In January 2016 the paint was barely dry, and the heating system was decidedly temperamental at the new Eclipse Ventures office in downtown Palo Alto. A few months earlier we’d closed our first fund aimed at investing under the broad thesis of full-stack companies transforming old-line industries. Given our team members’ individual backgrounds, we were focused on sourcing startups dedicated to rethinking complex operations — the types of investment that had fallen out of favor in the venture capital community for a while.
Seth Winterroth had a thesis. Having carefully monitored the robotics retail fulfillment space in the aftermath of Amazon’s 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems, he was convinced that the rapid growth of e-commerce would provide fertile ground for a new generation of warehousing and logistics solutions. Fast and accurate fulfillment is mission critical to merchants offering an online shopping experience, and the old models simply wouldn’t scale.
Jerome DuBois and Rylan Hamilton were both veterans of the warehouse logistics industry. Having left Kiva Systems and joined forces with Chris Cacioppo, they were committed to building the backbone of a global fulfillment network based on collaborative robotic systems, created from the ground up to support the way warehouses operate in the era of digital commerce.
Back to that chilly January morning a few years ago: Jerome and Rylan sat down with Seth and Lior Susan. Their company, 6 River Systems, was brand new, consisting of five full-time employees, a prototype and an incredibly well-articulated vision. Their passion was palpable, their domain experience irrefutable and their technical prowess demonstrable. We knew from that first meeting that this was the company we’d been looking for. We were in.
Warehouses are incredibly complex ecosystems. An app or single piece of technology is not enough to dramatically improve operational efficiency. In fact, adding new technology in isolation, without integrating into existing systems and processes, will most likely result in chaos or failure. Eclipse Partner Greg Reichow was intimately aware of these potential pitfalls. Having joined Eclipse from Tesla where he’d led global manufacturing, factory/automation engineering and supply chain, Greg started to work closely with the 6 River team and then joined the board. The Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast and break things” doesn’t apply to physical, revenue-generating environments, and Greg certainly had first-hand experience with that. He was excited to work with the 6 River team as they navigated the challenges of scaling complex, industrial robotics systems.
Over the past few years, 6 River Systems has evolved from a prototype and a presentation to a thriving, robust warehouse fulfillment solution. And today Shopify announced its acquisition of 6 River Systems in a transaction valued at approximately USD$450 million. We believe this relationship will create an amazing user experience for the hundreds of thousands of small merchants seeking an end-to-end solution under the banner of their own brand. More importantly, the relationship will go a long way towards providing an affordable, first class retail / logistics e-commerce alternative.
Congratulations to Rylan, Jerome, Chris and the entire 6 River Systems team. You built an incredible company, and we’re proud to have shared that journey with you.
You can read more about the acquisition here.