SoftWear Automation is a startup in Atlanta founded by a Georgia Tech computer vision professor that is developing machine vision and robotics technologies for sewn apparel manufacturers. Sewn apparel is still made by hand in emerging market countries because of the extreme difficulties in sewing cloth for machines. Unlike with metals or plastics machine have difficulty in knowing where pieces of fabric are when trying to sew them due to their softness. However, using SoftWear Automation’s machine vision software and systems manufacturing robots can now sew clothing like shirts and jeans more accurately and faster than humans. The company has only raised $3M in funding to date. Pricing for a system ranges from $50k - $100k.
The company was founded by a computer vision expert at Georgia Tech named Steve Dickerson who currently acts as chairman. The current CEO is a serial entrepreneur named K.P. Reddy who has 20 years of technology entrepreneurship experience having started several IT and communications companies with successful exits.
The sewn apparel manufacturing industry is a $100B+ industry in the US alone. In 2016 it is still nearly completely un-automated with the work done by humans with sewing machines. For context, according to the International Federation of Robots in 2014, of the 230,000,000 industrial manufacturing robots sold globally, only 300 were for apparel manufacturing. The challenge of machines sewing clothing is a technically hard problem hence why there are so little offerings in this space.
Why I like Them
I like them because their technology is head and shoulders above what is currently on the market and they are already showing strong customer traction.
They started selling in October 2015 with customers making recurring orders especially among fast fashion and athletic apparel manufacturers. By all reports they have strong word of mouth with inbound calls daily from US and Asian apparel manufacturers interested in testing their products. A strong proponent of their technology is American Apparel founder and serial apparel entrepreneur Dov Charney publicly stating he is using Softwear Automation’s technology in his new clothing venture.
By solving the extremely challenging technical problem of creating sewn apparel without the need for human hands, the product is an easy sell to garment makers. SoftWear Automation’s systems lower manufacturing costs, allow faster production times, shorter inventory cycles, removes liability from human labor, and allows greater customization of products (critical as apparel companies have been forced to have exponentially more SKUs in the last few years due to consumer demand).
Disclosure: All information is from publicly available sources, I have not had any contact with a member of the company or its investors.