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yes…. I don’t know how you found this old thing but the real website is at


Being Startup Robot Shoes

What are the success strategies for robot startups? Hardware startups have specific issues to navigate, but the underlying question for innovative startups goes beyond the how-tos, how to build it in the first place and how to not lose money on manufacturing. Robot startups need to ask why this robot? And what is the market? At the HRI2012 conference in Boston, Rodney Brooks said that roboticists need to move beyond solving technical problems and start solving real world problems. “The question isn’t what CAN robots do? The question is what SHOULD robots do?”

This reminds me of a guest post “The Five Secret Laws of Startups” by Fake Grimlock on Extreme Startups. Fake Grimlock  is an extremely smart giant robot dinosaur currently terrorizing the startup community. If you haven’t been eaten, then the First law is “Be Shoes”, which intersects with the Third law, “Build things people want” in a very relevant way for robotics. And for those too impatient to go to Extreme Startups right away, the other secret laws of startups were; be awesome at one thing, fight for the user and be contagious. [image below by Fake Grimlock]

“Be shoes” means that crazy new technology is just not useful and “build things people want” is about validating your assumptions in the marketplace, not just building a crazy knee sled because you want one. There’s a lot of amazing knee sled building in the robotics world. That’s not a bad thing for research. But if you want to build a successful robot startup, then amazing knee sleds have got a very very small market. It might change the world one day but only research labs and very early adopters are interested right now. And they are likely to be building their own.

To “be shoes” as a robot startup, you can use lean startup methodology to find out what robot shoes would look like, before investing everything in production. One of these weird shoes was built by a company who knew their market segment very well.

Robots might be new but people haven’t changed much. A successful robot startup is unlikely to be a solo endeavour. Lean startups can benefit from a team approach, to question assumptions and give scope for rapid prototyping, customer development and deep domain knowledge. Eric Ries describes a lean startups as being born out of;

  • the use of open source software and free platforms
  • agile development methodology
  • rapid customer-centric iteration

Successful startups are rarely new products in new markets. Robot shoes improve an existing product. Successful robot startups will resegment existing markets. To a certain extent the robot part of a successful robot startup will and ought to disappear. iRobot’s Roomba is the most successful consumer robot in the world but to most people it’s just a vacuum cleaner. Intuitive’s surgical system augments the doctor. Every toy aisle in the US has disconcertingly lively dolls and toys but very few are called robots.

At the recent Maker Startup Weekend, Dale Dougherty talked about the importance of creating physical products that people wanted. [article by Ahmed Siddiqui] Dougherty pointed out that people pay for physical products all the time, a point sometimes overlooked when cataloguing the difficulties of hardware startups. People pay a lot more for physical objects that are aesthetically satisfying as well. You can want things that you don’t really need.

Two other opportunities for robotics startups are robots as interfaces or translators; and robots as copiers or creators. Examples; robots that convert scientific or mechanical instrumentation or sensors into accessible easy to operate or understand forms, like humanoid robots do; or robots that reproduce something useful, like a 3d printer does.

However, the robot we love the most is the completely new product for a new market. The crazy amazing knee sled 4.0 that flies. There have been very few leaps into the big blue ocean. But the technology used to be a lot more expensive and a lot less common than it is becoming now. The democratization of technology is well demonstrated by the DIY drones movement.

As Chris Anderson from Wired and DIY Drones explains, a few years ago autonomous air vehicles cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and there were only a handful. As more are made, the technology gets cheaper. As the technology gets cheaper, more are made. This takes drones out of the rarified military and industrial air and into the hands of the hobbyist, small businesses and consumers.

Robot startups will flourish as stealth technologies, re segmenting markets and making better shoes. But as we become more familiar with new robotic capabilities, as robots cross the chasm under the guise of toys, hobbies and domestic appliances, robots will launch new markets as new products. We just don’t know what yet. Imagine what startups will happen when every second kid on the street has access to a drone!

Robot Launch Pad is a community interested in exploring robot startups from a lean customer centric perspective. We’re involved in a lot of great events in Silicon Valley. This is just the start of the discussion about robot startups and it’s taking off!

