The building of Orbotix and a new kind of robotics
May 14th, 2014 | by Jane Smith | published in Google Enterprise
Editor’s note: Did you know 60% of young business owners saw an increase in customer engagement after getting a professional email address? Or that 81% of young business owners said that online file sharing is critical to their businesses? That’s just a snapshot of what we learned from the Young Business Success report and infographic we released to kick off National Small Business Week. To recognize and celebrate the young businesses taking the entrepreneurial leap, we’re revisiting a few customers to hear how they got their businesses off the ground and what they’ve learned along the way. Today, we hear from Adam Wilson, Co-Founder and Chief Software Architect at Orbotix, who first shared their Gone Google story in 2013.
What was the inspiration for your business? What made you decide you’d stop what you were doing and pursue it?
Our inspiration was simple: change the way people interact with robots. Before we started Orbotix, my co-founder Ian and I shared a frustration with the lack of cost effective computing brainpower in the robotics space, especially with phones. We decided to use smartphones to change the robotics world — with Sphero, a robotic ball that could be controlled with your smartphone. Our idea has broadened to the “connected play” space, but we still aim to change the interaction of the physical with the digital.
Our decision to go full forward happened quickly. We had built a fully functioning prototype that people were genuinely excited about and we were propelled into working on Orbotix officially full-time when we were accepted to Techstars, a seed incubator in Boulder, Colorado.
Was there a pivotal moment when you realized you’d made it? That you’d really turned that business a reality?
Ian and I were both humbled by our first prototype Sphero being shown on Gizmodo — the video got nearly 60,000 views in a single weekend. For us, it seemed we had discovered a form factor that struck a chord with the world. Securing our series A funding was another obvious milestone, but was really just the beginning of a long journey towards success.
How has using Google Apps helped you in building and growing your business?
Let’s face it — setting up email, calendars, a shared “drive” space, simple forms, a QA site and hosting, among other things, would just slow us down from our real goals. Using Google Apps lets our company focus on what we do best, and have someone else focus on keeping our email secure and syncing our calendars across all our devices.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
We would’ve launched our education program earlier on in the game. We started pretty late with SPRK — “Schools, Parents, Robots, Kids” — to inspire and teach kids to be tomorrow’s inventors and innovators by teaching them concepts in programming, robotics and math in a fun way, and wish we had thought of it earlier. The Sphero product is a really natural educator of technology, but it took a few years to realize we could build an educational curriculum for students around it.
Any advice for other aspiring or budding entrepreneurs?
After Ian and I secured our Series A funding, we asked our lead investors if there was anything we could do that they would get upset about. We got two pieces of advice that I’d pass along to other aspiring entrepreneurs:
1. Be extremely critical of your own products, dream big, and go HUGE.
2. Don’t get in over your head, be intellectually honest with yourself, co-workers and the board.