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Startup Series #5: Rodney Brooks, Steve Cousins & Pioneers Festival

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10 December 2013



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Robolution panel at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna.

It’s not every day you get to ask pioneering robot startup founders about their journey. The Robolution panel at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna comprised Rodney Brooks from Rethink Robotics and previously iRobot, Steve Cousins from Savioke and previously Willow Garage, Noland Katter from Anybots, and Walter Wohlkinger and Michael Zillich of Blue Danube Robotics, a new startup from Vienna University. Between them the panelists have started or spunoff well over 15 robotics companies, started the first robotics venture fund and been hugely influential in shaping the current rapidly emerging robot startup space. ‘Fast, cheap and out of control’ was Brooks’s 1987 insight into robot exploration of the solar system, but is very apt today, as drivers like open source software, affordable COTS and crowdfunding expand possibilities.

Rodney_Brooks_Pioneers_Festival_PanelAnd here’s an excerpt from a great article on Robohub.org “Is this the right time for robotic startups?” by Torsten Andre who attended the event as a startup founder.

In the end, Rodney Brooks said that the trick is to find applications where robots can do something useful and the customer is willing to pay for it. Costing over $200,000, Willow Garage’s PR2 is probably not one these robots. But, as Steve Cousins points out, robots can also be built for approximately $15,000. Assuming a lifetime of two years, robots have to generate a value of about $20 per day for an investment like this to break even – something he thinks can certainly be accomplished. He expects robots to be present in our day-to-day lives within the next few years, making this indeed the right time to found a robotic startup.

Read more from our Startup Series.



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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.





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