IPO Corner: The Robot Takeover

We’re in the middle of another perfect storm… only this time, the stage is set for what some tech enthusiasts have predicted for a long time: the robot takeover. While it’s not quite that dramatic, it also may be. The pandemic has us rethinking offices and long commutes, the ongoing conflict overseas has us rethinking energy, and the conditions in the labor market have us rethinking the role of robots in the workplace…. can we do more work with less people if we supplement with robots?

The writing is on the wall, billions of dollars are pouring into the robotics space. As business owners are forced to reimagine how they operate, more and more industries are clamoring for higher levels of automation. The global robotics market, which was sitting at about $45.1 billion as of last year, is projected to grow to $122.05 billion within the next eight years. Nothing will be spared, from food service, to healthcare, to shipping.

What To Expect

So, what types of things can we expect to see? For starters, expect to see more robots at your doctor’s offices and hospitals. Hospitals like Cedars-Sinai Health are among the first wave of healthcare facilities trying out robots. Cedars-Sinai is piloting a collaborative robot called Moxi, the brainchild of a company called Diligent Robotics ran by two women in Texas.

Moxi is designed to be a helper robot… and it looks pretty futuristic. Do you remember the movie Short Circuit and its adorable robot lead Johnny 5? Take Johnny, give him a nice white, hard-shell body, slap on a digital smile, and you have Moxi. It’s wild! Moxi is really good at helping humans with mundane tasks, such as running medications, grabbing supplies, and ferrying lab samples.

Other places we can expect to see robots is in the shipping and recycling industries. A company called Neptune Robotics is already hard at work solving a huge problem for the shipping space… cleaning out the hulls of container ships. Another company, Glacier, is a recycling robotics startup based in San Francisco that is quickly making a name for itself. The company recently launched its first commercial robot system capable of sorting eight commodity types across two sort lines at one facility in the city.

Fast Food Accelerating Toward Automation

As you can imagine, the fast-food industry can’t make a beeline for the automation sign-up sheet fast enough… over the last few years, we’ve seen restaurants and fast-food joints struggle and shut down due to the pandemic, and now we’re witnessing more struggle as the labor force and owners go head-to-head over working conditions and pay. Owners are keenly aware that automation could solve a big chunk of their problems… and they are ready.

Panera Bread is one such gleeful pioneer of automation, piloting a new automated coffee brewing system from Miso Robotics called the CookRight Coffee System. The company is going hard on their subscription drink service, and they are hoping that the CookRight will help it truly soar with customers.

McDonald’s is taking a page from the same playbook but pushing it further… they are working to completely automate order taking, even in the drive-through. We can easily imagine pairing this with robots that bus tables… that capability is already being tested out in some pizza eateries around the country.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is testing robots that make tortilla chips. Jack in the Box is testing out burger-flipping and fry-frying robots. As you can tell, things are moving very quickly in this space and the pace will only continue to pick up.

Deals To Watch

One of the companies in this space making such a splash is Miso Robotics, which is responsible for the CookRight Coffee System being piloted at Panera Bread. But the company is also the maker of several of the robotics being piloted that we’ve talked about in this article… they are on fire right now. They are working extra hard on AI-driven robots in an endeavor to create the “kitchen of the future” for restaurants.

Miso Robotics makes artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robots to help humans in a restaurant setting, primarily in back-of-house operations. Their technology integrates machine learning, computer vision, and data analytics. They have some impressive offerings, like a robot that can fry food and smart beverage dispenser and sealers. The company is already partnering with huge names like White Castle and has landed a $500 Million valuation ahead of its anticipated IPO.

Another interesting name set to IPO soon in this space is Rani Therapeutics, which aims to bring the world robotic pill technology. The company is working to migrate healthcare away from injectables and to robotic pills. The company, founded in 2012 and based in California, has had positive results with trials of their pills and the technology is so simple it’s refreshing.

The pill has an enteric coating to protect it from the stomach, and that coating dissolves as the pill moves down into the intestine. Once that happens, a chemical reaction takes place, and a balloon inflates… from there, pressure in the balloon pushes a dissolvable microneedle filled with medicine into the intestinal walls. Since there are no pain receptors there, it’s ideal location for injection.

Are you ready to swallow your flu shot, then head over to Panera where a robot dispenses your favorite mocha latte… all while it remembers just how you like it and how many more drinks you have in your subscription this week until you earn a bonus drink? Well… you’d better get ready because it’s already here. Keep coming back, I’ll let you know if Miso or Rani end up on my Buy List… and if the companies plan to automate anything else in your life.