Neato Robotics CEO Interview 2017

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Neato Robotics CEO Interview 2017

Postby glnc222 » July 18th, 2017, 3:00 pm

Giacomo Marini, CEO of Neato Robotics
Spanish original
Google translation:

From mice to robots. Giacomo Marini is a veteran technology executive who since 2013 leads Neato Robotics, a company specializing in robots for the home. But his journey is long. In 1981 he co-founded Logitech, one of the leading suppliers of mice and computer keyboards, and previously held technical and management positions at Olivetti and IBM. He also helped raise various technology companies (from an investor role, board member or advisor). This is the case, for example, of Multiscope or Sygate, acquired by Symantec, or M7, bought by BEA Systems. From his current position, This computer engineer says that we are at a crucial moment in the development of a smarter house and shares his view that in the near future homes will have different robots each specialized in doing a task well, from cleaning the crystals to putting the Dishwasher or fold clothes. "Creating a humanoid robot that does multiple tasks as seen in some futuristic films will be a much more expensive and difficult development to carry out," he says.
Giacomo Marini (Neato Robotics): "There will be robots specialists in each of the tasks of the house"
Marimar Jiménez
Its automated vacuum cleaners carry intelligent navigation and work with digital assistants from Amazon and Google
In Spain they are sold through El Corte Inglés and Amazon
Madrid 13 JUL 2017 - 09:32 CEST

Q: Your company is focused on robots for the home. How did it come about and how is it going?
Born in the USA in 2005, she was created by three students from Stanford University, one of them Spanish, Juan Bautista Gómez, who later left the company to return to Spain for family matters. The goal was to get a robot that could do the household tasks as intelligently as humans, because at that time all the robots that had moved randomly, as they collided with furniture or walls. Neato Robotics launched its first product in the US in 2010 and in 2011 it entered the UK, France and Nordic countries. Since then, we have grown tremendously, and today we sell our robots in 30 countries, in Europe, North America and Asia. In Spain, we started in April, through Amazon and El Corte Inglés. My first contact with the company was as an investor, through the venture capital company that merges (Noventi Ventures), But since March 2013 I am its CEO. The company bills between 50 and 100 million dollars, we do not reveal the exact data.

Q: They argue that their suction robots are better than their competitors, including the industry leader iRobot with its famous Roomba. What makes them special?
Its laser navigation system, the same that Google uses in its autonomous car, which makes them smarter. Clean more effectively, without tumbling. Our LaserSmart technology allows them to detect objects in real time and map maps of each room, identifying furniture, entrances, stairs, and move easily in poorly lit rooms, unlike other competing products that work with video systems to recognize where are they. To this must be added that almost all our robots have Wi-Fi connection, which allows us to control them from an app on the free mobile and available for iOS and Android. In addition, they work with the watch Apple Watch and devices Android Wear.

Q:They have also made them compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, the digital assistants of Amazon and Google.
Yes. The user can give them orders through the voice. You can tell Alexa to tell the robot to clean and the robot gets to do it. Also if you connect the robot with a Facebook Messenger account or WeChat (your Chinese rival) you can communicate with the robot through chatbots . But, best of all, we offer all this technology for a tremendously aggressive price: between 500 and 700 euros, when robots that do not reach this level of intelligence are at 1,000 euros or more. That has meant that, without much brand image or a lot of marketing investment, we have gone from zero to number 2 in some countries in a very short time.

Q: You stand out a lot the D shape of your robot. How important is it?
Yes, because almost all robots on the market are round, but people do not live in round houses. We live in houses with corners, that's why that D shape is key, because it allows us to reach all corners. In addition, most competitive products carry the brush in the middle and have a smaller size than ours, allowing us to reach the walls better.

Q: How much does this market move globally? Is it possible to give iRobot a smile?
Today it moves between 1,000 and 1,500 million dollars, and iRobot has around 60-65% of the market, while we have a quota of between 5 and 10%. In recent years, the market has grown 17-18% each year and we think that growth will be higher in the coming years, above 20%, as we are at a crucial moment in the development towards a smarter house, Will allow people to have more free time. IRobot has done a great job creating the category and it would not be realistic to think that we can pass them within five years, but in some markets. In the Nordic countries, for example, we already have between 35 and 40% of quota. We are in Silicon Valley and that helps us a lot to innovate, because we are close to technological giants and investors.

Giacomo Marini (Neato Robotics): "There will be robots specialists in each of the tasks of the house"
Q: Neato has closed several rounds of funding. How many funds have you captured?
In 2010 came Vorwek [owner of Thermomix] and today there are 10 shareholders, most of them venture capital firms. To date, we have raised between 50 and 100 million dollars (we do not give the exact data) and the plan is to make new rounds because the market is in its second phase of growth. The first was 10-12 years ago, when people started buying this type of product; Now we enter a phase of momentum, with a more expert consumer.

Q: At what point of development is robot cleaning technology?
What is being seen is that robots are becoming more important in the home, and to do many activities, not just cleaning tasks, and that is why it is so important that robots are intelligent. We are at the beginning of the domestic robotics and proof of it is that connection of our robots with Alexa and Google Home, which are already part of the home automation, of the future that is there. In a few years there will be robots that clean the shower, the windows, which help to load and unload the dishwasher or fold the clothes. It is not something that will happen in three years, but in the next few decades robots are expected to go from being cleaned to the floor to helping us with other household tasks.

Q: Is your company working on a robot that is not a vacuum cleaner?
Our goal is to have the best technology and everything will be announced in due time. We may go one step further and jump into another new category in the next few years.

Q: In the future will there be several robots doing different tasks or a multitasking robot?
In the near future, what will be in homes will be different specialized robots that will do different tasks, because it is much easier and cheaper. Creating a humanoid robot as seen in futuristic films doing all the tasks is a much more expensive and difficult development to carry out.

Q: Do you need a redesign of the houses so that the robots can work better?
I do not see it necessary to redesign the houses to make it easier for robots. What will increase is artificial intelligence, communication between robots and humans. The robots will be able to tell you where they have problems. If you get stuck with a cable or a table repeatedly, you can say, hey, here I get stuck, so move the table or I'm informing you to move me!

Q: Competition in the sector does not stop: LG, Samsung ... even Chinese companies like Xiaomi are pulling out their own vacuum cleaners.
It is logical, because it is a market that is in full growth and it is logical that are entering new brands. Competition is bad and good news at the same time, because it helps us to improve. But something in our favor is that we only dedicate ourselves to this, and that focus will give us an advantage, because for other companies on Monday the focus is on mobiles and on Tuesday something else. Specialists will always devote more time and energy to the development of your product. In addition, that circumstance forces you every day, because if you do not do well with the robots you do not have another activity that can compensate the business.

Q: Do they plan to close deals with other distribution companies in Spain to sell their robots?
Logically we want more customers and more market share, but we have decided to go little by little. We have just entered El Corte Inglés and we are also on and Carrefour, but only online. Before entering another important distributor, such as Media Markt, we want to do well with the ones we are. That the execution is done well is very important and we prefer to focus on the partners that give us value and where we have more possibilities to expose and talk more about the brand.
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