AI startup Figure raises $70 million to build humanoid robots

An illustration projected on a screen shows a robot hand and a human one moving towards each others during the "AI for Good" Global Summit at the ITU in Geneva
An illustration projected on a screen shows a robot hand and a human one moving towards each others during the "AI for Good" Global Summit at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva, Switzerland, June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

May 24 (Reuters) - Figure, a startup that wants to build general-purpose humanoid robots, has raised $70 million from investors led by Parkway Venture Capital in its first external round, the company said on Wednesday.

The new funding will be used to accelerate the development and manufacturing of the company’s first autonomous humanoid, which is expected to launch in the next few months. The valuation of the one-year-old company was not disclosed, but a source close to the firm put the value at over $400 million.

Brett Adcock, founder and chief executive at Figure, invested $20 million personally in the round. Other investors include Aliya Capital and Bold Ventures.

Based in Sunnyvale, California, Figure develops general-purpose humanoid robots that could work in different environments and handle a variety of tasks, from warehouses to retail. It's in talks with retailers about commercialization opportunities, the company said.

Adcock, former founder of Archer Aviation (ACHR.N), said Figure differentiates from other robotics companies such as Boston Dynamics and Amazon Robotics by developing robots that can handle general tasks, with an eventual goal to enable its robots to learn and interact with the environment.

"We believe general-purpose humanoid robots have far more potential than single-purpose robots," said Adcock, "The deployment into the workforce can help address labor shortages and over time lead the way in eliminating the need for unsafe and undesirable jobs."

Big tech companies and startups like Figure are racing to develop the next commercially viable humanoid robot.

Tesla (TSLA.O), for example, revealed a prototype of its humanoid robot 'Optimus' last year. Chief executive Elon Musk predicted the electric vehicle maker would be able to take orders for the robot in three to five years, and sell them for under $20,000.

Reporting by Krystal Hu in New York Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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Krystal reports on venture capital and startups for Reuters. She covers Silicon Valley and beyond through the lens of money and characters, with a focus on growth-stage startups, tech investments and AI. She has previously covered M&A for Reuters, breaking stories on Trump's SPAC and Elon Musk's Twitter financing. Previously, she reported on Amazon for Yahoo Finance, and her investigation of the company's retail practice was cited by lawmakers in Congress. Krystal started a career in journalism by writing about tech and politics in China. She has a master's degree from New York University, and enjoys a scoop of Matcha ice cream as much as getting a scoop at work.