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Softbank: How Large Companies Approach Robotics with Brady Watkins

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03 August 2022



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A lot of times on our podcast we dive into startups and smaller companies in robotics. Today’s talk is unique in that Brady Watkins gives us insight into how a big company like Softbank Robotics looks into the Robotics market.

we think scale first, (the) difference from a startup is our goal isn’t to think what’s the first 10 to 20, but we need to think what’s the first 20,000 look like. – Brady Watkins

Brady Watkins

Brady Watkins HeadshotBrady Watkins is the President and General Manager at Softbank Robotics America. During his career at Softbank, he helped to scale and commercialize Whiz, the collaborative robot vacuum designed to work alongside cleaning teams. Watkins played a key role in scaling the production to 20,000 units deployed globally.

Prior to his time at SBRA, Watkins was the Director of Sales, Planning, and Integration at Ubisoft, where he held several positions over the course of 10 years.

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transcript

Abate: [00:00:00] welcome to robo hub. So today I have with me Brady Watkins from SoftBank robotics.

How are you doing Brady?

Brady Watkins: Pretty good abate, how are you? Happy Friday.

Abate: Thank you. Thank you. Doing great. Could you give yourself a little bit of background?

Brady Watkins: Sure. so my name’s Brady Watkins. I’m the general manager of SoftBank robotics America. Um, we’re in a really fun space in that we are a part of the overall SoftBank ecosystem. So we are one of the few companies, if you’re familiar with SoftBank, um, that carry the SoftBank name and our charge and mission is to be able to bring value to humanity through commercializing robotic solutions.

My job is to run, a very important part of the business, which is the north American market, specifically, figuring out how to scale and commercialize, robotics in the United States.

Abate: Yeah, what brought you into robotics?

Brady Watkins: That’s a really good question. so two parts, we’re gonna go way back, uh, even as a child. And I didn’t realize this till I got into robotics, things like transformers or fun toys to play with this idea of how to generate experiences with cool robots actually at the time was transformers has been something that I’ve always been drawn to sort of as playing in my youth.

My family, actually my dad’s side of the family, a lot of engineers, that said I grew up more of in a business setting. So my career goals have really been focused on commercial. Um, so when I graduated, um, business school, uh, from an undergrad, I wanted to go in to really understand how I could help bring really cool experiences in a technology format.

Brady Watkins: So I actually got into video games really early, and it was an interesting juxtaposition of storytelling. And technology. you see a lot of things of how to create really cool experiences utilizing, um, both software development engine platform, and then thinking about how to really sell and commercialize that you really have this hardware, software experience, connection point.

And I found that it was a really fun industry, still is an amazing industry, and I think it’s continues to grow. So, um, about five, six years ago, I had a really great opportunity to come into robotics and I thought it in presented a really cool challenge. as I really saw robotics as it’s been in, in, in industry for over a hundred years.

But there was this point that I felt like is now happening. And I think that’s why we’re here talking about it. This intersection of, experience hardware, software technology is gonna be at a convergence. And I really wanted to be at the forefront of helping to drive adoption, in a commercial setting, really provide those experiences and so jumped over this great opportunity at SoftBank robotics, and have been there since.

and I think only affirmed, you know, not only how fun the industry is, but how it’s still sort of in its, um, early stages of growth, and adoption. From a technology perspective, as well as just from a commercial perspective, which makes it really fun.

Abate: Yeah, no, you bring up a great point about, us being at this intersection because robotics is a, it’s a field that relies on a lot of different parts coming together at the same time, you know, your perception stack your, ability to understand the environment, your actuation. And actually just very recently came back from, ICRA, 2022 and just seeing the progress of legged robotics, and then how every year they’re just making massive strides forward going from being able to like walk just a little bit and like fall over.

And they’re like kind of clumsy and goofy, to now like actually autonomously searching through caves and like accomplishing missions that would be difficult for a person to do. Um, and SoftBank robotics has been a part of, uh, a part of like legged robotics and research, and like a lot of this stuff um, since the early days,

Brady Watkins: Absolutely. Well, and I think we use, we like to think about it. Like there’s four key components of robotics to be solved as we sort of say "hands, feet, face". So like "face" a lot, if you see, is that interaction of how do you create that human to robot or humanoid connection that was with pepper. "Feet", from a mobility perspective of how do we actually really understand, mobility and sort of critical thinking?

