Fabric, the fulfillment automation company formerly known as Common Sense Robotics, announced today that it has raised a $110 million Series B round of funding led by Corner Ventures with participation from Aleph, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Innovation Endeavors, La Maison, Playground Ventures and Temasek. This brings the total amount of funding raised by the company to $136 million.
Fabric builds out robotic micro-fulfillment centers that allow retailers such as grocers to process online orders quickly. A combination of lift and ground robots autonomously shuttle items around precisely where they are packed by a human and sent out for delivery or pickup. These fulfillment centers can be built off-site and squeezed into smaller spaces, giving retailers micro distribution hubs that are closer to consumers to facilitate faster delivery. For example, Fabric is building 18,000 sq. ft. facility in an underground parking structure in Tel Aviv.
Though they are still new, micro-fulfillment centers have the potential to be great disruptors in the grocery space. Online grocery shopping is currently a very small slice of overall grocery spending, but it’s growing. The ability for a retailer to fulfill and deliver online orders more quickly should create a virtuous cycle that begets more online grocery shopping.
Because of this potential to get you your groceries faster (so you presumably buy more), Fabric is among a bunch of companies looking to automate order fulfillment. Takeoff Technologies also creates robot-powered micro-fulfillment centers, typically built into the back of existing grocery stores, and is currently working with Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize and ShopRite. Walmart has partnered with Alert Innovation to pilot an automated fulfillment center at a store in New Hampshire, while Kroger is building out standalone robotic smart warehouses around the country.
As noted, last month Common Sense Robotics rebranded as Fabric, in a move that seemed to de-emphasize the “robot” part of its offering. In a press statement at the time, Elram Goren, CEO and co-founder of Fabric, explained the rebranding by saying “For us, our robots and software are critical to what we do, but at the end of the day, they’re a means to an end. What we’re really here to do is to be the fabric that binds retailers and their customers together, enabling goods to be fulfilled and delivered faster and cheaper within cities.”
As part of its re-brand, the company moved its headquarters from Tel Aviv, Israel to New York City, where it is building its first U.S.-based fulfillment center. According to today’s press release, Fabric says it has contracts to build out 14 more centers in cities across the U.S. in 2020 and will use the new funding to expand operations here.