Mechanically Inclined

These entrepreneurial robophiles take their business where no man has gone before.
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This story appears in the April 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. 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.

Edition: May 2017

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