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HANDOUT Avidbots Corp.’s autonomous floor-scrubbing robotsHandout

Avidbots Corp., which makes commercial floor-scrubbing robots, said it has raised US$70-million in new equity, marking one of the biggest financing rounds for a Canadian startup in recent months as the tech sector grapples with a prolonged downturn.

Jeneration Capital, which has offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, led the round, which Avidbots said Tuesday brought its total venture financing to US$107-million to date. Numerous existing investors including BDC Capital, Golden Ventures and Kensington Capital Partners returned for the financing round, as did new investors such as BMO Capital Partners.

Founded in 2014, Avidbots has focused its robotics efforts on a suite of floor-cleaning robots called Neo. The Kitchener, Ont.-based company says more than 1,000 have been sold worldwide in more than a dozen countries for clients in sectors such as warehousing, health care and manufacturing.

The company said in a press release Tuesday that the funding will help Avidbots boost its sales and marketing, open an expanded headquarters, and boost the functionality of its robots and the software that manages them. It also plans to hire more than 100 new people, including engineers.

After more than a dozen years of boom times fuelled by historically low interest rates, the tech sector is mired in a slump as inflation and rising interest rates have made capital scarce. Much of the industry is trying to adjust to the new normal by slashing costs to make their existing cash last longer.

But venture capital players continue to hunt for deals they hope will generate returns in spite of the tepid market conditions. Avidbots and its investors are trying to position its floor-scrubbing Neo robots as a chance for commercial clients to automate and lower the costs of cleaning. “As a result, employees can focus on higher-value activities across the organization,” Jeneration Capital partner Tony Zhang said in the press release Tuesday.

The Neo cleaners garnered significant interest in the first days of the pandemic, before the cause of COVID-19’s spread was widely known, after an early study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had found the coronavirus could live on floors and be spread by shoes.