Bezos Expeditions Contributes to $7 Million Round for Heartland Robotics

Regulatory documents filed today show that Heartland Robotics, the Cambridge, MA, industrial robotics startup founded by MIT computer science legend Rod Brooks, has raised just over $7 million in an equity offering. The documents don’t reveal the identities of the funders, and Heartland has not announced the names, but Xconomy has learned that one of the investors is Bezos Expeditions, the Seattle-based venture investing operation of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Reached this afternoon by phone, Heartland president Patrick Sobalvarro confirmed that the offering had taken place, but described the lead funder in the round only as a “top tier” investing firm. He says Heartland plans to make a formal announcement about the investment soon, but has not yet obtained clearance from the funders to release their names.

A bit of detective work shows that Bezos Expeditions is one of them. Heartland’s regulatory filing—a standard “Form D” that privately held companies must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission when selling stock—includes Melinda Lewison in the “related person” field, which is usually reserved for company founders, executives, and board members. Lewison is a principal at Bezos Expeditions.

Lewison did not immediately respond to Xconomy’s request for confirmation and comment about the investment. But we have confirmed through another source that Bezos is one of the participants in the round.

Heartland, founded last fall, is still in stealth mode, but Brooks said last year that the company’s robotic technology is designed to empower laborers in manufacturing facilities to be more productive. Brooks, who is chairman and chief technology officer at Heartland, has said in discussions with Xconomy that he is “trying to do for manual workers what PCs did for information workers, i.e., let ordinary manual workers become their own information engineer and increase their own productivity.”

Sobalvarro, an MIT-trained computer scientist who previously founded surveillance video analysis software company IntelliVid, said Heartland is not yet prepared to add detail to that story. “What I would say is that we’re at a stage where we’ve really got the business proposition clearly confirmed,” he says. “We’ve been working with a couple dozen manufacturers and … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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