Startups

Plus One Robotics expands to the Pittsburgh Innovation District with plans to grow here long term

The 2016-founded company will take over space in the new Avenu: Meyran location.

Plus One Robotics' cofounder and CEO Erik Nieves.

(Photo via Twiter)

Another robotics firm is coming to Pittsburgh.

San Antonio-based Plus One Robotics announced that it would expand into the Avenu: Meyran space in the Pittsburgh Innovation District in May. The news comes after another growing robotics company, Neuraville, also announced an expansion to the innovation district and after Avenu announced the opening of the new Meyran location last month.

Nearly a year ago, Plus One Robotics announced a $33 million Series B round to fund international expansion. The goal was to meet increased demand for computer vision software for robotics in industries relying on warehouses and logistics. Founded in 2016, the company also raised $8.3 million in a Series A round in 2018, putting its total funding so far over $40 million.

“Pittsburgh Innovation District is home to not one but two of the top-100 colleges in the United States. Being close to other startups in the District, plus Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, was very important for us so we can situate ourselves in that high-energy, relevant, forward-looking and optimistic environment,” said Bener Suay, senior developer for Plus One Robotics, in a statement. “Our company is future-focused, industry-leading, and deeply knowledgeable in our field. We feel that these pillars are very much aligned with our neighbors in the Pittsburgh Innovation District.”

Plus One’s software uses 3D and AI-powered perception tools to give robots increased coordination capabilities, including hand-eye coordination relevant to placement and sorting tasks required by warehouse and distribution center settings. Most recently, a press release noted, the company has branched into leveraging its software for depalletization capabilities, specifically looking to improve the computer vision for that feature using its Pittsburgh-based talent.

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While it will continue development of its computer vision software for new applications, one of the first goals after the move is expanding the team.

“As someone with experience in material handling robots, I have a great deal of respect for Plus One Robotics. Having them come to Pittsburgh is a big deal — and we welcome them to the community,” Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN) Executive Director Joel Reed said. “Pittsburgh is a world leader in research, innovation and commercial development for the robotics industry and is increasingly becoming the place to be if you’re developing AI-driven autonomous and robotics solutions.”

Plus One’s choice to expand to Pittsburgh next in its company journey also strengthens the conviction of Reed and PRN’s claim last summer that the region is the “robotics capital of the world.” It’s a sign that local business within that sector continues to grow beyond the realm of autonomous vehicles and leverage Pittsburgh’s robotics and AI expertise toward more commercial opportunities.

Suay and one of his colleagues, Senior Engineer Nick DePalma, said that the Pittsburgh Innovation District in particular will enable them to take advantage of all the benefits the city has to offer in robotics. With a growing number of businesses and access to CMU and Pitt, DePalm said he hopes Plus One’s new location will foster a sense of community with other innovators in Pittsburgh.

And it sounds like Plus One is here to stay. While it will continue development of its computer vision software for new applications, Suay said one of the first goals after the move is expanding the team.

“Within the next 1-3 years, we hope to see our company grow its customer, application, and employee footprint,” he said. “We are working tirelessly on solving critical problems in warehouses and distribution centers. We hope to see our efforts scale, hire more talent, and augment our customers’ capacity to achieve more picks per day.”


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. -30-
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