Third Wave Automation Closes $40M Series B for ‘Shared Autonomy’ in Forklifts

Startup addresses the need for safe and efficient forklift operations in the $100 billion global supply chain industry.

Third Wave Automation

Third Wave is initially focusing on shared automation for forklifts.
Third Wave Automation, which has partnered with Toyota, plans to accelerate commercialization of human-in-the-loop pick-and-place operations with autonomous forklifts.

Third Wave Automation Inc. this week announced the closing of $40 million in Series B funding led by Norwest Venture Partners. The Union City, Calif.-based “shared autonomy” startup said it plans to use the investment to accelerate growth and commercialization efforts.

“I've been tracking Arshan [Poursohi, CEO] and the team at Third Wave for some time and have been consistently impressed,” said Matt Howard, general partner at Norwest Venture Partners, who will join Third Wave's board of directors. “When I last visited the Third Wave facility and saw its forklifts easily completing picks and places, my jaw dropped, and I knew Norwest needed to be a part of this journey. We are thrilled to support the Third Wave team as they fundamentally alter the warehouse and material handling industry.”

“While we weren't actively raising, having the opportunity to bring Norwest and Matt's expertise into our orbit was too good to pass up,” said Arshan Poursohi, CEO of Third Wave. “This extra capital will allow us to accelerate hiring and speed our path to the commercial market following our recent successful technical trials. We are now in active conversations with the top 20 3PLs [third-party logistics providers] and retailers in the industry. There is a real need for our technology and we are eager to meet that need.”

Third Wave initially focuses on forklifts

Third Wave said it has taken a unique approach to industrial automation with artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics for “adaptive automation.” Founded in 2018, the company recently partnered Toyota Industries Corp. for human-in-the-loop systems.

Third Wave said it is first focusing on the forklift, the workhorse of the $100 billion global supply chain industry. Analysts have predicted that it will experience a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2021 to 2027, with more than 2 million units annually by 2027, said Third Wave.

Because of the complex and dynamic tasks required of lift trucks, innovation in the category has lagged, the company said.

Third Wave said its offering includes a proprietary mix of adaptive automation, shared autonomy, and continuous learning. The company claimed that its system is highly flexible, quickly deployable, capable of constant improvement, and can deliver customers a rapid return on investment. It added that its technology enables improvements in safety, efficiency, and throughput for functions such as high-rack, pick-and-place operation.

Third Wave human in the loop

Source: Third Wave Automation

Investors support autonomy approach

In addition to Norwest Venture Partners, prior investors Innovation Endeavors and Eclipse Ventures participated in Third Wave's pre-emptive Series B round, along with Toyota Ventures. Third Wave has received $59 million in venture capital.

“Third Wave's machine learning-first approach to industrial automation has enabled them to develop a solution that has previously been unavailable to the global supply chain,” said Seth Winterroth, who led Third Wave's seed funding for Eclipse. “Since our initial investment in 2018, the team has executed tirelessly to build a product that arms their customers with the operational efficiency and resiliency needed in today's heavily burdened supply chains.”

“Third Wave uses next-gen robotics to solve decades-old challenges with warehousing, which drives huge improvements to both worker safety and productivity,” said Scott Brady, partner at Innovation Endeavors. “Solving these problems helps build resilience against issues that arise in logistics and across the supply chain. We congratulate the Third Wave team on their continued growth and are excited to support them as they roll out even more of these advanced robotics solutions.”

Third Wave Automation warehouse demonstration.

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Third Wave Automation

Third Wave is initially focusing on shared automation for forklifts.

Robot Technologies