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Bear Robotics, a robot waiter startup, secured $60M from LG.

ByYasmeeta Oon

Mar 14, 2024

Bear Robotics, a robot waiter startup, secured $60M from LG.

In a bold move marking its further departure from the smartphone industry, LG Electronics has solidified its commitment to the burgeoning field of robotics. The company has just announced a significant $60 million investment in Bear Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup renowned for its innovative use of artificial intelligence in the development of server robots designed to enhance service efficiency in the restaurant industry and beyond. This investment propels LG Electronics to the position of Bear Robotics’ largest shareholder, signaling a strong belief in the future of robotic assistance in everyday settings.

  • A Strategic Shift: Once a dominant player in the smartphone market, LG Electronics has pivoted towards exploring new technological frontiers, focusing on smart homes, the Internet of Things (IoT), electric vehicle (EV) components, and now, more emphatically, on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Investment Details: LG’s $60 million infusion into Bear Robotics marks a significant endorsement of the startup’s vision. Founded in 2017 by John Ha, a former Google software engineer with a keen insight into the operational challenges of the restaurant industry, Bear Robotics has been at the forefront of introducing AI-powered robotic servers, notably its flagship model, the Servi robot.
  • Market Dynamics: The service robot sector is experiencing a surge in growth, fueled in part by the broader AI renaissance. Despite a challenging year for startups in 2022, companies like Bear Robotics are benefiting from the increasing interest and advancements in AI technology, as illustrated by the recent investment in Covariant, another key player in the robotics field.
A Deep Dive into LG’s Robotics Venture

LG Electronics’ journey into robotics predates its latest investment in Bear Robotics. The company has a storied history of exploring robotic solutions, marked by its development of guide robots for Incheon International Airport in South Korea back in 2017. This move was part of LG’s broader strategy to diversify its technological portfolio, shifting focus from its then-struggling mobile business, which it officially exited in April 2021.

  • Stakeholder Insights: LG Electronics’ chief strategy officer, Lee Sam-soo, has highlighted the investment as a crucial step towards securing a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving service robot market. The company envisions its robotics venture as a new growth engine, driven by the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as Embodied AI and robotic manipulation.
  • The Bear Robotics Proposition: Bear Robotics has carved out a niche in the service industry with its Servi robots, designed to automate the food delivery process within restaurants, thereby enhancing operational efficiency and customer experience. The startup’s technology reflects founder John Ha’s vision of leveraging standardized open platforms to catalyze the robot market’s activation, drawing parallels to the transformative impact of Android on the mobile phone industry.
  • Market Positioning: Prior to LG’s investment, Bear Robotics was valued at just over $490 million, according to PitchBook data. While the current valuation post-investment remains undisclosed, LG’s significant financial commitment is a testament to its confidence in Bear Robotics’ potential to redefine the service industry.

LG’s foray into robotics is part of a larger trend of traditional electronics companies diversifying into new, high-growth technological areas. The integration of robotics with other emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and extended reality (XR) devices points to a future where interconnected devices enhance various aspects of daily life, from how we manage our homes to how we experience the world around us.

The Bear Robotics investment follows closely on the heels of LG’s announced discussions with Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg regarding potential collaborations in developing XR devices. This, coupled with LG’s establishment of an XR team in November as part of an organizational reshuffle, signals the company’s intention to be at the forefront of technological innovation, extending beyond its current focus areas.

As LG Electronics embarks on this new chapter, its investment in Bear Robotics symbolizes more than just a financial venture; it represents a strategic pivot towards embracing the future of AI and robotics. By leveraging its expertise in electronics and forming strategic partnerships within the tech industry, LG is positioning itself as a key player in the next wave of technological innovation. The service robot market, with its vast potential for growth and transformation, offers an exciting frontier for LG, Bear Robotics, and the broader tech community, promising a future where technology continues to enhance and redefine the human experience.

Key Milestones in LG’s Robotics Journey
2017Deployed guide robots at Incheon International Airport
2021Exited the global smartphone business
2023Announced a shift towards smart homes, IoT, EV components, and robotics
2024Invested $60 million in Bear Robotics, becoming its largest shareholder

As LG continues to explore and innovate in the robotics and AI spaces, the industry will undoubtedly watch with keen interest to see how this investment shapes the future of service robotics and beyond.

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Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.