Disruptor 50 2020

38. Attabotics

Founder: Scott Gravelle (CEO)
Launched: 2016
Headquarters: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
 $32.7 million
Valuation: N/A
Key technologies:
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

George Kavallines

To compete with Amazon, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when so much purchasing is being done online, retailers have to be able to get goods to customers faster. That's where Attabotics comes in. The Canadian 3-D robotics start-up helps fulfillment centers replace the traditional row-and-aisle configurations of warehouses with a storage structure inspired by, says founder and CEO Scott Gravelle, ant colonies. That means goods are stored vertically as well as horizontally.

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This allows retailers to save space (up to 85%, claims the company) and locate their fulfillment centers closer to metro areas where their customers are more likely to live. Rather than just use two dimensions of a warehouse by having robots move back and forth to pick goods, Attabotics robotic shuttles go back and forth and up and down — just like ants do in their colonies.

How Attabotics is competing with Amazon to create the warehouse of the future

Nordstrom likes the approach. In December the retailer announced that it's using Attabotics' supply chain technology at a new fulfillment center in San Jose, California. The facility is 340,000 sq. ft.compared with 1 million sq. ft. for a traditional fulfillment center. In addition to reducing its real estate footprint, the Attabotics system cuts down on real estate costs as well. The company says it works with brands and retailers in the U.S. and Canada across apparel, food, beverage and home goods categories. Forerunner Ventures, Coatue and Honeywell are among the companies that have invested $32.7 million in Attabotics.

A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies

Disclosure: Comcast Ventures, a division of CNBC parent company Comcast, is an investor in Attabotics.