Point Breeze-based Gecko Robotics announced this morning that it had closed on a $73 million Series C funding round.
The company, which was founded in 2013 and specializes in the development of robotics and industrial asset management software including its signature wall-climbing robots, said that the funding would help advance its mission of protecting critical infrastructure in both the present and the future.
The round was led by New York-based XN, along with Founders Fund, XYZ, Drive Capital, Snowpoint Ventures, Palantir Technologies founder Joe Lonsdale, DoorDash New Horizons lead Gokul Rajaram and Pittsburgh hometown hero Mark Cuban, among others. All venture capital firms involved in the round are based in San Francisco, outside of XN and Drive Capital, which is based in Columbus, Ohio.
“Gecko plans to utilize the funding from this round to continue protecting critical infrastructure through the collection and contextualization of physical data, while leaning into their foundational philosophy of forward-deployed engineering. This capital will aid in the development of new capabilities for data collection and analysis, for both the hardware and software elements of Gecko’s services,” said Gecko Robotics Chief of Staff Bruno Pontes Soares Rocha in an email to Technical.ly. “Additionally, Gecko plans to grow their team, both in their hometown of Pittsburgh, as well as expanding their presence in other tech hubs like New York City, Boston and Europe.” (See open roles here.)
Gecko will also be opening a new 70,000-square-foot office in Pittsburgh this spring, offering an in-person work space for the half of its employees who are located here. The company is planning to double its headcount in 2022, Pontes Soares Roacha said, and has plans to hire both domestically and internationally. Those new hires will be across all roles, but the Pittsburgh office specializes in engineering, and will grow across mechanical, electrical and software engineering.
This significant Series C raise comes after a dry spell for Pittsburgh VC deals in 2021, and after a stream of increased raises at the start of this year. So far, this $73 million deal is the largest out of the Pittsburgh startup scene in 2022, topping RoadRunner Recycling‘s $70 million Series D in January. Other startups with noteworthy deals so far include Metafy‘s $25 million Series A round, Mindstate Design Labs‘ $11.5 million seed round last month, $6 million for fitness tech startup CoPilot Systems in January and $5 million in seed funding for simulation tech firm Epistemix.
This round alone from Gecko is significantly more than the total $54.38 million raised in the first quarter of last year. And when combined with other deals so far in 2022, Pittsburgh has already raised more in the first two months of this year than it did in total over the first two quarters of last year.
“Gecko’s unique combination of robotics and software radically improves the ability to inspect, protect, and efficiently maintain critical infrastructure. We are excited to partner with Jake and Troy as they extend Gecko’s powerful technology into new geographies and industries, helping customers collect and make sense of physical data to optimize the safety and performance of their assets,” said Tim Brown, XN partner, in a statement referring to Gecko’s cofounders Jake Loosararian and Troy Demmer, who are now the company’s CEO and chief product officer, respectively.
Though a press release on the news did not mention the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge, the announcement of Gecko’s Series C round comes at a time of added focus on failing infrastructure at both the national and local level. With this news, Gecko joins a growing group of local entrepreneurs focused on infrastructure inspection and repair, including Mach9 Robotics and the citizen-developed Bad Bridges app. Now Gecko will grow its capacity to use robotics to enter dangerous or unstable infrastructure environments and allow for assessments and repairs that might not be safely possible for human workers.
“Jake is incredibly passionate about industrial infrastructure — which is a weird thing to be passionate about — but it’s been incredible seeing that dedication and drive translate into Gecko’s growth,” noted Trae Stephens, partner at Founders Fund, in a statement. “Rather than eliminating workers, Gecko’s technology minimizes danger by removing them from the most precarious maintenance tasks.”
As for plans beyond this latest round of funding, Gecko hinted at a public offering down the road.
“At this time they do not have plans to be acquired, and aim to be a publicly-traded company in the future,” Pontes Soares Rocha said. In the short term, he added, increased expansion to Europe is on Gecko’s agenda.
“Looking ahead at the remainder of 2022, Gecko is not only expanding in scale, but also in scope. As Gecko continues to develop their operations and refine their product offerings, they are conscious of opportunities to bring services to adjacent industries,” Pontes Soares Rocha said. “They are working to broaden the ease of use for their robots, expanding the range of professionals equipped to operate them.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.