What was the impetus behind Rovenso’s creation?
While being between academia professors and industry professionals, we realised that in the field of mobile robotics, the actual research was far from even trying to answer day-to-day reality and needs. All academic robotic solutions for mobility in rough terrain were too complex, too expensive, and too unreliable to be used by professionals.
That’s when we came out with the idea of an industry-ready, simple, and robust agile robot to fill this gap.
Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’ that led to the business’s inception, or triggered a change in your approach and strategy?
Probably that moment came when we realised that an old spatial-rover design could be significantly simplified and transformed to an industrial product for very down-to-earth needs. Space technology at earthly cost!
Were there any EU, national, regional or local business support services, programmes or funding initiatives that helped you set up or grow?
Since all of us are EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland) alumni, we did benefit from an innovation grant, and important support to file our patent.
How would you describe your progress so far? Are there any significant challenges you have had to overcome?
We have brought the concept from an austere patent sketch, to something that is one-iteration away from industrialization and mass production. There were 3 prototypes down the road (one of which was a 250kg beast), and work was done sequentially in Switzerland… and China. Hardware prototyping is nowhere as cheap and quick as in Shenzhen, China.
A less thrilling side of the story, hardware systems, like autonomous robots, require extensive engineering skills in both mechanics, electronics, and computer science. This still intimidates a lot of investors, who are not necessarily used to longer, more frustrating product cycles.
However, with paying customers both in firefighting (China) and security monitoring (Switzerland), we have taken an alternative, learner way to funding.
What do you see as the key trends/disruptors for 2018 relevant to entrepreneurs?
For entrepreneurs in the robotics field, I think rapid-prototyping (simulators, plug & play electronics, 3D printing, etc.) has drastically changed the game. Moreover, online libraries for all hardcore robotic problems have never been so complete, so powerful, and so free.
This allows the traditionally restrictive and demanding field of robotics to finally open up.
Rapid fire round
Which is better: partners or go it alone?
No man is an island. Always partners.
Titanic or Star Wars?
We build robots… what do you think :) ?
Which is a better guarantee for success: persistence or integrity?
For success: no doubt, persistence. Yet, if you also look for “success” in your inner life, then you also need the second.
Which is best: something cheap that people have to buy repeatedly or something expensive that they buy once a year?
Given the environmental condition of this planet, I would undoubtedly go for the second. The bigger question is, though, how do you bring products to those who can only afford them on the cheap, but not repeatedly?
Hip Hop or Mozart?
Both are equally valid to allow communication on another level.
Which is better when networking: matchmaking sessions or drinks reception?
Depends on who pays for the drinks.