So how can the technology move in and around both people and or environments to be successful. And then "hands" solving a really awesome robotic problem is how do we actually deliver dexterity? Um, of what we know as sort of our opposable thumbs, but really trying to solve that and bring that into an automation.

So those sort of, kind of is that’s a, like the overarching, like robotic problems to solve. And we like to be a part of each of them both today and in the future.

But one extra point for me that I always think is interesting about where this intersection is, is I also think unit cost economics are actually at an intersection is now you can actually get there.

The parts needed to be able to scale some of these solutions are now becoming readily available in a cost down. You know, whereas LIDAR is a great example, used to be 10X its cost only five years ago is now starting to be [00:05:00] absorbed where you can actually see these products. Not only have a value proposition, that’s starting to be, scalable, but now you can actually even see the supply and demand.

So I see both technology stack increasing in its advanced capabilities, but also the supply chain and unit economics of even the parts necessary. to create some really good solutions. And I think that’s why we’re at a really fun point in the industry to be able to see some hyper growth, you know, in the next five to 10 years.

Abate: Yeah. Yeah. Actually a couple more examples I can think of would be like computation, obviously. Um, purpose built AI chips, um, and sensors like stereo depth sensors that run everything on the edge so that the robotics engineer company doesn’t have to redesign those things from the ground up anymore every time they make something.

the hardest part actually of when you get into service robotics is I think we’ve actually moved at a place where the technology is available. It’s now, how do we actually get adoption into a market dynamic that makes this more successful?

Brady Watkins: So we have now the ability to accumulate the technology to create a solution. How do we make sure that solution is able to be adopted? In an amongst a current marketplace, that’s big enough, so that we’ve got the unit economics so that we continue to funnel not only investment but development, but also create value, in a marketplace through experience.

If you look at SAS, five years ago or when it was sort of from zero to, to year five, it was still, um, in its infancy, you were still having to create a lot of your algorithms and libraries, and you’re still having to do a lot of the work independently. And so it was not necessarily a widely adopted. But about year five, I think hit about, hit about 10 to 12 billion, in revenue.

And then that was the tipping point of then all of a sudden it sort of crossed the chasm of adoption capability. You had the, the, you know, some similar architectures that were coming across. So now you could see is an advancement of the large players, but also an industry that was continuing to pop up and it scaled.

And I think we’re kind of at that point now where you’re seeing it, you know, really be big enough so that it actually is now here to stay and scale, but now you have sort of the core components to really take off, which is really what we focus on that the commercial orchestration of all of those components is a lot of what our mission is.

And from SoftBank to sort of think bigger is to try to help perpetuate that and doing it by building products ourselves, but also doing it by enabling other companies to be able to understand and commercialize, in markets that are big enough so that we can really create some meaningful value in the marketplace.

So I love where we are and I like to sort of share it’s, you know, if, if you’re looking to get into the industry, if you had known what you knew about SAAS in year five of its development, wouldn’t you have leaned in and I think the answer is yes. And I think we’re right about, at that point in terms of where service robotics, smart robotic capabilities, and verticals and industries are.

This is a fun time to be in this market. It’s not niche, it’s immensely scalable. And I think we’re at the right point to make that happen.

Abate: Yeah. So could you give us like a, a high level overview of what SoftBank robotics, what they’re doing and what their current values are and goals?

the best way to do that is we use some examples of sort of our flagship product that helps. I think share our vision. So SoftBank robotics, our goal is actually our number one goal is to create value for humanity. So it’s a very lofty and ambitious goal, but that’s important is:

Brady Watkins: how do we leverage robotics and artificial intelligence, capabilities and technology to create value for humanity and for humans?

And you do that through understanding how smart robotics can make decisions to automate single tasks and really to create a proof of performance and value equation that allows both the workforce, to be able to up level itself and evolve from a transformation perspective.

And then also just from a client end user experience, being able to have now more clarity and confirmation of the performance. So we’re able to take tasks that maybe,people didn’t wanna do or don’t wanna do or couldn’t do as efficiently and allowing them to up level and do, uh, those services. So really focused on the collaborative aspect.

