The U.S. economy relies on stable infrastructure. A weak wall or foundational crack can take out an oil refinery, a paper mill or an auto plant and severely disrupt the supply of everyday resources. It can also wreak havoc on a balance sheet. The oil industry can lose $25 million dollars per day that a refinery is closed.
These are risks Jake Loosararian isn’t willing to take.
In 2016, Loosararian expanded a college engineering project to found Gecko Robotics. The company designs and builds inspection robots that scale infrastructure to collect safety data otherwise undetected by the human eye. It then uses that data to predict when the infrastructure will fail, and it sells that information to the industries reliant on structural integrity.
“A lack of data equals a lack of operational efficiency,” Loosararian, the company CEO, told Benzinga. “...We mine physical data that predicts when things break.”
The value of Gecko’s innovation was affirmed this week with the completion of a $40 million Series B funding round. Drive Capital led the round with angel investments from Mark Cuban and others.
It’s hard to argue there’s no need for Gecko’s services. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a D+ — not even a passing grade — on its last infrastructure report card. Some municipalities have begun to digitize their inspection processes to prevent collapse and decay.
There’s certainly earnings potential in the public sector, and Gecko currently works with the U.S. Navy, but its focus is heavy industry. The company focuses on energy, heavy manufacturing and oil — companies behind “everyday products” that the average person has come to rely on. It aims to reinforce their infrastructure to prevent any economically-disruptive disaster.
“Electricity, petroleum, paper… are all created by infrastructure that’s really, really old,” Loosararian wrote. “...We decided to start there because it’s the quickest to adopt the technology as well as the biggest potential market size.”
Most of these industries are old-school — software averse and entrenched in traditional processes. Loosararian makes a point to “meet the customer where they’re at” to help them transition toward digitization and unlock related potential.
So far, Gecko counts Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE: MRO), Royal Dutch Shell plc ADR Class A (NYSE: RDS-A), Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX), Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) and Duke Energy Corp (NYSE: DUK) among its clients. It’s also beginning to service the defense, aerospace and shipping industries, as well as dams and bridges. Demand is so high that it’s doubling its robot fleet.
Gecko boasts a wide addressable market with little competition. The inspection industry currently rakes in about $1 trillion each year. Gecko is a natural disruptor, but Loosararian doesn’t expect to displace too many laborers. The model is largely seen to supplement the work of human inspectors and reduce their risk of injury and mortality.
“Before Gecko, humans were dangling on ropes or climbing on scaffolding or using some other dangerous way to get to places that need to be inspected, and using archaic methods to get the data we’re now collecting with robots,” Loosararian said.