Startup Series #6: MIT Entreprise Forum VLAB

09 July 2014

share this:

The VLAB Collaborative Robots forum on Thursday May 29 was a masterclass for robot startups. For 90 minutes at the Knight Management Center at Stanford, we heard all about the business of robotics from industry veterans, VCs and startups. The panel consisted of Melonee Wise (CEO of Unbounded Robotics), Milan Shah (VP of Rethink Robotics), John Dulcinos (VP of Automation at Jabil), and Peter Hebert (cofounder of Lux Capital). The panel was moderated by myself, Andra Keay, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics.

The MIT Enterprise Forum Bay Area (VLAB) was formed in 1990 and is one of 30 chapters around the world. VLAB helps startups and entrepreneurs find the best practices for developing viable business models for technology-oriented markets. The VLAB events are sponsored by the Stanford University Office of Technology Licensing, and the Alumni Association of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. The caliber of presenting companies and panelists at our events has earned VLAB the reputation as one of the premier high-tech forums in Silicon Valley.

The VLAB committee conducted quite a rigorous audition process for panelists (and moderators) looking for the most successful examples of companies in the industrial/service collaborative robotics space. VLAB panels usually consist of two startups, an incumbent company whose business model is under threat from the startups, and an investor. This was a really successful balance of opinions, although it’s humbling to realize that a company like Rethink Robotics is still considered a startup.

The panel opens with a 10 minute overview of the economics of robotics and then an in-depth look at Unbounded Robotics. Then the panel discussion really gets going with both John Dulchinos and Peter Hebert schooling us in the opportunities and challenges for robotics startups. I came away with a much better appreciation of the huge potential for industrial and logistical robotics. Not all successful robotics businesses are venture fundable, and understanding the customer/market space is still the biggest challenge for startups. According to VLAB’s promotional material:

We are now standing at the dawn of a new robotic era. Robots are learning to perform complex tasks and to interact with humans in boundless environments.  Naturally, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are at the center of this disruption.

Massive new markets are opening up. A new generation of innovative robotic platforms is emerging with human cadence and more adaptable automation solutions. According to TechNavio, the global service robotics market is expected to grow at CARG (compound annual rate growth) of 20%. Industrial robots will reach $37 billion by 2018. The agricultural robots market is also expected to reach $16.3 billion by 2020, 20 times its current value.

Will these robots facilitate the predicted re-shoring or renaissance in US manufacturing? And what will be the economic consequences of this new co-habitation?

tags: , , , ,

Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.
Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.

Related posts :

Meet the Oystamaran

Working directly with oyster farmers, MIT students are developing a robot that can flip heavy, floating bags of oysters, helping the shellfish to grow and stay healthy.
08 December 2021, by

Exploring ROS2 with a wheeled robot – #4 – Obstacle avoidance

In this post you’ll learn how to program a robot to avoid obstacles using ROS2 and C++. Up to the end of the post, the Dolly robot moves autonomously in a scene with many obstacles, simulated using Gazebo 11.
06 December 2021, by

Team builds first living robots that can reproduce

AI-designed Xenobots reveal entirely new form of biological self-replication—promising for regenerative medicine.
02 December 2021, by

Exploring ROS2 using wheeled Robot – #3 – Moving the robot

In this post you’ll learn how to publish to a ROS2 topic using ROS2 C++. We are moving the robot Dolly robot, simulated using Gazebo 11.
30 November 2021, by

An inventory of robotics roadmaps to better inform policy and investment

Silicon Valley Robotics in partnership with the Industrial Activities Board of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, is compiling an up to date resource list of various robotics, AIS and AI roadmaps, national or otherwise.
29 November 2021, by

Robots can be companions, caregivers, collaborators — and social influencers

People are hardwired to respond socially to technology that presents itself as even vaguely social. While this may sound like the beginnings of a Black Mirror episode, this tendency is precisely what allows us to enjoy social interactions with robots and place them in caregiver, collaborator or companion roles.
26 November 2021, by

©2021 - ROBOTS Association


©2021 - ROBOTS Association