Kindred secures US $28M Series B led by Tencent

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By Ted Liu

Kindred Systems Inc. dba, has raised US $28 million in Series B round of financing led by Tencent, with participation of existing investors, Eclipse Ventures and First Round Capital.

The Series B round brings the total amount raised to US $44 million. Kindred closed its Series A in 2016 with Eclipse Ventures, First Round Capital, Google, Data Collective, and Bloomberg Beta.

Founded by Suzanne Gildert and Geordie Rose, formerly D-Wave Systems, and George Babu, formerly OMBERS Ventures, Kindred Systems is building human-like intelligence in machines.

Vancouver based Kindred Systems has signed major global retailers to start pilot programs integrating Kindred Sort, the company’s first commercial offering, in existing fulfillment centers. Kindred Sort was developed for use in retail distribution and ecommerce fulfillment centers to quickly and accurately sort an endless variety of products into orders, side by side with warehouse staff. The robots will help retailers increase productivity and expand capacity to serve more customers faster, enabling top line revenue growth.

Kindred’s team of scientists are exploring new types of cognitive architectures that can make any machine smarter. The company is focused on uncovering how brains learn through a physical body, and applying those learnings to create and teach a new intelligent class of robots that will enhance the quality of our day-to-day lives, and in particular, the way we work.

New capital will go towards the continued research, development and deployment of Kindred’s robots as a service. The new funds will also be used to advance the company’s broader mission to build human-like intelligence in machines.

“Kindred Sort is only the beginning when it comes to showcasing the company’s unique approach to AI,” said Pierre Lamond, Partner at Eclipse Ventures. “Their technology is powering a new class of robots that learn to do far more than traditional industrial robots. These intelligent robots complement human workers to meet the greater efficiency, flexibility and output demands of modern ecommerce fulfillment centers.”

With Kindred Sort, the company aims to alleviate the massive pressures facing the retail and fulfillment industry, which includes significant online sales growth, labor shortages, and a lack of advancement in technology. Though overall employment in fulfillment centers grew by more than 6 percent last year, employers struggle to fill an increasing number of open positions. Kindred Sort allows retailers to more efficiently manage the exploding growth and demand of this sector.

“Industrial robots, despite their accuracy and precision in the controlled environments of modern manufacturing facilities, do not adapt well to less controlled environments where the items could be randomly placed or come in a nearly infinite variety of sizes, shapes and weights,” said Babu, co-founder and head of product at Kindred. “Kindred Sort leverages our advancements in applying artificial intelligence (AI) to physical world systems and our unique approach to delivering intelligence to robots that can help solve the capacity issues facing modern fulfillment centers.”

“In the future, all machines will benefit from being able to understand and interact intelligently with the world around them, and Kindred is on the forefront of creating the building blocks for this future,” added Babu.

It is worth noting that Kindred is Tencent’s second AI and third Canadian investment in 2017. Tencent invested in US $102 million Series A in Montreal’s Element AI and US $40M (reportedly) in Toronto’s Wattpad. Tencent’s Canadian investment also include Kik Interactive Inc in which Tencent invested US $50 million in August 2015.

photo credit: Kindred