Skild is bringing Generative AI to the real world

Robots represent a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity, but first they need to get smarter. We believe Skild’s foundational AI model is the answer.

Pictured left to right: Raviraj Jain (Partner, Lightspeed), Deepak Pathak (Co-Founder & CEO, Skild AI), and Abhinav Gupta (Co-Founder & President, Skild AI).

The world is in the middle of a massive global labor shortage. The problem is particularly acute in industries that depend heavily on physical labor such as construction, healthcare, and even in our homes. And while AI can help narrow that gap, we’ve been unable to build machines that are smart and capable enough to fill the millions of open positions. Now, thanks to a startup launched by two of the world’s most accomplished roboticists, robots are on the verge of their own ChatGPT moment. 

Skild AI is developing a foundational AI model that will allow autonomous machines to perform an unlimited range of tasks across virtually any environment. This will redefine our notions of what robots are capable of, while freeing tens of millions of human workers from the demands and dangers of physical labor. 

Less than a year ago, Lightspeed and Sequoia co-led a $14.5 million seed round for Skild. We are now proud to announce we are co-leading a $300 million Series A round with Bezos Expeditions, Coatue, and Softbank in this one-of-a-kind company. 

It’s one of the largest early-stage investments Lightspeed has ever made. That’s because we believe the market opportunity for intelligent robotics is enormous, and Skild’s potential is truly profound.

The brightest minds at the intersection of AI and robotics

Our confidence in the company stems from Skild’s co-founders, who are directly responsible for many of the largest breakthroughs in robotics over the last decade.

CEO Deepak Pathak and President Abhinav Gupta bring a combined 25 years of experience in the fields of AI and robotics. Both founders serve as professors at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science and are members of CMU’s Robotics Institute. Deepak and Abhinav were also top scientists at Facebook’s AI Research lab, and both worked side-by-side with the world’s leading AI researchers at Google. 

To build out their foundational model, Deepak and Abhinav have attracted the brightest minds from Amazon, Google, Meta, Nvidia, and Tesla, among others. As a whole, Skild’s level of technical expertise in the fields of robotics and AI is virtually unmatched.  They’re also planning to hire more exceptional people across all functions immediately – if you’re looking to be part of a generational company, check out their careers page and reach out: https://www.skild.ai/career

Robots for every type of environment

While robots have been deployed in manufacturing and industrial environments for decades, these machines typically perform very limited tasks in highly controlled settings. Advances in AI and computer vision have enabled mobile robots that can operate independently, but in a highly constrained and known environment. 

Skild will start by building robots for use in industrial settings, performing tasks such as inspection, surveillance, and manipulation tasks. But the company’s larger vision is to provide a foundational operating system that can be used to power any kind of industrial or personal robot across virtually any environment, while interacting safely with the people around it.

Despite being in operation for less than a year, Skild has already achieved remarkable progress. Trained on a vast amount of data points, Skild’s foundational AI model has already begun to exhibit new emergent behaviors, such as the ability to avoid obstacles and to manipulate objects even when robot fingers might slip or get stuck. 

The model’s ability to adapt to novel environments will enable Skild-powered robots to operate in a wide range of industrial and physical settings without the need for retraining or fine-tuning – overcoming a major obstacle to the widespread adoption of mobile robots.

Skild’s ability to work with virtually any off-the-shelf mechanics, including relatively inexpensive machines, gives it a huge competitive advantage over incumbents in the industrial space, and will eventually allow it to enter the consumer robotics market as well.

The company’s ultimate goal is to make intelligent robots as ubiquitous and universally accepted as smartphones. If Skild manages to achieve that goal, it will become one of the most valuable companies of the modern era.

A massive, largely untapped market

Globally, the market for labor is massive, and that’s not including unpaid work such as feeding ourselves or maintaining our households. Automating even a fraction of that labor represents an enormous opportunity that remains largely untapped. 

According to Forbes, by 2030, the global talent shortage could reach 85.2 million people, costing up to $8.5 trillion in lost economic opportunity. Perhaps more importantly, automation on a massive scale will release millions from rote manual labor, much of which is hazardous or physically debilitating. Like other major technological breakthroughs, robotics promises to open up a new era of human possibility, freeing us to be our best, most creative selves. 

If Skild AI achieves even a fraction of its potential, the impact could be literally life changing for millions of people around the world. We at Lightspeed are proud to have supported Deepak, Abhinav, and their team since Day One and are energized about all that’s to come.

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