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Colorado’s Outrider Comes Out Of Stealth With $53M To Automate Logistics Hub Operations

Outrider, a startup focused on autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs, emerged from stealth today with $53 million in funding led by NEA and 8VC.

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Previously Azevtec, the Golden, Colorado-based company has the ambitious goal of changing the way Fortune 500 companies “move products from the warehouse door to the road.” It has been quietly operating and working on its technology since June 2017. Outrider raised an $8.5 million seed round, led by NEA, in June 2018, and then a $44.5 million Series A led by 8VC in April 2019. Other investors include Koch Disruptive Technologies, Fraser McCombs Capital, Prologis, Schematic Ventures, Loup Venture  and the Goose Society of Texas.

Andrew Smith founded Outrider, which essentially seeks to automate every aspect of logistics yards such as moving trailers around the yard, hitching and unhitching, connecting and disconnecting brake lines, and identifying and managing trailer locations.

While all this doesn’t necessarily sound as sexy as some other high-flying industries, such as self-driving cars or scooters, the company maintains there is a big need for increased efficiency in the space.

The goal of distribution yards, Smith maintains, is to keep semi-trailers full of freight moving quickly in the space between the warehouse doors and public roads. However, he says, many of the current processes that make up yard operations are manual, inefficient and hazardous.

Outrider has paid pilot programs in place with Georgia-Pacific and four unnamed Fortune 200 companies.

How it works

The Outrider System is integrated in three parts: SaaS-based management software, autonomous zero-emission yard trucks that feature vision-based robotics, and site infrastructure. It integrates with existing supply chain software used by large enterprises.

Ultimately, Outrider’s mission is “to drive the rapid adoption of sustainable freight transportation by deploying zero-emission systems.” At scale, the company says it will deliver yards that are more efficient, safer and more sustainable for logistics hubs.

“Logistics yards offer a well-defined environment and a set of discrete, repetitive tasks that make the ideal use case for autonomous technology. But today’s yards are also complex, often chaotic environments, with many manual tasks,” Smith said. “This is why a systems approach is necessary to automate every major task in the yard.”

Outrider says it automates those repetitive, manual aspects of yard operations and does it in a more environmentally responsible way.

“Modern distribution yards aren’t just autonomous, they are electric,” continued Smith. “Electric yard trucks are easier to operate and maintain than their diesel counterparts.”

For now, Outrider is focused on North American companies in the consumer packaged goods, package delivery, manufacturing, retail and transportation industries.

Outside perspective

Annant Patel, vice president of automation transformation at Georgia-Pacific, said his company is constantly looking for ways to transform to make work safer, more efficient and productive.

“Yard operations has been one of our opportunities, and Outrider has been a great partner to help us automate our pilot site,” Patel said.

Meanwhile, 8VC Founding Partner Jake Medwell said his firm considers hundreds of investment opportunities in the logistics space every year. It chose to back Outrider because of its “highly compelling” vision and plan for the industry.

Outrider has more than 75 employees, including 50 engineers solely focused on distribution yard automation–that’s up from 19 employees a year ago. It says its engineering project leads “total more than 100 years of hands-on experience in ground-vehicle automation and robotic material-handling development.”

The company plans to use its new capital to hire more engineers as well as to invest in the rollout of its commercial system.

Blog Roll Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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