Mechanically Inclined

These entrepreneurial robophiles take their business where no man has gone before.
This story first appeared in the April 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Vital Stats: co-founders Colin Angle, 35, CEO; Helen Greiner, 35, president; Rod Brooks, 48, CTO of iRobot

Company: Robotic technology provider

2003 Sales Projections: More than $50 million

Learning Curve: Looking to make robotics a commercial success, Angle joined with his professor, Brooks, and fellow MIT graduate Greiner to start iRobot in 1990.


"It's the first tangible demonstration of a robot your average person can look at."

"We were naïve--starting a company with the technology and no product is a bold plan," says Angle. After creating successful products like an industrial cleaning robot for SC Johnson Wax and My Real Baby for Hasbro, the partners began designing their own.

Robo-Nouveau: Roomba is the first automatic vacuum in the United States and iRobot's chance at becoming a household name. Focus groups introduced to the small disc-like object doubted its ability until they saw it in action. So iRobot's founders sought channels such as demonstration-friendly specialty stores Brookstone and The Sharper Image. The midpriced vacuum, sold through the Home Shopping Network and an infomercial, is reaching all levels of consumers.

Dream Machines: iRobot's military systems division has created the PackBot, a robot used at the World Trade Center site after 9/11. Roomba is the first mass-market product out of iRobot's consumer division.

Space Ag(ing): Seeking a way to meet the needs of an aging population, iRobot is currently working on technology to facilitate virtual caretaking.

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