Israeli startup 1MRobotics, just 18 months old, is leapfrogging micro fulfillment to nano fulfillment, using automated robotic systems within containers that can be dropped in suburban locations or fit into an urban building, fulfilling orders in lights-out fashion for delivery in as little as 15 minutes.
They may have also solved the unit economics riddle for struggling instant delivery providers like GoPuff, Gorillas and Getir, all of which are bleeding cash, cutting back staff or looking to prop each other up.
Founded in 2021 in Tel Aviv, 1MRobotics recently closed a $16.5 million Series A round that put its total raised to date at $25 million, led by existing investors Emerge VC and Target Global. In addition to established MFC providers like Ocado, Fabric, Attabotics, AutoStore and Dematic with much larger systems, 1M Robotics is competing with operators of manually-run urban dark stores.
The jury is out on whether instant, on-demand delivery can regain the dizzying heights of demand it saw during and after the pandemic lockdowns. Fabric in particular, which joined the unicorn club last year, laid off 40% of its staff this summer as it pivoted from service provider to platform.
The 1MRobotics containers come in 20, 40, 60 or 80-foot-long form factors that can be set up in an hour, and include a fully automated system that receives pallets of goods, scans and stores them. Orders are picked and packed by robotic arms as they come in, and accessed at an ATM-like terminal by a delivery driver. They can also be refrigerated for food and beverage products, and dropped in places like parking lots and gas stations.
Eyal Yair, co-founder of 1MRobotics, said micro fulfillment and order delivery within an hour or less require proximity between consumer and facility. Trying to do this manually, he said, is not economically feasible.
“To build one dark store, you have to renovate, operate it in a high-rent area, hire 10 employees working in shifts, and there can be mistakes with manual fulfillment,” said Yair, a serial entrepreneur who has launched and exited three startups since 2010. “Multiply that by scale, and it doesn’t add up. That’s the pain we’re solving for.”
Yair said 1MRobotics solves for two challenges: scale and speed. “If you want to cover Chicago or Manhattan, you determine how fast you want customers to receive their orders, calculate how many units you needed to cover an area, and we manufacture and ship it.”
The technology can also be used in factories, as an automated storage unit for spare parts on the manufacturing floor, Yair said, increasing efficiency vs. using a distant warehouse. He added an international coffee brand is already using 1MRobotics in Israel, and the company is in discussions with a reseller of Apple products in South Africa.
1MRobotics has used its funding to double the headcount to 50, 40 of whom are engineers, to strengthen its R&D. It also added sales reps in new markets and is building a new manufacturing facility in Tel Aviv. In future, Yair said, the company may stand up a second plant in Europe or the U.S.