The two teamed up with Rinaudo, also a friend from childhood, and the duo (Rinaudo stayed in Las Vegas, where he was living) ended up at the incubator TechStars in Seattle. Nguyen and Seid, who built the original Romo, toiled away at their robot while most of the mentors at TechStars--people with lots of experience--kept telling them the same thing: This idea isn't going to work. Where's the market? Who's going to put their phone onto a robot? You need to--jargon alert--pivot. "Everyone was telling us we were out of our minds," said Rinaudo, who, understandably, started to doubt the whole idea after so many people told him it was off base. "It's pretty hard not to listen," he said.
Kickstarter to the rescueSo the Romotive folks did what so many startup people do these days to validate their wacky ideas: They put Romo on Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site, They listed it for 45 days, asking for a pledges of $78 for a single cheetah - colorful iphone case Romo, Their goal was to get $35,000 in pledges, They hit their goal on day three, In the end, they closed the Kickstarter campaign with pledges totaling $114,796 and orders for about 1,300 robots, "We were getting mentor whiplash," recalled Rinaudo, talking about all the advice at TechStars, "Kickstarter was invaluable in showing traction and shutting those people up."..
That success, which helped Romotive make a big splash at the TechStars demo day, led to investor interest. The first call was from Bharat Shyam, a former Microsoft executive. When he visited the Romotive team in Seattle in November, it wasn't Rinaudo's business plan or ideas for expansion--the gang had none, after all--that led Shyam to write a check. It was his 7-year-old son, Sam. While the Romotive team was talking with Shyam in a conference room, Sam was outside--visible through a glass window--having a blast with Romo and, unknowingly, sealing the deal.
In search of robot geeksThe appeal is not so much Romo in its current state, but the fact that it's open for third-party developers, The dream of the Romotive founders is that other robot geeks like themselves will come up with all sorts of apps that make Romo do things they haven't yet thought of, Already, tinkerers are expanding its capabilities, A guy in the Netherlands just made his Romo work on Windows phones, and then shared the code cheetah - colorful iphone case with the Romotive team, And the team is always discussing ideas, Romo could work for home surveillance, since you can control it from anywhere via Wi-Fi, Another thought is for Romo to become a telepresence robot for mainstream use, since current telepresence robots cost several thousands of dollars..
Since Romo makes for a pretty cool roaming photographer, it's easy to imagine an app that lets Romo cruise a party, taking occasional photos of people ("Say Cheese," Romo could say) that it then syncs to your library for you to check out the next morning. (First concern: skirt shots.). The team is also talking about ways to create games that use augmented reality--you see obstacles on your your phone/Romo controller but not in the real world. Or useful ways that people in different areas might be able to play together, so a grandparent in New York might be able to play along or watch what a grandchild in San Francisco is doing.
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