he said. “Outside China, the competitive environment is much bigger, and we have penetrated countries like the United States, Japan, Singapore, and Australia, while also providing services in Europe.”
Gao insisted that Geek+ robots stand out because they are arguably the best-in-class products when the parameters of speed, performance, and payload were objectively considered. “We already got our CE certification in Europe, which proves our quality. Secondly, it is also about our software functionality that matters a lot when we are up against the competition,” he said.
The company’s business model is also a touch interesting. Apart from selling hardware and software and associated services, Geek+ also leases out robots which Gao contended would help companies save a lot of money, while also bolstering their logistics operations. This has propelled the growth of Geek+ over the years, with it delivering over 5,000 robots and realizing over 100 robotics warehouse projects across the world – all in a span fewer than four years.
“There are competitors on the way in our market, but as one of the few players who started providing robotics solutions for logistics, Geek+ has a strong first-mover advantage,” said Gao. “We keep developing new products and enhancing our capability on customer service, which I believe will help us face our competition better.”
The recent Series B raise would go a long way in fueling Geek+’s futuristic product line. The startup’s founder and CEO Yong Zheng had mentioned in a statement that the company is expected to grow by five times this year and that the financing would further strengthen Geek+’s investments in innovative products and solutions, global distribution network, and customer service. “We will continue to be customer-centric, and create values for customers through a seamless integration of AI & Robotics technologies and customers’ supply chain needs,” he said.