That’s our mission. Um, what we do is our, the product today that best personifies, that is Whiz, which is an indoor, mobile, autonomous vacuum cleaner within cleaning services. And I think how we think about what we are is we’re a commercial group. and really what we look for is where they’re scalable industries, where there is a major gap in task to service value.

and if you look, the cleaning industry is one of the largest, um, service industries in the world. It’s dominated a lot by, uh, a workforce that’s delivering a lot of that value and the inherent challenge in that workforce of around, you know, it’s 50 billion in value globally, is everyone, both the, the employer and the actual tenant or client.

they all are expecting the workforce to up level from a skillset perspective. So we there’s a stat that was, put out BCG it’s around 94% of all employers expect their workforce to level up. Um, those employers want, those employees want to level up [00:10:00] their skill sets, but only less than 50% are actually taking advantage of it.

Brady Watkins: Or, and now we’re seeing with the pandemic, they’re actually not showing up for work, to be able to take advantage. And it’s really an opportunity for robotics to come in. And so for Whiz, we were able to tackle, you know, what looks like maybe an industry that you wouldn’t want, your advanced technology, you wouldn’t think of cleaning and advanced technology.

But we’re really solving a really inherent problem of taking some single tasks, doing them consistently providing a proof of performance and creating efficiency and allowing a whole labor force to do some transformation in terms of leveling up in terms of their capabilities, doing additional services and really providing a better and safer environment for the workforce.

And then for those that are inherently there. and so that process is really something. That’s what we focus on. Seeing a market opportunity, being able to develop and build a product that can scale and solve that problem globally. And then understanding how to adopt that into an ecosystem. And with those components, the opportunity is now, where else can we go by taking that same model?

So if we take indoor, navigation to a further, where else can you go within cleaning? There are other industries that are predominantly service or labor focused where we can create some really strong value. I was just at a restaurant conference, um, uh, about two to three weeks ago. And you really see some similar challenges there, so you can really see some applications and you are in terms of robotic products that help scale in restaurants.

And then as we take that further it’s how do we think about that model and really expand it rapidly.

Abate: Yeah. what are some examples of, uh, upskilling for, let’s say the cleaning, workforce, um, once you start integrating robotics?

The, the job of creating a health and safe environment for cleaning, they have 10 tasks and usually they can’t get to eight of them. so the first step we’re able to do is let’s automate the single task. So now we can take that off of the ecosystem and allow whoever’s doing the work to do those other tasks within a timeframe to actually provide a safer environment. That’s the first step.

Brady Watkins: The second is we’re actually taking something that’s usually laborious. So if you take vacuuming, believe it or not, that’s one of the largest workers comp scenarios. So just doing the activity of actually doing the vacuuming, is laborious and sometimes, you know, creates some long term challenges for the workforce.

And the third thing that we’re doing is now you’re able to actually provide a proof of performance. So now you can actually deliver a more frequent clean. When you frequent, when you increase the frequency and the consistency of delivery, you actually provide statistically a safer, place to work.

And since you’ve had less people that had to do the cleaning, you’ve actually created less um, risk of which is relevant today of anyone coming in and creating and adding to whether it’s, you know, a virus perspective or just a unsafe environment that is not as healthy, maybe as we need it to be. so that’s immediately you’re coming in and that actually creates the ability to do more effort.

So whether that’s building, you can think hospitality, senior living, pretty much education. The opportunity is we now are gonna take the task and now that workforce can go do other things. the other thing that we’re finding is they actually can now up level. So instead of being a janitor, they’re now a manager of a fleet of robots.

So they’ve now gone into a technology manager. Versus a janitorial manager and that aspect and mentality is really bringing a quality of work back. So now I’m prouder of what I’m able to do, cuz I’m actually integrating technology into my day to day. and it’s able to be consumed. It’s not technology that’s too advanced for that workforce, it’s something that they can understand and consume and sort of the pride of ownership and work really comes.

So for the third one more fourth, actually, that’s really interesting is now you can run with robotics. You actually can clean at all hours of the day. So before maybe cleaning used to be done at the unseen hours, midnight to 6:00 AM you now can actually deliver a cleaning solution during the day because you now have this really great designed product doing the cleaning.

So inherently this shows, whether it’s the tenant or it’s a guest of a hotel, they’re actually seeing that the work is being done. They can identify with it. And you’re really seeing there’s a social aspect to, wow, this, this building, this hotel, this school, this senior living facility really cares about me because they’re investing in technology and I can see that they’re doing the job and it is, that is beneficial.

