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Oliver Mitchell


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Oliver Mitchell is the Founding Partner of Autonomy Ventures a New York based venture capital firm focused on seed stage investments in robotics, autonomous mobility and artificial intelligence. He has spent the last twenty years building and selling ventures, including: Holmes Protection to ADT/Tyco, Americash to American Express, and launching RobotGalaxy, a national EdTech brand. Oliver has been investing in the robotic industry for close to 10 years, with four successful exits in his angel portfolio in the past two years (including 2 IPOs). He is also a member of New York Angels and co-chairs the Frontier Tech Committee. As father of five, Oliver launched RobotGalaxy in 2006 to fill a personal need: he wanted a wholesome activity for his son. RobotGalaxy’s patented toys were a national phenomena available at Toys’R’Us, Nordstrom Department Stores, and online that connected to a virtual world and library of mobile apps. Before RobotGalaxy, Oliver was involved in a number of successful technology ventures and real estate developments. Oliver was part of the executive team of Softcom/IVT, an interactive video startup backed by Allen & Co., Intel Capital (NASDAQ:INTC) and Sun Microsystems. At IVT, Oliver was instrumental in expanding the market for their products with such leading broadcasters as HBO, Showtime, and Home Shopping Network. Prior to IVT, Oliver was a founding member of AmeriCash, Inc., a network of ATMs in high traffic retail locations. AmeriCash was acquired by American Express (NYSE:AXP) within 32 months of operations. Oliver was also instrumental in the development of Holmes Protection and its sale to ADT/Tyco International (NYSE:TYC). Oliver has extensive background in merchant banking and advertising. He started his career at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners. Oliver holds 14 patents and has appeared on numerous television shows, including: The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, The Today Show, and Rachel Ray. He also serves as a mentor on the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator Fund, and advises many technology companies on their growth strategies including Greensight Agronomics and Que Innovations. Oliver is also the publisher of the well-known robotics blog Robot Rabbi and is in the midst of writing a book entitled, “An Innovator’s Field Guide: Taking Ideas From Zero to Hero.”



by   -   November 14, 2017

Governor Andrew Cuomo of the State of New York declared last month that New York City will join 13 other states in testing self-driving cars: “Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save time and save lives, and we are proud to be working with GM and Cruise on the future of this exciting new technology.” For General Motors, this represents a major milestone in the development of its Cruise software, since the the knowledge gained on Manhattan’s busy streets will be invaluable in accelerating its deep learning technology. In the spirit of one-upmanship, Waymo went one step further by declaring this week that it will be the first car company in the world to ferry passengers completely autonomously (without human engineers safeguarding the wheel).

by   -   November 2, 2017
An analysis by Stanford researchers shows that the use of robot-assisted surgery to remove kidneys wasn’t always more cost-effective than using traditional laparascopic methods.
Master Video/Shutterstock

The internet hummed last week with reports that “Humans Still Make Better Surgeons Than Robots.” Stanford University Medical Center set off the tweetstorm with its seemingly scathing report on robotic surgery. When reading the research of 24,000 patients with kidney cancer, I concluded that the problem lied with the humans overcharging patients versus any technology flaw. In fact, the study praised robotic surgery for complicated procedures and suggested the fault lied with hospitals unnecessarily pushing robotic surgery for simple operations over conventional methods, which led to “increases in operating times and cost.”

by   -   October 24, 2017

Healthy humans take for granted their five senses. In order to mold metal into perceiving machines, it requires a significant amount of engineers and capital. Already, we have handed over many of our faculties to embedded devices in our cars, homes, workplaces, hospitals, and governments. Even automation skeptics unwillingly trust the smart gadgets in their pockets with their lives.

by   -   October 5, 2017

Mike Toscano, the former president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, emphatically declared at the September RobotLab forum that “anyone who claims to know the future of the [robotics] industry is lying, I mean no one could’ve predicted the computing mobile revolution.” These words acted as a guiding principle when walking around RoboBusiness in Silicon Valley last week.

by   -   September 20, 2017

This past week, a robotic first happened: ABB’s Yumi robot conducted the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra in Pisa, Italy. The dual-armed robot overshadowed even his vocal collaborator, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. While many will try to hype the performance as ushering in a new new era of mechanical musicians, Yumi’s artistic career was short-lived as it was part of the opening ceremonies of Italy’s First International Festival of Robotics.

by   -   September 12, 2017
Credit: Draper

Summer is not without its annoyances — mosquitos, wasps, and ants, to name a few. As the cool breeze of September pushes us back to work, labs across the country are reconvening tackling nature’s hardest problems. Sometimes forces that seem diametrically opposed come together in beautiful ways, like robotics infused into living organisms.

