How They Roll
Entrepreneurs: Ian Bernstein, a former robot builder for RoadNarrows Robotics in Loveland, Colo., and Adam Wilson, who graduated from Northern Colorado University with math and physics degrees in May.
What possessed them: The challenge of creating a toy that, Bernstein says, had never been made before. "We can make a remote-control car in a day that we could sell that day. Really not that hard. But I've never seen a robotic ball."
Startup: A few thousand dollars from Bernstein's dad got things rolling. Then Bernstein and Wilson were accepted to TechStars, a seed capital and mentorship program in Boulder, Colo., that supplied $12,000. In July, they secured an undisclosed amount from angel investors.
Hello, Google: Bernstein and Wilson envision large corporations using the balls as a branded marketing tool (say, giving one away with a smartphone purchase). No official takers yet, but an unnamed web conglomerate that currently controls the internet and a major dedicated server company have expressed interest.
Customers: The balls are still a few months away from coming to market under the Gearbox brand. But Wilson predicts "pet owners, for sure," will be interested.
2011 and beyond: Robot Balls are Android only, but Bernstein and Wilson plan to open their platform to--they hope--a flock of developers to create Robot Ball apps for other smartphone platforms.
"Aha" moment: One day while sitting around a table talking all things electronic, Bernstein decided that he wanted something that he could throw and have it "do something cool." And Robot Balls were born.
Media love: Cubicle dwellers, take note: I Can Has Cheezburger founder Ben Huh, an acquaintance of the duo, has offered to post a sure-to-be-viral video of Wilson's cat batting around a Robot Ball. "I know a few people in the cat space, if you will," Bernstein says.