Gather AI buys drone inventory competitor, Ware

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It’s always a bit of a bummer when an exhibitor pays for booth space at an event, but ultimately fails to show. The empty table, the photocopied bit of signage — perhaps one of the neighboring booths has annexed the spot. Occasionally there are murmurs.

Ware’s conspicuous absence at ProMat in April fell into the latter camp. Drone inventory can’t be an easy business, after all. Such speculation certainly hasn’t been helped by radio silence from the Bay Area startup on the social media front. The company’s last posts to Twitter, Facebook and its own blog went up in February.

“Back in February, the previous CEO resigned right around when we were prepping to go to ProMat,” Ware CEO Hank Skorny said in a conversation with TechCrunch. “He had been there for a couple of years and had some personal stuff to take care of, but it was kind of last minute. I got a phone call on Friday, asking if I could start on Monday and jumped into that.”

Ware did not respond to my request for comment at the time. Seems the company was going through more than just a CEO change. The company has also been acquired by Gather AI, one of its chief competitors.

“In terms of redundancy, the technology is quite young,” Gather AI CEO Sankalp Arora tells TechCrunch. “There are complementary aspects there, and we are discovering how to take that on together. One of the reasons to combine is the scale of the space is not small in terms of the market we’re addressing. We are seeing runaway demand of the solution. It just made sense that Ware and Gather customers can be served with the more mature technology that Gather brought in and the go to market approach that Ware has had.”

“Addressable market” is the key to that quote, of course. Warehouse inventory is, of course, a massive market. Using drones to track that inventory, on the other hand, is still a relatively new and novel idea. There have been a smattering of high-profile adoptions including, most notably, IKEA’s partnership with Verity, which brought around 100 inventory drones to stores in 16 countries.

Pittsburgh-based Gather is hoping that absorbing Ware’s resources will accelerate its own ability to scale. The combined company will serve 25 customers. Neither have disclosed how many clients they had respectively, only that the combined figure was “relatively evenly split” pre-acquisition.

Gather raised a $20 million Series A last year. Ware, meanwhile, announced a $2.5 million seed round toward the end of 2020. Skorny says Ware was considering additional fundraising when he stepped into the CEO role. “I started to look at raising a round,” he explains. “I had secured agreements on funding. I wanted to also evaluate acquisition, because the market was growing so rapidly. The number of deployments we are being asked for was growing.”

Arora adds that Gather is “doing fairly well on cash,” but “scale might force us to look for funding. [It’s] something to evaluate together as Hank [joins the company.]” Gather’s headcount currently sits in the mid-30s. Ware’s was around half that number. A few Ware employees have already joined Gather’s team. As for the rest, Arora say, “we are figuring out what that transition looks like.”

Among the key reasons the two teams have remained lean is the decision not to build drone hardware in-house. Ware has largely reliant on Skydio, while Gather primarily employed DJI. Ultimately, however, the new Gather (Ware’s branding is going away) prides itself on hardware agnosticism.

Robotics has been in this weird place where you have to invest a lot in hardware as an organization, to then come out and deliver a specific use case,” says Arora. “In a lot of cases, you have generic hardware without a lot of specific use case. Our approach was that if you [can make drones operate indoors], as we have with our founding team, you can scale like a software company.”

Financial details have not been disclosed.

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