So, be startup robot shoes – kind of like Go Go Gadget shoes, only MORE AWESOME.

Mega Startup Weekend with Robots

For the 1st time in startup weekend history, teams are asked to build robot startups in a 54hr challenge. Using just a mockup OR an existing robot platform OR all the robot resources you possess, can you pitch and develop a fantastic robot business? Winning teams get a chance to pitch their business idea at the DEMO conference in front of crowds of VCs/angels/media/fans.

Mega Startup Weekend will be held on April 13-15 at Microsoft. Mega Startup Weekend is the largest Startup Weekend in the Bay Area and in the world, hosting over 300 attendees in 3 different verticals – robots, gaming and mobile.  This is our annual Celebration of Entrepreneurship, hosted by Microsoft BizSpark, Startup America, and DEMO.

Please share this information with other roboticists and see you there! The mighty Robot LaunchPad team will be mentors and organizers at the Mega Startup Weekend event. (Use “robotlaunch” as promocode and get 25% discount.)

But how can I build a robot startup in just 54 hours? 

The key is to build a robot business model. Anyone can use existing robot technologies to create a brilliant new robot business. That’s why we’ve put examples here for every level of robot skill – from technically minded robot noob, to skillful robot/software programmer, to uber DIY robot drone with duck tape types.

1. Technically minded robot noob – create a mockup. If you can identify a market need and robot products that exist or can be easily converted, then build the business model not the robot. Eg. Maybe supermarkets could use robot arms to help shoppers reach products on top shelves. Find a market need that robots could do, then build a business model and a mockup.

2. Skillful roboticist or coder – leverage existing robots with accessible APIs and create new apps and markets. Eg. Existing autonomous mobile platforms could deliver food/luggage/shopping at large airports/hotels/malls. Need ipad/iphone app connecting it up and a business plan.

3. You DIY robots for breakfast? – you can build anything in 54 hours. Go on, surprise us!

Rodney Brooks says that the next generation of robots will be more closely integrated with people in manufacturing and the workplace. Today’s challenge isn’t ‘what can a robot do?’, it’s ‘what should a robot be doing now’?

Why Are We Doing This?

You might think we’re crazy, organizing robot startup events and doing it all as volunteers. But if you know us, then you know that we are passionate about creating new robot businesses, growing new technologies and new communities, and using startup techniques to influence human-robot culture. Tall words. But we’re taking small steps closer every day. 

[‘Deserted Robot’ by Artists for Charity on deviantart]

And if you don’t know us, allow me to introduce the core robot launchpad people.

 Andra Keay – Culture Hacker | Robot UX

After years of studying robotics from a human-robot interaction perspective, my hacker, maker, DIY genes have cursed me to tinker. Lean startup methodology is a great way to empower people centred design, so I want to grow robotics culture the lean way.

 Ahmed Siddiqui – Startup Weekend Organiser and CEO GoGo Mongo.

Ahmed calls himself a startup junkie. After winning his first Startup Weekend,  he now organizes Startup Weekends all over Silicon Valley. He also writes for Venture Beat and as an entrepreneur, is looking to shake up the robotics space.

 Erin Rapacki – Product Marketing Manager @ Adept Mobile Robots

Also known as RobotDiva, Erin has worked or interned at a wide range of robot companies. She speaks and writes extensively about robotics as a business and robots as a product. [Don’t miss her as guest speaker at blackbox Cofounder dinner – thurs march 22]

 Michael Harries – Chief Technologist @ Citrix Startup Accelerator

Michael left robotics for the ‘real’ world of business, as the technology futurist for global technology company Citrix. Now he’s running their Startup Accelerator and sees the convergence of robots, phones and cloud in his future.

We are a group of volunteers. And we’re growing as you join us. It’s clear there is a need for a robot startup community, one that bridges robotics with the startup world, the business world, the mobile & internet world, the design world and the creative communities. [If I left a world out, sorry, you are all invited.]

We’re bootstrapping and we’re iterating all the time. We’ll make mistakes but we’ll fix them. As we reach out to more people, we realized that you don’t know who we are, or why we’re doing this. It’s not for the money. One day we might grow into an organization or forum or business but not yet. It’s our community too, it’s platform agnostic, unaligned and open.

