Robotics and Entrepreneurship – Lessons Learned with Paolo Prijanian

Paolo Prijanian has been through a number of trials and tests in his years of work in cutting-edge consumer robotics. Paolo first shared with us a number of ways robotics are being used now and a few ideas as to what directions the industry will be headed – Roomba vacuum cleaners, robotic lawn mowers, self-driving John Deere tractors, robotic surgery, drones, automated warehouses, and of course the self-driving car to name a few. Paolo’s background was being a professor at USC, working at JPL in robotics, then eventually convincing himself to move ahead with an opportunity to develop “Evolution Robotics” with Bill Gross at Idealab. Developing this type of technology was extremely expensive and Paolo shared the ongoing struggle of keeping costs down  to achieve profitability, while simultaneously inventing cutting edge technologies that had never been used. Paolo shared that this was a significant shift from working at JPL where there was significantly more budgetary freedom in creating new technologies.

Paolo explained how his robotics technology was used in a number of diverse platforms for companies including Sony and Sharper Image on various projects. Paolo shared how throughout the years they always made it a point to try new things often and fail quickly to improve the technology faster rather then spending excessive time stuck in the planning phase. With each technology he learned and adapted their products to better serve the consumer market with the ongoing opposing forces of new technology and low-costs.

Paolo shared a number of challenges in his work including products failing outside of his control. He shared the difficulty of integrating cutting edge robotics technology to consumer products, but ultimately depending on the success of that commercial product in which his technology was utilized. As these products were new technologies themselves, he found that the consumer market was not mature enough as adoption was generally slow to new robotic products in the market.

In 2010, Paolo’s work with evolution robotics released “Mint” the self-mapping vacuum robot which did extremely well in consumer markets. This caught the attention of competitor “iRobot”, which eventually bought Evolution Robotics in 2012.

Paolo’s newest project is with a firm called, “Embodied” whose goal is to make the world a better place through robotics. Their website can be found using the link below!

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