The Starting Point

Brad Porter

June 2022

Wow, am I excited to be back to robotics! The world has changed in 2 years! We order everything online now, not just from Amazon, but from everyone. Our streets buzz with delivery drivers. Our warehouses hum with activity. And as a society, we’re struggling to hold it all together.

There are more warehouse and manufacturing jobs than people willing to do them. Healthcare has experienced the type of spike that can only be handled with greater automation. In manufacturing, we’ve woken up to the urgent need to electrify everything and new companies are emerging while incumbents surge to make the switch.

We’ve woken up to the need to bring manufacturing back to the US. All of this requires us to accelerate automation at a rate and scale far beyond anything anyone imagined even 2 years ago! Robotics isn’t just about productivity wins anymore, robotics is a critical enabler to continue to grow and scale our society.

But we don’t have the right building blocks. My job at Amazon was to identify any and all building blocks that could help Amazon accelerate its automation. But so many of the building blocks had such limited utility. They did one thing and did it well. When that one thing fit our needs, it was great, but so often once we ran all the numbers, the ROI didn’t pay back to invest a large amount to solve a small problem. At Amazon, we could build custom solutions to solve big problems and we did. And Amazon continues to do that.

But logistics is changing. As customers, we expect faster delivery more frequently. That requires moving inventory closer and closer to the customer. The closer we get to the customer, the less flexibility we have to build massive dedicated warehouses with highly custom robotics.

We need a new building block. We need something akin to the 6 degree-of-freedom robotic arm that started in manufacturing, but is now used everywhere from manufacturing to logistics to healthcare and beyond. We need a more flexible mobility robot that can work alongside humans. We need a robot that is trustworthy and competent, not scary or dystopian. We don’t need robots to replace us, we need robots to help us. That’s what we’re building at Collaborative Robotics. It will take us some time (though hopefully not that much time) to be able to show you all the details, but we’re confident when we do that it will be a game changer.

And wow, am I excited to be building a company! Building a company has been a lifelong dream. As the 5th employee at Tellme, I had the opportunity to build Tellme’s platform from scratch, but I didn’t build the company. Now I get to build a company, to shape the culture and create the space for everyone’s talents to shine.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of truly great companies, from Welch Allyn to Netscape to Tellme to Amazon to Scale AI. I’ve learned from incredible leaders. And I’ve formed a deep conviction that we can do better. Too many companies hire people only to constrain them. Too often leaders and peers, often without recognizing it, bring energy that demotivates even if they didn’t intend to. The first way we can do better is by starting from trust. Hiring people we’re willing to trust to run their own race, but who also trust us to run alongside. The second way we can do better is by being constantly mindful of the energy we bring to the company we’re building. If the energy we each bring is optimistic, motivating and ambitious we will feel that collectively and it will amplify.

With that context, let me share a bit about the amazing team we’ve assembled so far…

Jane Mooney is unique in the robotics world. Jane looks at the world holistically and then dives extremely deep to validate not just that a robotic system will work, but that it will deliver the true return on investment for the customer. Robotics in many ways is a simple business, either the robot delivers the promised ROI, or it doesn’t get deployed again. No one I know is better in the world at ensuring that robots will deliver their promised ROI.

Steph Tryphonas is the ultimate all-around executive. An experienced and revered people leader, Steph has led teams from engineering to design to go-to-market and product. At Tellme, he led the engagement with many of Tellme’s most exacting customers. At Microsoft, he joined the early Kinect team to build a great experience. Behind the scenes in Silicon Valley he’s mentored founders, executives, investors and friends. Steph brings a unique ability to cover any role or gap we have as we set up the company.

Sarah Rathbun has built some of the most impressive technical teams in the world. At Amazon, she helped to build the early Prime Air drone delivery team. At Meta, she was hands-on hiring the world-class experts that Michael Abrash and his leadership team required to make the metaverse a reality. Sarah’s ability to land the most unique and qualified candidates will enable us to build a team that we can trust from day one.

Jack Erdozain can’t talk about much of what he’s built. He comes to us from Apple’s low-key “Platform Architecture Engineering” organization. Those in the know realize that Platform Architecture Engineering is the team that builds the first functioning concepts of Apple’s ambitious ideas for new devices. Engineers in this group rarely leave, but when they do they’ve gone on to help create iconic products like the Nest thermostat. Jack’s engineering skills are world-class and his ability to rapidly bring together new hardware advances into novel solutions will pay huge dividends for us.

This is just the beginning though. For those with whom we have already started a dialog, we’re very excited to continue. For those we’re just getting to know or who will soon reach out, we can’t wait to meet you. Come build with us!

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