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SoftBank, Foxconn Invest in Japan Shelf-Stocking Robot Startup

Telexistence secures $170 million in funding from industry giants, including SoftBank Group and Foxconn, to expand its innovative shelf-stocking robot technology and drive automation in the retail sector.

Credits: Telexistence

In a major development for the retail industry, Telexistence, a Tokyo-based startup specializing in shelf-stocking robots for convenience stores, has successfully raised $170 million in funding.

The investment round witnessed participation from renowned entities such as SoftBank Group, Foxconn, Globis Capital Partners and KDDI Open Innovation Fund.

Established in 2017, Telexistence has garnered accolades for its cutting-edge robots that efficiently manage refrigerated beverage shelves in convenience stores. Leveraging the pioneering humanoid robot research conducted by University of Tokyo Professor Emeritus Susumu Tachi, the company has achieved a valuation of approximately £485 million ($70 billion yen), making this funding round a substantial 30% of its overall value.

Currently equipped with an annual production capacity of 300 units, Telexistence has already established a fruitful collaboration with FamilyMart, a prominent convenience-store chain in Japan. By deploying its robots across more than 150 FamilyMart locations in 2020, the company successfully reduced in-store labor by approximately 20%.

With the latest funding infusion, Telexistence aims to enhance its robot's capabilities by developing a model that can stock up to 2,000 beverages per day, effectively doubling its existing capacity.

Collaborating with Foxconn, renowned for its expertise in mass production, the company plans to manufacture 3,000 units annually, with a significant portion set to be deployed in 7-Eleven stores in Taiwan, commencing from the spring of 2024.

Telexistence also has plans to expand its robot's functionalities beyond linear movements. It envisions developing advanced models capable of autonomous and flexible motion, including the ability to open cardboard boxes.

Leveraging the expansive customer network of SoftBank Robotics, a subsidiary of SoftBank, Telexistence aims to introduce its robots to convenience stores in the United States as early as 2025. Additionally, SoftBank Robotics will provide comprehensive after-sales services, including repairs and maintenance.

The potential market for Telexistence's automation solutions is immense, with over 150,000 convenience stores in the United States alone, as reported by the National Association of Convenience Stores. This figure dwarfs Japan's approximate count of 60,000 stores, presenting a significant growth opportunity for Telexistence.

A 2022 business activity survey conducted by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry highlighted the significant disparity in added value between the retail and manufacturing sectors. While one employee in retail creates an added value of ¥5.14 million, the manufacturing sector, known for its extensive automation and labor-saving measures, boasts an impressive added value of ¥11.93 million.

  • SoftBank Group and Foxconn invest $170 million in Telexistence, a Japanese startup specializing in convenience store automation.

  • The funding round also includes participation from Globis Capital Partners and KDDI Open Innovation Fund.

  • Telexistence's valuation reaches $485 million, with the latest funding accounting for 30% of its value.

Source: Nikkei Asia

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