Abate: Yeah. Yeah. So you also bring up an interesting point where we’re two years and change into the pandemic has been a big labor shortage. and I’ve read about some hotels where they’re actually not even opening up all of the floors of the hotel because they don’t have enough labors actually go and clean the rooms and they’re debating on whether or not they should even clean rooms and change towels every day, you know?

so this obviously brings in a much stronger demand for whatever automation, whatever robotics, like whatever they can do to make this and do it at an affordable rate.

How does that change the, the sort of pressure that’s put on, robotics companies for the type of products [00:15:00] that they should build.

Brady Watkins: I, I think it’s a, it’s a huge relief and I’m glad. I think before the pandemic, we were sharing a similar story of we’re not here to take jobs. We’re here to actually augment work and do transformation. And that was a message that I think was just left with a little bit of a challenge just because we weren’t, we didn’t have that critical moment.

So then with COVID, the critical moment came where not only did we need to show that we were providing a safe environment and technology is really good at showing consistency and proof of performance. but coming out of the pandemic, we actually found that people weren’t willing to come back. They sort of, they had an, an evolution and now there’s a new opportunity of what type of work they could do.

And I didn’t wanna do those tasks, inherently and that there were other opportunities. And so I think what it left with is the perfect place for robotics to help is those tasks that, you know, Technology can and should do, so that now you can have a labor workforce that’s focused on more experience.

So that same hotel we want, the guest experience to increase that’s exactly what hotels are there to provide. And, you know, the goal is with the labor that they do have show the teams they have showing up, they are now smaller. So now you have to figure out if they’re smaller, you still have to focus on guest experience.

So let us take and automate the work that’s sort of behind the scenes to be able to allow that smaller, employee base to be able to provide not only the same, if not a better guest experience, which helps obviously the hotel be successful, book rooms have repeat business. so it’s definitely, it’s been, automation’s always been there.

I think the pandemic just helped, um, sort of reveal that opportunity, more quickly, but I’d like to think we were always there. It’s just, we needed a, there was a catalyst of recognition that transformation’s happening. And I think even more so now, even in the pandemic, um, we’re hearing this consistently is just the workforce.

It’s, it’s, it’s even more challenging and costly just to try to get the workforce to be able to show up to the size and scale needed. so now obviously people are turning to technology to be able to help them solve that problem. and then make the workforce that is able to show up, expanding value and taken care of too, making sure that they have a safe and collaborative work.

Abate: Yeah. Yeah. So you have the customers and you have a clear need for, what they want. And then you also have a company with a brand name in robotics, that will be easily more easily accepted by the customers.

How are you taking these two and then actually acting on the development and getting these robots to market as soon as possible and to fit the need as much as possible?

first, we from a company size, we think scale first, so often, you know, maybe difference from a startup is our goal isn’t to think, think what’s the first 10 to 20, but we need to think what’s the first 20,000 look like. And from that point, making sure that the unit economics and value proposition align.

Brady Watkins: So a million dollar, um, indoor automation robot is, could be the coolest and the greatest robot project, but it actually, isn’t the one that’s adopted and is actually creating value cuz it doesn’t fit within the commercials. So the way that we think about development is if we understand adoption and change management, we need to make sure what are we, what value are we providing and how are we doing that within a unit economics that matter.

So if we’re thinking about being within a direct labor workforce, making sure that we’re able to be a value proposition that works within your team base. So if you’re hiring 10 people and you wanna add 11th and that 11th is your robot, making sure that the dollar cost of what that looks like doesn’t look different and strange.

So how do we think through adopting that product? So then we look back to how do we design? so we think on scalable design, so we, we focus on bomb costs. So one it’s gotta look good. So design elements, bomb costs, making sure we have the right components. And then obviously making sure that it’s. Safe from a data perspective and then obviously safe cause it’s working in and around people.

that’s really critical and important. The first thing you can’t have is, you know, a robot that’s going around and, creating a scenario that isn’t safe for people, um, and making sure that you have those fail safes in place. So you put those components together and when you orchestrate all that together, you actually.

Brady Watkins: Very often can have a successful product, but I think for us, it starts thinking scale, um, and customer experience and adoption first, and then almost working backwards, to be able to orchestrate that. And I don’t wanna, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have amazing engineers technology experts, but really starting for the result that we want first allows us to orchestrate the right product, um, at the right time, versus maybe just creating the best robot for the sake of a robot it’s creating the right result and experience.

Using robotics and the available technologies that we.

