Following a global recruiting effort that yielded hundreds of applications, San Diego-based Qualcomm today named the 10 startups selected for the new robotics accelerator program it is operating with Techstars.
The inaugural class includes two San Diego robotics startups, Inova Drone and CleverPet, San Francisco-based Carbon Robotics, and early stage companies from Singapore; Athens, Greece; Rome, Italy; Alberta, Canada; Berlin, Germany, and Bristol, England.
The effort marks a substantial initiative by Qualcomm to accelerate the development of next-generation robots and intelligent machines, and to ensure its own place as a core technology supplier in an emerging market expected to grow fast. Qualcomm established a partnership last October with Boulder, CO-based Techstars, the program for mentoring and investing in seed-stage tech startups, to create what’s known officially as the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars.
Each company admitted to the robotics accelerator gets a $20,000 investment from Techstars in exchange for a 6 percent ownership stake. Qualcomm provides an optional $100,000 loan that can later be converted to stock. Each of the 10 startups accepted the full $120,000 package, according to Houman Haghighi, an operations manager with Qualcomm Ventures who oversees the accelerator.
“The teams and companies were all excited to have Qualcomm Ventures and Techstars on their cap table,” Haghighi said.
Team leaders of the accelerator went on tour earlier this year to promote the specialized startup mentoring program in Las Vegas, Boston, New York, San Diego, and Boston.
In the ensuing months, Haghighi said the robotics accelerator received “several hundred” applications for the program. But he declined to be any more specific, saying the international mix of the accelerator’s first class was a reflection of the applications that poured in from around the world. As Techstars’ manager Ryan Kuder put it, “the combined networks of Qualcomm, Techstars, and Qualcomm Ventures really do span the world.”
Qualcomm also opened its doors to showcase the accelerator’s 7,000-square foot collaborative space, which includes a lab and work stations—and promised access to the deep reserves of technical expertise within Qualcomm itself.
The 10 companies selected for the program:
- Reach Robotics, from Bristol, U.K., is developing gaming monster robots that are controlled by a smartphone or tablets. The startup’s Mecha Monsters bridge the physical and digital components of the gaming world, and come with accessories that provide special abilities.
- Skysense, based in Berlin, Germany, builds and sells charging infrastructure for drones. Founders Andrea Puiatti and Michele Dallachiesa say their charging station also serves as a landing pad, and can be easily scaled to accommodate larger drones and electric-powered vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
- SkyFront, based in Hoboken, NJ, builds hybrid-electric technology for long-endurance, multi-rotor drones. Founders Troy Mestler and Anton Stepanov say their technology extends typical drone flight times by as much as a factor of 10, and enables unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be used for extended commercial applications.
- Solenica, from Rome, Italy, makes Lucy—a robot that tracks the sun throughout the day to reflect light into your home or office. Founders Diva Tommei, Mattia Di Stasi, and Alessio Paoletti say their technology creates natural illumination and reduces electricity use.
- CleverPet, founded in San Diego by Dan Knudsen, Leo Trottier, Philip Meier, and Mohsen Malmir, has developed intelligent pet feeding systems intended to keep unattended pets occupied by transforming their lonely time into learning time.
- Inova Drone, a San Diego-based startup, designs and develops advanced unmanned aerial systems for global commercial and professional markets. The first product developed by founders Chad Amonn, Alex fuller, Carlos Juvera, and Rick Thorne is a commercial unmanned aerial system for firefighters and other first responders working at public safety agencies.
- Carbon Robotics, a San Francisco-based startup founded by Rosanna Myers and Dan Corkum, has developed a robotic arm for consumers and mid-sized businesses, and that combines affordable hardware with an open platform.
- SkyRobotics, from Athens, Greece, is enabling the streamlined, affordable creation of robots. Its open platform for robotics applications is a development platform that combines high-performance modular hardware and intuitive open source software.
- CtrlWorks, based in Singapore, is dedicated to transforming any mobile platform into an intelligent robot at an affordable price. Its first robot, Axon, attaches to just about anything and turns it into a fully autonomous robot through cloud navigation and specialized hardware.
- Rational Robotics, from Edmonton, Alberta, and founded by Canadians Ashley Reddy and Mark Fiala, produces robots that automate the restorative automotive painting process. Utilizing 3D vision and advanced path planning, Rational robots provide a safe and efficient way to paint cars on the shop floor.
Top Photo: Techstars’ Ryan Kuder
Inset Photo: Inova Drone team