by   -   August 16, 2017
PARAMOUR on Broadway – A Cirque du Soleil Musical. Credit: Richard Termine

Last year, Intel partnered with Lady Gaga on the Super Bowl Halftime Show to showcase its latest aerial technology called “Shooting Star.” Intel did a reprise performance of its Shooting Star technology for Singapore’s 52nd birthday this past week. Instead of fireworks, the tech-savvy country celebrated its National Day Parade with a swarm of 300 LED drones animating the night sky with shapes, logos, and even a map of the country.

by   -   July 16, 2017

Jim Robinson of RRE Ventures said it best last month at the Silicon Dragon Conference when comparing Silicon Valley to New York, “There are two kinds of centers that have a lot of startups and technology, there are technology centers and commerce centers.” New York falls into the later category, while the Valley is the former. Sitting next to Jim, I reflected that Singapore might be in both groups, an Asian commerce hub and a leader in mechatronics. As an advocate for automation, I am often disheartened that the United States significantly lags behind its industrial counterparts in manufacturing autonomous machines. The key to a pro-job policy could be gleaning from the successes of countries like Singapore to implement America’s own ‘Robot First Plan.’

Snake robot at the Robotics institute. Credit: Jiuguang Wang/Flickr

The biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden describes how the snake became the most cursed of all beasts: “you shall walk on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.” The reptile’s eternal punishment is no longer feared but embraced for its versatility and flexibility. The snake is fast approaching as one of the most celebrated robotic creatures for roboticists worldwide in out maneuvering rovers and humanoids.

The Baxter robot hands off a cable to a human collaborator — an example of a co-robot in action. Photo credit: Aaron Bestick, UC Berkeley.

The key takeaway from Tuesday’s RobotLabNYC forum, on “Exploring The Autonomous Future,” was humans are the key to robot adoption. Dr. Howard Morgan of First Round Capital expressed to the audience of more than 100 innovators working within the automation ecosystem, the necessity of embracing “entrepreneurial marketing” to reach customers. Tom Ryden echoed Morgan’s sentiment in his presentation about Mass Robotics, conveying his startups’ frustrations with the pace of adoption. Dr. Eric Daimler, formerly of the Obama Administration, concluded the evening succinctly by exclaiming, “we only adopt what we trust.” Trust is key for crossing the chasm.

It is unclear if Masayoshi Son, Chairman of Softbank, was one of the 17 million YouTube viewers of Boston Dynamic’s Big Dog before acquiring the company for an undisclosed amount this past Thursday. What is clear is the acquisition of Boston Dynamics by Softbank is a big deal. Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper is trading up her dainty wheels for a pair of sturdy legs.

The device named “Spark” flew high above the man on stage with his hands waving in the direction of the flying object. In a demonstration of DJI’s newest drone, the audience marveled at the Coke can-sized device’s most compelling feature: gesture controls. Instead of a traditional remote control, this flying selfie machine follows hand movements across the sky. Gestures are the most innate language of mammals, and including robots in our primal movements means we have reached a new milestone of co-existence.

In 1985, a twenty-two year old Garry Kasparov became the youngest World Chess Champion. Twelve years later, he was defeated by the only player capable of challenging the grandmaster, IBM’s Deep Blue. That same year (1997), RoboCup was formed to take on the world’s most popular game, soccer, with robots. Twenty years later, we are on the threshold of the accomplishing the biggest feat in machine intelligence, a team of fully autonomous humanoids beating human players at FIFA World Cup soccer.

by   -   May 15, 2017
PhoneDrone Ethos, Kickstarter campaign. Credit: xCraft/YouTube

JD Claridge’s story epitomizes the current state of the drone industry. Claridge, founder of xCraft, is best known for being the first contestant on Shark Tank to receive money from all the Sharks – even Kevin O’Leary! Walking the floor of Xponential 2017, the annual convention of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Integration (AUVSI), Claridge remarked to me how the drone industry has grown up since his TV appearance.

Ex Machina. Source: Youtube/Universal Pictures

This week I attended an “Artificial Intelligence (AI) Roundtable” of leading scientists, entrepreneurs and venture investors. As the discussion focused mainly on basic statistical techniques, I left feeling unfulfilled. My friend, Matt Turck, recently wrote that “just about every major tech company is working very actively on AI,” which also means that every startup hungry for capital is purchasing a dot ‘ai’ domain name. As the lines blur between what is and what really isn’t, I feel it necessary to provide readers with a quick lens of how to view intelligent agents for mechatronics.