5 pioneering start-ups creating the factory of the future

15 Aug 2019

Image: © industrieblick/Stock.adobe.com

From AI and computer vision to IoT and robotics, these five start-ups are developing deep tech for the factory production line.

The fourth industrial revolution, or industry 4.0, has been a hot topic for the World Economic Forum for some time, so no surprise that some of its selected Technology Pioneers of 2019 are operating in this area.

A grand total of 56 emerging tech firms from around the world made this year’s list for the bold new ways they’re tackling challenges and creating solutions. Among them are five standout start-ups transforming production and manufacturing with technological solutions. From artificial intelligence and computer vision to the internet of things and robotics, this is deep tech for the factory production line.

Bright Machines

Founded just last year, fast-growing Bright Machines is ushering in an era of software-defined manufacturing. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company takes a software-first approach to bring intelligence and automation to the factory floor.

Bright Machines’ intelligent software layer gives the production line eyes and brains to help improve accuracy, quality and performance. The company is a spin-out from electronics manufacturer Flex and its leadership hails from familiar tech brands such as Autodesk.

“What we’re doing that’s different is going from dumb, blind and costly robots to ones that are sensor-rich, have computer vision, machine learning and are adaptable,” CEO Amar Hanspal said to TechCrunch following a $179m Series A funding round.


Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, DataProphet is capitalising on the fact that manufacturers are seeking out and investing in artificial intelligence (AI) that can help reduce costs and improve production. Specifically, its AI solution suite can ensure consistent quality and better plant efficiency by actively prescribing the optimal control parameter settings to refine performance.

CEO and co-founder Frans Cronje leads a team of 40 engineers, mathematicians, and data and computer scientists. Founded in 2014, DataProphet sees itself as the top AI provider for industry 4.0 and claims its clients have cut defects and scrap by at least 50pc through its technology.


Headquartered in Shenzhen – a manufacturing hub for tech the world over – Dorabot is a logistics automation company making use of AI and robotics technology. This company aims to automate the warehouse with hardware and software to tackle a variety of logistical tasks from loading and transportation to singulation and sorting.

Dorabot’s products include pick-and-place robots for sorting and loading, collaborative mobile robots, and planning and scheduling software to streamline warehouse operations. The vision for the company is to bring its core computer vision, object manipulation, and deep learning technologies beyond logistics to other sectors such as manufacturing and retail.


Drishti eschews the high-tech factory model of trading people for robots and instead has formed a unique dataset on manual operations that it can leverage to optimise and scale human potential. This young US company believes humans are manufacturing’s largest value creators but what’s lacking is the kind of data that drives good decision-making

Founded by CEO Dr Prasad Akella, CTO Dr Krishnendu Chaudhury and board member Dr Ashish Gupta, Drishti’s computer vision technology uses AI to digitise the activities of people in the factory and allows manufacturers to derive insight from human analytics. In a world where some fear humans will be replaced, Drishti believes this data can showcase their value.


Onshape is a next-generation cloud design platform built to speed up product development. Its all-in-one system combines computer-aided design, release management, workflow, collaboration, analytics, administration tools and an application programming interface with more than 50 engineering applications. The platform also helps extended design teams to collaborate with greater efficiency, and its real-time analytics and visibility into the design and manufacturing processes can inform executive decision-making.

This US company has been around since 2012 and is led by CEO and co-founder Jon Hirschtick. With users in more than 170 countries logging more than 8m hours on the platform, Onshape’s growth has attracted $169m in investment from Andreessen Horowitz, North Bridge and other leading investors.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.