Ask Me Anything: What it Really Takes to Run a Robotics Company

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At the center of the robotics revolution is Boston. Our city boasts more than 30 robotics companies and is home to the industry’s top thought leaders and innovators. On October 23, we gathered industry leaders and invited the community to join us for our first AMA panel to discuss running a robotics company. The panel was moderated by Steve Crowe, editor of The Robot Report. Panelists included:

  • Christopher Cacioppo, CTO and Co-Founder, 6 River Systems
  • Leif Jentoft, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder, RightHand Robotics
  • Clara Vu, Co-Founder and VP of Engineering, Veo Robotics
  • Thomas Ryden, Executive Director, MassRobotics
  • Daniel Theobald, CEO + Founder, Vecna Robotics

A common theme of the night: know who to surround yourself with. As Vu put it, “Any problem is solvable. The key is if you have the right people at the right time to solve the problem.” Cacioppo echoed that sentiment when he pointed out that getting people who work well together can bring energy and excitement to your operation: “Working together in stressful situations can be terrible or it can be awesome if you have the right group of people, that can be the difference between your company surviving or not.”

The panelists also noted that attracting talent is one of the most difficult parts of running a robotics company. Younger professionals are getting recruited earlier and earlier as talent is such a commodity in the Boston robotics industry.

When it comes to investments, it’s a deeply personal decision. Each panelist had a different story of their experience with raising capital and all agreed to be careful who you bring on as investors. Theobald noted that if someone is being too aggressive in the beginning, it’s only going to be amplified once a deal is signed, so it’s best to go with your gut.

A great piece of advice from Ryden was to converse with as many people in the industry as possible. “No matter what stage you’re at with your company, you need to constantly be making connections, learn from other people in the industry, and talk to as many people in the industry as you can. Boston is the perfect space for that.”

Jentoft ended the panel by saying, “When we look back on this era 20 years from now, it will be known as the era when robotics changed the world. That’s pretty cool to be a part of.”

Thank you to all the students, professionals and members of the robotics community for coming together for a thoughtful, informative discussion!