Building a Robotics startup is definitely harder than building a software startup. However, robotics is a rapidly growing industry with a wide range of applications in various fields (e.g., drones, self-driving cars, construction robots, robots making burgers!).
Robotics startups fall in the category of deep-tech/hard-tech. In 2021, deep tech attracted close to $18 billion in venture funding. So investors are definitely out there looking for interesting young startups to fund. If you’re interested in starting a robotics company, this guide will provide you with some tips and steps to help you get started.
I’m a 2x startup founder with a decade in the robotics industry. My last startup Siera provides self-driving and driver-assistive technologies for heavy industrial vehicles like forklifts. I built the business to a team of 30 people and we sold 5 & 6-figure deals to Fortune 500 companies like Pepsi and John Deere.
In this article, I’m going to show the top 5 challenges to be aware of and how to go about building your own robotics startup.
Building a Robotics Startup: Challenges
First off, here are 5 key challenges you must keep in mind before you build a robotics startup:
- Hard tech founders are usually scientists/grad students with hardly any business skills which makes it hard to build a path to commercialization
- Startups spend too much time in R&D. The time required to scale from prototype to test to production is hellishly long compared to getting a software product out the door.
- A software bug can be fixed with a patch in a few days….but a small circuit board production problem is a disaster.
- Most investors are SaaS investors and don’t know how to value/judge hard tech startups which makes it hard to raise funding
- The money needed to build and store a physical product is orders of magnitude bigger than what a software startup needs which causes a lot of robotics startups to run out of money
Steps to Build a Robotics Startup
Step 1: Define your idea
Define Your Idea: The first step in building a robotics startup is to define your idea. What problem are you trying to solve with your robotics technology? Who is your target audience? What sets your product apart from others in the market? Having a clear understanding of your idea will help you focus your efforts and resources in the right direction.
Step 2: Conduct Market Research
Once you have defined your idea, conduct market research to determine if there is a demand for your product. Look at the current market, who your competitors are, and what their products offer. Use this information to refine your idea and determine the best way to position your product in the market. I recommend talking to 100 potential customers and understanding where their problem lies and what solution are they looking for.
Step 3: Build a prototype
Building a prototype is a crucial step in the development of a robotics startup. It allows you to test your idea and see if it works as intended. Your prototype should be simple and inexpensive, but functional enough to demonstrate your concept. Try to use 3rd party hardware and write software on top of their APIs. I always recommend startups to NOT build custom hardware in the prototype phase if they can avoid it.
Keep the user interface of your robot prototype extremely simple and focus on doing 3-5 things really well that enable your customer to get value out of your product. Those 3-5 things will become your Core Product Loop (CPL).
Making a prototype robot can help you secure funding and attract investors. You should also use it to attract pilot customers. I suggest signing up at least 10 customers to test your product in a live/customer environment. Investors are more likely to invest if you pilot customers signed up to use your robots.
Step 4: Secure Funding
Securing funding is a critical step in the development of a robotics startup. Building robots requires a lot of engineers, complex and expensive parts, and long manufacturing/lead times. You will need some kind of external funding to grow and sustain your business. You can consider various options, including angel investors, venture capital, and crowdfunding. You can also participate in startup accelerators or pitch competitions to secure funding and receive mentorship and support. Raise Seed funding for 24 months of runway.
Step 5: Build a Strong Team
A robotics startup requires a team of talented and experienced individuals with different skills and expertise. Hire a principal engineer on day 1 who has built products similar to what you’re building. It will save you months of development time and avoid costly mistakes. I would recommend creating a structure where you have technical leads for each specialty. These leads should be domain experts and be able to guide junior engineers under them.
I wrote an article here on how to hire A players for your startup.
Step 6: Develop and Launch Your Minimum Remarkable Product (MRP)
Once you have secured funding and built a strong team, it’s time to develop and launch your product. Work with your team to refine your Core Product Loop. Design, test, and refine the software, and manufacture your product. Once you have launched your product, create a repeatable go-to-market program to generate revenue and grow your business.
Step 7: Continuously Iterate
The robotics industry is constantly evolving, and it’s essential to continuously innovate to stay ahead of the competition. Go out in the field, meet your customers, and be open to their feedback. Continue to refine and improve your product to meet their needs.
Are you in the process of building your own robotics startup? Here’s how I can help
I run a 1on1 coaching program for AI, Robotics, and Deep Tech/Hard Tech founders to help you accelerate growth. In this program, I teach you the exact system I used to build a high-growth business with a global team across 2 continents, launch cutting-edge self-driving robots, sell $300,00+ deals, and collaborate with global Fortune 500 brands like Pepsi and John Deere.
Let’s set up a quick 30-minute strategy session to see if my coaching program is right for you. In this strategy session we will dig into your business, diagnose your chokepoints and see how I can help you grow faster 👉 Click here to book your strategy call