Ati Motors, an all-electric autonomous Industrial vehicle maker, has raised $3.5 million in a pre-Series A round led by Blume Ventures and Exfinity Venture Partners. MFV Partners and a syndicate on LetsVenture led by Livspace founder Ramakant Sharma also participated in the round. Ati helps add reliability, efficiency, and safety by bringing in autonomous material movement in industrial environments like factories and warehouses.
The company will use the funding for the manufacture and deployment of a large fleet of autonomous vehicles in factories and warehouses, in both domestic and global markets. The key focus outside of India will be in the US market where the company will establish sales and system integration partners.
Commenting on this development, Saurabh Chandra said: “We are now fueled up and ready to accelerate our go-to-market plans. People often think of technology from India as being a cheaper and stripped-down version of the cutting edge. We have shown that to solve autonomy challenges in India one has to go beyond the current state of art and that should serve us well in our global expansion too.”
The company was founded by Saurabh Chandra (sold his previous company Neev Technologies to Razorfish of the Publicis Groupe) who serves as the CEO, V Vinay (former professor of Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Science; inventor of Simputer; co-founder of Strand Life Sciences) who is the Chief Scientist, and Saad Nasser (19-year old prodigy) who is the CTO. Saad Nasser dropped out of school when he was just 11, won an Intel Iris competition where he designed a re-entrant rocket at age 13 and worked at Team Indus which was India’s only Google LunarX prize entrant.
Their autonomous cargo vehicle Sherpa uses a technology approach similar to that used in driverless cars (the likes of Tesla and Google) and is more versatile than warehouse or humanoid robots. Its 3D LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) processes much more data than the 2D LIDARs with a worm’s eye view, typical in AMRs which are fine-tuned to work in specific settings. This enables the Sherpa, which rolls on automobile wheels, to go around inside a factory, as well as outside in the yard or road.
While Sherpa Tug, a one-tonne trolley puller, has been deployed in tough manufacturing environments with very rough conditions, Ati has also built a smaller sibling of Sherpa, called Sherpa Lite, which has found excellent uptake in eCommerce warehouses for order fulfillment. Both the Sherpa Tug and Sherpa Lite have been extensively tested on the IISc campus, where the startup has a collaboration with Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber-Physical Systems. The Sherpa Tug has also been successfully deployed at a multinational auto OEM’s manufacturing unit in Chennai.
Anirvan Chowdhury (Investment team, Blume Ventures) commented: “With close to 3M AMR units expected to be shipped annually by 2030, the market opportunity is enormous ($20B+). It is rare to find an investment opportunity in deep tech where the product risk is retired and the primary risk you are underwriting is the GTM risk, where also the team has made decent strides. To add to it, a team of 2X entrepreneurs, a renowned scientist, along with a tech prodigy is rare to find, and we are super excited to be a part of the Ati Motors journey.”
Ati Motors has applied research capabilities and has built the complete autonomy stack ground up to cater to challenging environments (like those found in Indian industrial environments), which existing AMRs aren’t equipped to cater to. It is unique in its ability to navigate both indoors and outdoors seamlessly.
Commenting on this, Nihar Ranjan, Venture Partner at Exfinity said “We have been tracking the development of Ati Motors since its inception and have been impressed by the team’s technology development, product iterations & on-ground execution capabilities. The team has iterated upon their product swiftly, with business use cases as their focal point. Their ready-to-deploy Autonomous Mobile Robots will not just be helpful in Manufacturing floors but also be transformational in many more use cases like Warehousing & Outdoor mobility.” Ati Motors is also getting enquiries for its AV from foreign markets, including the US, SE Asia, and Middle East, and is all set to make its mark globally.
Karthee Madasamy, Founder & Managing Partner – MFV, said: “Ati Motors has taken an original, first-principles approach to product development. The challenging infrastructure in India forced the team to make a product more robust than any other in the market. We feel it would open up use-cases that have not yet been considered for autonomous material movement globally, including the US.”
Ati Motors had earlier raised a seed fund from Village Global — a Bay Area-based early-stage fund backed by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos among others. This was also Village Global’s first investment in an India-based hardware startup.