CareCredit - Women's Health April 2024

Amazon VC Fund Expands Focus to AI, Robotics, Last Mile

Amazon building

Amazon’s $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund is ramping up investments in companies that combine artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

The company will focus on this area during the current year in a move to drive efficiencies across its logisticsnetwork, Franziska Bossart, head of the corporate venture capital (VC) arm, told the Financial Times (FT) in a report posted Wednesday (Feb. 28).

The fund has already made 12 investments, including in Mantis Robotics, a company developing a robotic arm that works alongside humans, according to the report.

Separate from its innovation fund, Amazon has also pledged up to $4 billion to generative AI startup Anthropic, the report said.

This investment strategy underscores Amazon’s dedication to making innovations in robotics, as seen in previous investments in industrial robotics and sorting systems in European warehouses, where 750,000 mobile robots are already in operation, per the report.

Bossart said the Industrial Innovation Fund’s expanded focus will also include investments in companies involved in the final mile of deliveries, geographic expansion and late-stage companies, per the report.

While the fund’s deployed capital remains undisclosed, the acceleration of investments in automation and efficiency aligns with Amazon’s broader strategy to boost margins following heavy pandemic-related investments in the logistics network, the report said.

Bossart said that the focus of Amazon’s automation efforts is on shifting repetitive and dangerous tasks to robots and automated vehicles, rather than eliminating human roles entirely, according to the report.

In addition, Amazon’s emphasis on automation may provide a bright outlook for tech startups seeking capital in a challenging investment landscape, the report said.

Amazon launched its $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund in April 2022, saying it aimed to support customer fulfillment, logistics and supply chain innovation at a time when customers are increasingly shopping online and looking for even faster delivery.

The fund’s first round of investments focused on wearable technology that enhances safety in fulfillment buildings and robotics “designed to complement and coexist with people’s lives.”

Bossart became the head of the fund in September 2023. In an interview posted on the Amazon news website in January, she said: “We have gained a lot of momentum going into this year, and we are eager to support more promising startups as they scale to solve the most relevant industrial problems for Amazon and beyond.”