Abate: Yeah, no, it’s a very interesting point. The difference in how a small company thinks about developing a product versus a large company, thinks about developing a product that has the capital to execute quickly. Um, and whereas, you know, from what I would imagine with a smaller company, you’re going a bit more off of intuition, asking a smaller sample size of people and then iterating quickly on building a couple of different small product.

Whereas [00:20:00] with the big company approach, you’re, you’re taking a much more data heavy, approach to understanding the product needs.

So what, what is this data like and what is this decision process on how you build a product?

Brady Watkins: Yeah, sure. Well, I think it’s, so I think there’s, there’s the business research side, I think then there’s like pure data side. So from a business side, we talk like we wanna, it’s gotta be a market that has a big enough size to be able to absorb if, if scale it’s gonna require capital at some point.

So it has to, the return has to justify the capital. And that’s obviously with robotics and any piece that has hardware, capital early is usually one of the challenges, right? For a software company usually you can scale, um, your capital deployment with hardware. It’s very early, cuz you need all those components to be able to develop.

So you have to have a big enough size of market, um, to be able to be successful. So a lot of the data is done in market research, understanding the, you know, Whether we wanna, we say TAM, but truly is finding where is there a marketplace where there’s a task, or we focus on service oriented businesses at scale that have global reach.

So not just any specific region, have global reach. And we do a lot of data on understanding the market, uh, economics there, particularly where there’s a high, it’s a high mature market. It has a high component of a workforce that needs to be transformed or labor. those are usually areas where we focus specifically, cuz we believe, our capabilities of understanding how to drive collaboration within that model.

change management and adoption, um, from a commercial side are really important. Fleet management, all the components that you need, that’s really our first focus. And then when you work back it’s then where is the maturity of the technology to be able to orchestrate that at some level of speed?

Brady Watkins: Um, if it’s gonna be ready in 10 years, the market’s too dynamic. So then how do we assess, um, let’s call it market readiness. So that could actually be maybe a startup that has an advanced technology. That could be something that we could accelerate. an example with Whiz is, brain OS. So they have a spectacular operating system and, the vision fund made an investment to be able to help.

Abate: Among others to be able to help, solidify and scale that opportunity. And that’s something that we were able to leverage through our products. and brain OS is a company that’s building. it’s a, it’s a control system for robotics that, that can work with a wide range of different more of a software company.

Brady Watkins: Yep. Absolutely. Yes. They’re, they’re a really good software company done a really good job of creating an, a, a platform to be able to understand yeah. How to do your operating system of allowing robots, uh, to actually be mobile, be safe, and actually do it at, at a safe and, and sort of expandable format.

and I think that idea was critical. So for us, you say what data, so it’s understanding technology readiness. they had an amazing technology. It was also the unit economics. It was something that could be that worked within our model. They definitely had the technology stack and then we were able to accelerate that and really that maturity is something we see, take that out and now let’s apply it to other industries.

there are other opportunities and companies out there that have great tech stacks that we can leverage. And or if there’s a unit economics, we really feel like we can, we have the breadth and scope to be able to orchestrate the right business model to be successful. whether that’s internal from an IP, but also orchestrate other capabilities.

Brady Watkins: So we really take, we say it’s agnostic, but we really believe our goal is the result. And that’s real, like I would say more of an accelerator so big and small is not our thinking. Our thinking is, can we orchestrate a opportunity by leveraging technology? Supply chain and then commercial adoption, bring that together and then use a da and then combine data and collecting that data and, or providing a proof of performance that wasn’t there to be able to actually streamline that.

And then as you start to build these on stack these onto each other, you actually have a pretty powerful, network of both capabilities as well as information to help do some change management, some pretty big in.

Abate: Yeah. When you’re talking about leveraging these companies for their technology and accelerating them, this is partially investing in these companies as well, and then pulling them into the SoftBank fold right? So then in this way you have a, a portfolio of companies that are all now helping each other.

and then they’re sort of building the technology works off of each other. If I understand correct.

Brady Watkins: Yep. Well, and so it, it doesn’t always have to be investing. It’s more of what’s the right… Each situation is unique based on the maturity of the market and the company sometimes. there are opportunities of it’s the venture capital investment is all that’s needed. So that would be the vision fund.

Sometimes there needs to be a partnership effort to be able to bring the commercial capabilities into the marketplace, so it might just be capital. it could even be bringing some enterprise clients that we have into the fold and being able to bring more scalability of a client base, into the ecosystem.

