Nike, Silicon Valley firm Grabit form partnership

Nike, Silicon Valley firm Grabit form partnership

Nike announced a partnership Monday with a company in Silicon Valley’s emerging robotics technology field, taking a minority investment in the Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup Grabit, Inc.

How Nike will work with Grabit was not immediately clear, however.

“Grabit is still an early-stage technology and we are exploring different applications across logistics, distribution and in manufacturing,” Nike spokeswoman Del Hudson said.

Grabit, an industrial automation and materials handling solutions company, announced Monday it secured Series A funding — the first major round of outside investment.

The company said the investment is led by Formation 8, a technology venture capital firm with a presence in the Silicon Valley, China, Korea and Singapore. ABB Technology Ventures (ATV) joined Nike in investing in the Series A round.

Grabit raised about $3 million through the funding, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents.

Grabit makes automated products for the manufacturing and logistics industries including grippers and fixtures, case and box handling grippers, and smart conveyors that can handle a wide variety of objects, shapes, sizes and materials.

These products use electrically controllable adhesion technology that requires ultra-low power consumption, which is good for energy efficiency and the environment. The San Francisco Business Times in May described electro-adhesion as “the electrostatic effect that causes a balloon to stick to a wall.”

Grabit is a spinoff from research institute SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif., which has been a player in robotics innovations for more than 50 years. In May, SRI hosted the Xconomy Forum: The Future of Robotics in Silicon Valley and Beyond. Speakers on the panels of engineers, roboticists, and company executives included Charlie Duncheon, Grabit’s founder and chief executive.

“As an innovation company Nike sees strategic partnerships as a key element of our growth strategy,” Eric Sprunk, Nike’s chief operating officer, said in a news release. “While this is still an early-stage technology, Grabit’s electroadhesion technology could certainly have a range of useful applications across logistics, distribution or manufacturing in the future.”

Duncheon said in the news release that “the funding will enable Grabit to commercialize electro-adhesion technology for existing and new customers in multiple material- handling applications. We are also delighted to have strategic investors with such a broad global reach.”

Grabit Inc.’s current customers include some Fortune 500 companies in industries such as warehouse automation, parcel handling, consumer products, and textiles.

— Allan Brettman