Recent Robot Launchpad Updates

The latest Robot Launchpad update was mailed out to all newsletter subscribers. Inside you find more information and an invitation to the Robot Startup Retreat. And also covering some other great events…

Robot Block Party | Mega Startup Weekend | Robot Startup Retreat | Xconomy’s Droidworld & more events coming

PLUS don’t miss the Cofounder dinner with Erin Rapacki as speaker on Thursday March 22 at blackbox mansion AND get tickets to robotics as a vertical at Mega Startup Weekend @ Microsoft on April 13-15.

…so while coordinating the Robot Block Party, Andra couldn’t help but update the Silicon Valley Robotics website [] by including a Silicon Valley robotics events calendar – also included here.

Winners of Cloud Robotics Hackathon

….. straight from Robotics Hackathon HQ…..

(Our CONGRATULATIONS to ALL especially Silicon Valley team OLogic !)

We are very happy to announce the results of the Cloud Robotics Hackathon 2012. We combined all the project evaluations from the judges and chose the top three projects which will be awarded awesome prices.


In third place we find an excellent project that uses a complex robot behaviours to encourage discipline and cleanliness in humans. We really enjoyed the humorous presentation, usage of the cloud and autonomous navigation.

Team No Pain, No Game from Montreal wins the third prices comprises of the following items:


The second place goes to a very impressive project involving autonomous navigation, path planning, communication via the robotic cloud, a crafty game board, and funky smiley faces on a smartphone. The complexity, the attention to detail, and the overall completeness of the projects were most impressive and showed the awesome hacking skills of the team.

Team Oddwerx from Santa Clara wins the second prices comprises of the following items:


The first place goes to the most cloudy of all projects. One that involves shiny lights, felt and lots of colours. This project uses a very interesting communication and collaboration system between robots that helps them fetch messages from the cloud even if they don’t have direct access to the web. This project also tackles the interesting area of education and regards though the use of a game. We really enjoyed the technical complexity, robot communication and human interaction featured in the project

Team LightingBots from Montreal wins the second prices comprises of the following items:

More Projects

Unfortunately, we cannot give prices to everyone although we think every team did great and truly impressed us with what they could come up in a single weekend. We invite you to have a look at all their amazing project presentations.

 Keep Hacking Robots, Keep Hacking the Future.

See you Next Year!

Cloud Robotics Hackathon update

Lots of hackathon stuff posted on our new Google+ page for Robot LaunchPad so check out all the videos/demos/pix.

More than 60 people showed up to the Hackathon, making us the largest event next to the Montreal Hackerspace which had 100 on opening night. We had 10 teams working over the weekend and have posted demos of working cloud enabled robots from the final session. There were events in 7 locations around the globe, so each location had a presentation and semifinal and the mothership in Montreal will be choosing the final winner today.

The two Santa Clara/Silicon Valley teams voted best and moving through to the finals are: Oddwerx (by OLogic) and HomeCast.

Oddwerx used their own robot(s) to play tic tac toe as your avatar or proxy, so that you and your friend can be located anywhere but control the robot moves via cloud. Hopefully the Oddwerx robot will be on kickstarter soon.

HomeCast used the DFRover and developed a ‘house sitter/home watchdog’ to roam the house while you are away, checking on temperature, humidity, videoing pets/intruders etc. The possibilities are limited only by the range of sensors.

 One of the semifinalists from Montreal is RobotGrrl with her RoboBrrd mesh network. It’s great!

Robot Retreat ~ Rethinking Robot Startups

The Robot Retreat hosted by the RobotLaunchPad will be held at blackbox mansions April 28-29. A small group of movers and thinkers in the space of robotics, startups, design and culture come together for a weekend of provocative thought, with workshops, networking and great people. What will the next robots do? Who will use them? How does startup methodology apply to robotics? How about repurposing existing robots with new business models?

We’re also kicking it off with an awesome secret party on Friday night. We’d tell you more but… it’s still a secret. Invitations will go out on March 15. Keep the weekend free! Please ASK US for an invitation by sending a brief blurb/intro.

