Laundry folding robot turns to crowd equity to iron out kinks

Recent regulatory changes have opened up crowd equity opportunities for technology startups.

A California-based robotics startup trying to bring a laundry-folding robot to the consumer market is taking an innovative approach to fundraising. In partnership with SeedInvest, FoldiMate has initiated an equity crowdfunding round.

Equity crowdfunding is a fairly new investment mechanism in the U.S. that enables companies to raise capital from large numbers of individual investors via an online platform, such as SeedInvest. This kind of crowdfunded early-round fundraising was impossible in the U.S. before 2016 as participation in an equity round investing was limited to individuals that meet certain net worth thresholds. In May of 2016, a provision of the 2012 JOBS Act went into effect, allowing for crowdfunding equity rounds.

"So many of our 350,000 registered fans have expressed interest in investing, we have decided to offer them, and others, an opportunity to invest in the company," says Gal Rozov, FoldiMate's founder and CEO.

FoldiMate, a company that's impressed me in early-stage development, makes a robotic laundry folder that folds shirts, blouses, or pants, along with some linens, such as standard size towels and pillowcases. The machine looks a bit like an oversized HP printer. Clothes are fed in one at a time and promptly spit back out, tightly folded.

The target price for the unit is about $1000, but there are still some kinks to iron out, and that means more money for development.

"I feel that FoldiMate is a novel device with a unique user experience that we have unlikely encountered in a home or business product. Therefore, it is imperative for us to validate each stage of the progress with potential customers before moving forward to the long and costly manufacturing process," says Rozov. "Even though feedback from recent field tests was positive, a few details still require our attention before we finalize the product development. We're thrilled that our fans are not only willing to be patient as we prepare for manufacturing, but eager to become a part of the startup's future. Being accepted by SeedInvest could not have happened at a better time."

Specifically, the funds from this round will help shrink the machine, making it more practical for home applications. Beta testing is scheduled to commence soon, with units heading to homes and businesses in preparation for mass production.

Before this round, FoldiMate raised $9M from various sources, including $8.3 from BSH Home Appliances Group, the world's third-largest home appliance manufacturer. The team's functioning prototype got high marks at CES 2019.