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.