4 tips to go from academia to a robotics startup

The topic of discussion during the ROS World 2021 panel “From Academia to Start Up” The panel was moderated by Brian Gerkey, co-founder and CEO of Open Robotics. The panel can be watched in the video below. Kemp will be a keynote speaker at the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum on May 10-11.

Take advantage of the right opportunity

Academia lends itself well to startups. Academics are already used to trying different solutions over and over again. However, finding the right time, and the right startup, is crucial to your success. “People should be opportunistic, because I do think that there’s a special time and place for a startup,” Thomaz said.

Plan your software carefully

When you’re building a robot, you can use open-source software or proprietary software from a third party. “Enabling people and empowering people to add hardware and software to do what they want is really important to use,” Kemp said. Investors will likely be interested in looking at your entire code stack to make sure there will be no problems with IP.

Find the right people to work with

At times, investors may not understand how your academic experience will translate to the business world. “You walk into a room with venture capitalists and all of the sudden your credentials don’t seem to have the weight they used to have,” Kemp said. Knowing how to present your company and product to investors is crucial.

Product focus

It’s also important to be willing to change your product to better fit customer needs. Thomaz’s Moxi robot was originally intended to have a mobile manipulator that can perform several different tasks. Her team changed direction when they narrowed their focus to fixing one customer problem at a time.

“We had grand visions of the millions of things that mobile manipulators are going to be out in the world,” Thomaz said. “And then you get to that long tail of reliability. And you’re like, actually, we to to really just focus on one thing first and then build from there.”

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