So it’s, it’s, there’s a lot of knobs. So sometimes investment just pure venture capital. Sometimes it’s partner. And then sometimes there is even a minority stake, but our principle is making sure that it’s gotta be something that we can adopt and bring [00:25:00] value in the market. not just, for say research and development, it’s gotta have a market application for us.

Abate: Yeah. And that’s another one of those clear differences between how, a startup company would be able to navigate this space versus, a company like SoftBank.

absolutely. And I’m excited. I, I think the, the best part I’ve seen is even now, though, there’s a lot of private equity and venture funding coming into robotic companies. I think we’re seeing there are stacks that are repeatable and there are some really cool companies and products that you’re, you’re not at a point where you have to start almost at negative five.

Brady Watkins: You’re actually starting at, you know, if you’re doing a 400 yard dash, you know, you’re starting at a hundred yards. So we’re really seeing these companies. That are able to develop some pretty cool technologies or line of thinking that are really powerful. and so that’s what we’re excited. And then how do we fit in as either an accelerant, or a continued scalable model.

We really don’t think it’s a compete for us. It’s more of how do we help partner? so there is venture, so I don’t think we’re not trying to be venture. We’re more of: what is your operational accelerator, and thinking on the commercial side, and then what tools do we need to be successful? you know, you have to understand the commercial model.

You have to understand data, you have to have an architecture to be able to absorb the data within your model and or the partners. Um, and I think that’s really where we help startups is they should be focused on product market fit, making sure their technology is reliable and we can help bring sort of that commercial, scalability at the right pace so that you’re helping to do it.

Cuz that’s usually a, you know, A friction point for any startup is all right, I’ve got my idea. I’ve got my product market fit. Now, how do I scale? And particularly in robotics, that’s a pretty hefty lift cuz now you have to understand supply chain and some of your bomb, cost challenges, and doing all that.

and we, we wanna help, we can help. Um, but we usually start with a market idea and therefore that usually brings the ecosystem along when you have a strong market opportunity. And a business model that can scale, that brings that de-risks a lot of the model. So it helps startups have more of oxygen in a partnership.

because we, you can understand there’s a value there’s there’s, uh, I say revenue margin, there is value for all parts of the ecosystem for the end user, for, you know, whether it’s a distributor or partnership for SoftBank and then for the startup. So that type ecosystem, we’re really a fan of, and we’ve seen it.

Brady Watkins: A few times and we actually see it working for us in the next couple years.

Abate: mm-hmm . Yeah. And, so right now we’re also in an environment where there’s a lot of people who are fearing, a recession coming on and things like venture capital slowing down, especially in investments, in what can be more risky companies like robotics that have high hardware output. What’s your, what’s your outlook on that?

Brady Watkins: So, well, I think if we look at the data, I think even in the last year, I, I think we’re still, we haven’t seen saturation maybe in some other verticals of investment into robotic companies. So I don’t think we’re at a point of saturation. So I do think we’re still gonna see investment into the category.

and the reason we’re gonna see it is because there’s such a huge gap in like the workforce. What we’re seeing is things like warehouse automation. Automation in general of creating efficiency is still, there’s a huge need. labor we know across industries is, there’s a huge gap in who’s able to show up for work and who’s not.

Brady Watkins: So I think what we’re seeing no matter, even in a, in a growth or a recession market, there still is an inherent problem that is in the market. So I think it’s more. Everyone is looking for de-risked investments. I think as long as you have the unit economics and you’re building a product, that’s focused on solving an inherent problem, and you’re not creating an let’s call an overengineered product.

I really think there’s gonna be continued growth in service robotics. And I think even as we look at the next two to three years, I think in, in robotics service, Professional service, robotics, logistics and where else? I think you’re gonna still have a strong growth rate. So therefore, if they’re strong growth, as long as you have good economics, I still see capital being able to be funneled.

However, I think you’re gonna see no matter what everyone’s gonna take, tho they’re gonna de-risk their metrics. Um, but one of the great things that I think about robotics that I found is it’s actually a pretty predictable ramp. So for us, when we’re building our business plans, if you understand adoption, it actually can be pretty predictable if you’ve solved product market fit and are able to have that value proposition and focus on adoption. so it’s easy to consume. I can understand if I’m building a automated vacuum cleaning robot, I can actually predict how many I can scale based on the market. And it’s really just a matter of picking the right product in the right company versus maybe a newer technology.

