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For entrepreneurs, robotics holds new opportunities

Marc Raibert, E’73, the founder of Boston Dynamics, oversees the development of advanced robots that can recover from a slip on an icy patch of pavement or jump into a second-story window.

“We think our work is not only fun, but is the underpinning of what the next generation of robots will be able to do,” said Raibert, one of four speakers on Wednesday afternoon at the Robotics and Entrepreneurship Workshop, a session organized by Distinguished Professor of Engineering Dinos Mavroidis and the Graduate School of Engineering.

The standing-room-only panel was part of Northeastern’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, which runs through Friday and is sponsored by the Center for Research Innovation. Other events on Wednesday focused on the challenges of innovation in the music industry and how technology has changed the news industry forever. In another session, alumni and entrepreneurs involved in tech startups shared experiences from their professional journeys.

Raibert noted that Boston Dynamics, now 20 years old, maintains a start-up mentality, with a focus on using teamwork to design products that no individual could make alone. The company, he said, is rooted in between academia and industry, pursuing research and development contracts for government and defense work that advance its focus.

“I don’t know if we have a business bone in our body, but we are making money, so that’s good,” Raibert said, describing how his team of engineers and scientists has found success by focusing on creating products and solutions its clients wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

Presentations were also made by Charles Remsberg, CEO of Tibion, a startup that makes robotic rehabilitation devices; Charles Grinnel, CEO of Harvest Automation, a startup material handling company; and Jeremy H. Brown, founder and president of Jaybridge Robotics, a startup that helps companies create autonomous vehicles.

Venture-funded startups, said Remsberg, whom Mavroidis described as “a legend of robotics,” require a “laser-like focus” on a singular mission rather than a broad focus on next-generation robotics. Entrepreneurs, he said, must identify a product that not only works well, but can save potential customers time and money.

“There are a lot of great ideas out there and there might be one product among them that is scalable for private equity and angel investors,” he said. “It’s not about good technology; it’s about good business.”