Chinese server robot maker Keenon Robotics announced Wednesday that it received $200 million in Series D funding led by returning investor SoftBank. Keenon says it is the largest funding ever in the service robot sector. 

Keenon’s funding news comes just one day after rival PuduTech announced a RMB 500 million ($78 million) investment.

Why it matters: The two hefty deals this week highlight rising investor attention to the robot delivery market, an emerging sector ready for commercialization and on the rise thanks to the booming non-contact economy in the post-epidemic era. 

  • SoftBank Vision Fund, a venture capital fund of Japan’s SoftBank Group conglomerate, steps further into the robot delivery industry, adding to its bets on semi-humanoid robot Pepper and industrial robot maker Youibot.
  • By the end of this year, the global robot market is expected to be worth $33.6 billion, according to a report (in Chinese) released during the World Robot Conference this week. The Chinese robot market accounts for around RMB 83.9 billion, or 39% of the global market, the report shows.
  • The market for service robots, which Keenon and PuduTech are engaged in, is forecast to be worth RMB 30.3 billion by 2021. The segment will be worth RMB 60 billion by 2023, thanks to growth in visual guided robots and accompanying robots.

Detail: The company didn’t disclose the size of SoftBank’s investment. Other investors in the round include CICC ALPHA and Prosperity7 Ventures, a diversified growth fund of Aramco Ventures. China Renaissance is the exclusive financial advisor for this financing.

  • The proceeds will be used by Keenon to “drive innovation through its in-house R&D to provide new, efficient, and cost-saving applications” and for “scaling its current robot platform through the expansion in new markets and identifying new prospects to promote growth and boost revenue”, according to company founder Tony Li. 
  • “We believe robotic solutions can have a profound impact across the services industry by assisting with repetitive, tedious workflows,” said Kentaro Matsui, managing director of SoftBank Group, in the statement.
  • Keenon currently has more than 10,000 clients in over 60 countries located in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Context: Founded in 2010, the Shanghai-based company offers commercial service robots and intelligent delivery solutions for industries such as real estate, healthcare, and hospitality. Starting with a server robot in restaurants, Keenon gradually expanded its application to hotels, karaoke lounges, hospitals, and other scenarios.

  • SoftBank Ventures Asia led a nine-digit yuan series C round in Keenon in December last year. Investors from earlier rounds include Source Code Capital and Yunqi Partners.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.