Does that hasn’t been absorbed or understood by venture or a specific model? We can actually get pretty predictable in our ramp. So I act, I believe, and I’d love to always love the conversations about, I think we’re actually gonna be in a. Insulated a little bit just based on the problems that are out there.

it’s not to say you’re gonna see some venture pullback, but I think as long as you stay [00:30:00] focused on solving problems in market, and there’s a need and there’s a commercial model that can generate value. you’re gonna see investment sustained in robotics. Whereas I think five years ago it was actually risky because there wasn’t a, a model or a need.

Brady Watkins: I think there’s now a strong need, focus. And there’s now more companies to participate in investment. Whereas maybe there were just a few, there’s a lot more that are in market to be able to be successful.

Abate: Yeah What are you, what are you excited about coming up in, the research and development at SoftBank?

Brady Watkins: I to me, I think so the, in R and D the way we think about it, So we think about the market sort of two big things. I think within indoor navigation, smart robotics, the more we see a collaboration of mobile technology connecting into other data solutions in and around the inside of a building is fascinating for me.

So it’s about providing more of a collaborative solution. So it’s maybe a single task of what a robot was doing combined with other technologies that are in and around a building, I think there really are some powerful things that are happening, in that area. And then I think from let’s call it from a industrial and outdoor perspective, whether it’s warehousing or others.

I think we’re starting to see some really powerful capabilities in terms of you now have navigation, that’s become mature enough through the automotive industry. And what we’re seeing is there’s really the ability to drive some strong, um, value where, autonomous. Um, vehicle or robot can out can actually do a outperform, any human element that was delivering it before and do it pretty consistently.

So I think we’re gonna see this really large change in shift, where we’re now comfortable with a automated solution working in and around people and doing it safely successfully, and from a scale. So. As a, as a, as you can tell from a like orchestration perspective, there’s a lot, all the ingredients are there to be able to be put together to be able to scale.

And I think that’s what I found to drive adoption. and that’s what makes it exciting to be able to build an industry that can continue to grow in its mainstream. capabilities versus maybe was sitting out as a niche capability. So that to me is the biggest, like let’s call it development.

I think from research perspective, I think we’re continuing to just see, I think, as you know, whether it’s sensor technology or cameras or, I think machine learning libraries, I think it’s because robotics is now been adopted. I’m really seeing some really powerful architecture. They’re now becoming a adoptable and absorbable.

Brady Watkins: And so I think that’s only gonna further accelerate. So I think we’re just actually getting to a point where we’re adoption ready versus just, development ready. And that’s what gets me excited. Cause we can start to bring some cool products to market and see some really meaningful and scalable value.

Abate: Yeah. Yeah, no. What you mentioned is really exciting that point where we’re gonna start trusting some of these automated systems a bit more than you would having a person go out there and do it the way they used to. so that, that is exciting. And it’s when a lot of these, technologies start to come together.

Brady Watkins: And I, and I think in the end market is starting to understand that they need to evolve. So I think that transformation, um, is coming. So I, we talk a lot. Workforce transformation is, is an area that’s really critical. So a lot of these technology, a lot of the solutions we just talked about that robotics usually really helps solves is evolving.

The ability of the workforce to be able to work in and around these technologies, no matter where they are. So that trust factor is important. And so I think that you CNN user saying, I need to redevelop my operations to be able to now understand that there is robotics available. Whereas before I was designing my process and operation around either just people or a different set of tools.

Now I have robotics as a tool set and smart robotics as a tool set, to be able to think about how do I provide a better service. And I think that’s, what’s exciting is it’s now asking us the question of, okay. I acknowledge. Now I need to understand how robotics is gonna help me, robotics and data needs to help inform how I transform my workforce.

Can you help me solve that problem? Those are really good triggers that know that it’s now we’re moving past early adoption stage and moving into a chasm of, okay, I need to really integrate this into, I need to trust that this is going to work and then I now need to integrate it into all of my.

Processes procedures, procurement, which is believe or not a, you know, a challenge as well. I need to understand that. And that’s really when you can start to see scale and that gives the industry oxygen and when we have oxygen, then we can really allow some cool things to happen.

Abate: Awesome. Thank you for speaking with us today.

Brady Watkins: Abate, this was great. Thank you very much for taking the time, uh, to speak with me.



transcript



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Abate De Mey Founder of Fluid Dev, Hiring Platform for Robotics
Abate De Mey Founder of Fluid Dev, Hiring Platform for Robotics





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