At last week’s TC Sessions: Robotics+AI, I felt it was important to focus at least one panel on companies that are working to foster robotics startups. NVIDIA’s VP of Engineering Claire Delaunay and Freedom Robotics co-founder and CEO Joshua Wilson joined me to offer unique perspectives.
Both companies help provide building blocks for founders. NVIDIA is using some of its tremendous resources to create platforms like Isaac, designed to help prototype robots. And Freedom, a fairly fresh startup in its own right, is designing AI offerings to ease the deployment of those manner of systems.
But the first step of helping robotic startups help themselves is identifying why so many fail. Citing a handful of high-profile examples like Rethink, Anki, Jibo and CyPhy Works, I put the question to the panelists: even with a lot of funding and plenty of smart people on board, why do so many robotic startups fail?
“I think it’s just very hard to solve robotics problems today, which makes it still very expensive and very hard to get to even an MVP (minimum viable product) in the development cycle of the of the company,” said Delaunay. “Too many people focus still on robotics problem, not on the final problem, not on the on the business proposition.”
There are lots of reasons why robotics startups fail, but Delaunay honed in on one of the principle issues right out of the gate: unlike many other tech startups, robotics companies aren’t focused on solving a problem. But that’s often out of necessity. Imagine starting a car company but you first have to mine cobalt for the battery and pave the roads. Or, to use Delaunay’s analogy, building and manufacturing your own smartphone in order to launch an app.