Israeli startup nabs $25m for robotic systems that power ‘nano’ fulfillment centers

Founded in 2021, 1MRobotics built a ‘hardware and software ecosystem’ that allows global brands to upgrade logistics, delivery operations

Ricky Ben-David is a Times of Israel editor and reporter

A robotic system built by 1MRobotics for nano-fulfillment centers. (Courtesy)
A robotic system built by 1MRobotics for nano-fulfillment centers. (Courtesy)

An Israeli robotics startup launched just last year has nabbed $25 million in new funding to offer last-mile fulfillment solutions to global organizations including leading Fortune 500 companies.

Tel Aviv-based 1MRobotics was founded in 2021 by serial entrepreneur Eyal Yair, who serves as CEO and previously co-founded software companies Netonomy and CartCrunch (both acquired), and Roee Tuval, previously with augmented reality firm Magic Leap and now COO. The company took part in the Intel Ignite scale-up program for early-stage startups last year.

In an announcement on Monday, the 1MRobotics team said it raised $25 million – including a previous seed round of $8.5 million — led by US-Israeli investment firm Ibex Investors as well as existing backers Emerge VC, a Tel Aviv-based firm Berlin-headquartered Target Global, and INT3, an investment fund set up by dozens of Israeli tech founders.

The company has set out to build the infrastructure for “next-generation robotic dark stores,” or robotic nano-fulfillment centers, that will serve global companies in their logistics and delivery operations.

“Last-mile delivery is a highly challenging space where delivery at maximal efficiency and in the shortest time possible is critical,” Yair told The Times of Israel.

The 1MRobotics team in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy)

“Dark stores are a new class of infrastructure that is essential for hyper-local fulfillment,” he said, adding that there are an estimated 10,000 such centers across the globe.

“Dark” stores are retail concepts have taken off since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when online retail shot up, increasing demand for local fulfillment centers.

Dark stores are essentially existing physical spaces that have been turned into largely automated facilities, where robots and other systems select, prepare, and pack items with little human intervention. They are much smaller in size than traditional warehouses and can be set up more quickly.

A robotic nano-fulfillment system built by 1MRobotics. (Courtesy)

In a bid to compete with retail giant Amazon, it allows companies of all sizes to stock inventory locally and offer customers same-day delivery or pickup.

Companies like Softbank-backed Reef Technology, which specializes in transforming underutilized urban spaces into fulfillment centers, has made headway in this space with thousands of locations across the US. Reef acquired a Tel Aviv logistics software startup last year to boost its operations.

Israeli company Fabric, formerly known as CommonSense, also operates in the space with robotized facilities in city centers like Tel Aviv. The company is currently working with pharmacy giant Super-Pharm to process online orders for same-day delivery.

“Dark stores are a new class of infrastructure that is essential for Quick-Commerce and Direct-to-Consumer retail,” Yair said. According to sector research published in February, some 45,000 dark stores are expected to be operational by 2030.

Eyal Yair, co-founder and CEO of 1MRobotics. (Courtesy)

1MRobotics’ offering is the robotics system itself. “The systems can be deployed either as standalone units [within as shipping container] or inside any retail facility — allowing full flexibility to position our units at any point around the world,” explained Yair.

The systems allow for rapid deployment of dark stores without organizations have to spend significant sums in the set-up process, the company says.

“An important part of our solution is our holistic approach to providing a hardware and software ecosystem in order to ensure a smooth operation at any scale and complexity,” said Yair. “Our goal is to create a new, global technology infrastructure for the last-mile fulfillment sector that would complement any existing fulfillment network.”

Yair said that “5-10 years from now, automated dark stores will be on street corners of the largest metropolitans around the world in abundance. Retail is experiencing its next phase of evolution.”

1MRobotics said the investment announced Monday will be used to expand into new markets, acquire more enterprise clients, and grow its team. The company currently employs about two dozen people.

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