Saturday 28 April

  • Group 1: Design Thinking Changes ~ UX & HRI
  • Group 2: Lean Startup Methodology For Robotics


  • Group 3: What Is A Robot MVP?
  • Group 4: Cardboard Box Challenge ~ create a robot MVP and pitch it to us.


Sunday 29 April

  • Panel/Open Discussion: What is a robot now?
  • Panel/Open Discussion: What are next challenges? Creating a roadmap for robot startups.


We’re inviting other roboticists to come and share the feast of ideas with an OPEN POTLUCK PARTY . Enjoy the afternoon!

Please ASK US for an invitation by sending a brief blurb/intro.

Global Cloud Robotics Hackathon Info

Dear Robotic Hacker,

We thank you for registering for the first Cloud Robotics Hackathon, being held on March 2nd to March 4th 2012 at multiple locations worldwide. Please read the following e-mail carefully.


You must bring:

  • Laptop (or desktop if you want to kick it old school) with WiFi access and (ideally) Bluetooth. Don’t forget your charger!
  • Smartphone (if you have one and plan to use it) with its USB connector.
  • Extension cord or a power bar.
You can bring:

  • A pillow, lucky chair, or anything that will help you hack in a comfortable way.
  • Tools, including hot glue gun, (sonic) screw driver, scissors, knife, and wire stripper.
  • Materials such as cardboard, Popsicle sticks, wires, or flux capacitors.
In short, please make sure you have everything you need for a happy hacking weekend.

Please check the scehdule here:

Forming Teams

The event starts on the evening of March 2nd (at 5:30 PM ET) with presentations at the main venue in Montreal. The main goal of that first night is to present the event and allow the hackers to mingle and form teams (if they don’t have one already).

By the end of Friday, all teams participating must have decided their project idea, chosen a team name, and taken a team picture. The teams must register an account at and include their picture, team name (as the user name) and project idea. This account wil l be used throughout the event for hacking and documenting the project. You are also encouraged to use to store your code and other project material. YouTube or Vimeo should be used to store your final video presentation. Remember teams must have ideally 5 members, or four in the worst case.

Teams who have not taken a team photo and finalized a project idea by the end of Friday, are not eligible to participate. The hacking will officially start on Saturday morning.

Only teams which submit a video of their creation and show it using the API by Sunday will be allowed to keep their DFRobotShop Rovers. This ensures that only teams participating in the entire event will receive the robot. Until that time, consider them “on loan”.

During the Event 

During the event, participants can communicate using the following Twitter hashtags:

  • #roboticshackathon or #cloudrobot for general communication
  • #cloudrobotSC for Santa Clara, #cloudrobotMTL for Montreal, #cloudrobotSLC for Salt lake city, etc

Also, will feature a live chat and video-conference.


Each venue will have one semi-finalist team for every 10 teams confirmed as of Friday. For example, if venue 1 has 5 teams, they will have one semi-finalist team. If venue 2 has 23 teams, they will have 3 semi-finalist teams. If a location has only one team, so long as they submit the required documentation on Sunday, they will automatically be counted as semi-finalists.

In hacker terms: # of semifinalists per venue = ceiling(# confirmed teams  / 10)

The semifinalists are chosen by each venue on Sunday. The main judges will review all semi-finalist teams after Sunday and the top three teams will be announced on the official website and an announcement will be sent by e-mail to all participants. See more information about judging and prices at (coming soon).


We thank all the volunteers at each venue for their hard work and look forward to seeing you there. Please contact your individual venue organizer for the times you should arrive and your assigned tasks.


If you have any questions about your venue, please contact your local organizer. If you have any general questions, please write to

See you in the clouds and happy hacking!

Contact us:
Follow us :!/RoboticsHack 

Like us:


**** LOCAL INFORMATION FOR Event: Santa Clara Robotics Hackathon

Parking Information:

Citrix Startup Accelerator
Level 3, 4555 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Cloud Robotics Hackathon

A good team has a balance of skills including people & design skills, learners and experts. The technical challenge is only one part of building a great robot demo.

1. Build robot

2. Connect robot to cloud

3. Make robot do something useful or fun