Emmanuel Duteil, edited by Gauthier Delomez with AFP 6:44 p.m., January 17, 2022

The Exotec company, which manufactures robots for order preparation, became the 25th French unicorn on Monday, and the first from the industrial sector, announcing that it had raised 335 million dollars.

Valued at two billion dollars, the group wants to continue to develop.

Its co-founder Renaud Heitz answered questions from Europe 1.

INTERVIEW

It took years to have a few in France, and they have been multiplying in recent months.

Unicorns refer to start-ups that are valued over $1 billion.

This is the very good news from Exotec, a French manufacturer of robots for order preparation, based in Croix, near Lille.

The company announced Monday that it has raised $335 million, with a valuation that exceeds $2 billion.

Exotec has therefore become the 25th unicorn from France, and the first in the industrial sector.

"The first use of this money is to develop our range of products", explains Renaud Heitz, co-founder of the company, on Europe 1.

Tools to redesign warehouses

The French manufacturer wants to become the world leader in logistics robotics. Thanks to its innovative technologies, the company helps brands manage their warehouses, including Uniqlo, Decathlon, Carrefour and Gap. "The particularity of our robots is that they are able to evolve in the warehouses of our customers in three dimensions. It is necessary to imagine like a small car which can climb on the racks (metal shelves), grab a bin with the articles and bring it to the order pickers. The picker can dig into the items to make the order", explains the co-founder at the microphone of Europe 1.

This practical device, which can go up to 12 meters, helps to rethink the construction of a warehouse.

"This makes it possible to have very dense stocks. We can then put more repositories, therefore offer more articles on the website. The warehouse can also be smaller, so less concrete is needed for transport. And above all, we can reduce transport because with a smaller building, we can find [places] close to cities and reduce delivery times", adds Renaud Heitz, who emphasizes a lower ecological impact.

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"Finding 600 engineers by the end of 2022 is a challenge"

All this makes the manufacturer based in the North a big name in innovation, with one of the most efficient systems in the world. "In terms of robots capable of evolving in three dimensions, we have the only currently industrial solution", specifies the co-founder of Exotec. With the fundraising, the manufacturer will continue to innovate, from the creation of new software to the invention of new interconnected machines, and seeks to internationalize. "We are already at 75% of our turnover internationally, but we think we can still do better, like in the United States, which is a gigantic market," says Renaud Heitz.

The company, which employs 300 people, wants to double its workforce by next year and plans to hire 600 engineers by the end of 2022. "Finding these people is a challenge", recognizes the co-founder, who remain optimistic.

"But in France, we are lucky to have quality engineers, especially in industrial professions. (...) It's a question of knowing how to offer attractive and exotic careers", continues Renaud Heitz, who highlights the need to innovate to keep moving forward.

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