Eighteen people sleep, eat and work together in a cozy Las Vegas apartment. They’re working on Romotive, a startup that turns iPhones into talking robots on wheels.These robots are coming to Neiman Marcus’ catalogue and other stores this holiday season, so it may not be long before they invade your household.
In the past year Romotive, led by its young CEO Keller Rinaudo, has had a lot of success. It started as a Kickstarter campaign; today it announced a $5 million Series A round led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Crunchfund, SV Angel, Chris Dixon and Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures.
Right now, Romotive is just a mini car that your iPhone, Android or iPad can control. The mobile device becomes the brain of the robot on wheels. Romo has a cute blue face that changes expression and makes noises, like growls and giggles, at the controller’s discretion. But Rinaudo says he wants to place a robot in every household and that his team is developing a robot API.
The Romo 3 is the first product Romotive will be releasing to the masses, via Neiman Marcus and other retail locations that have not yet been disclosed. It has a sleeker design than Romotive’s two earlier versions, and it comes with a fresh set of emoticons that can be used for the robot’s face. The Romo 3 will retail for $150.
Although Romotive is on a roll now, it wasn’t easy for the iPhone robot company to get off the ground. When Romotive applied for the Techstars startup accelerator program in New York City, they were told there was no room for them. They participated in TechStars’ Seattle program, but they met a lot of sceptics there too. “A lot of [people] said iPhone robots were a bad idea and that we needed to pivot,” Rinaudo told us last March.
Romotive was the only TechStars Seattle startup in its class to present on Demo Day without any financing.
“We were sort of the black sheep,” says Rinaudo. “The director put our presentation in the middle — I think he thought we were young guys who couldn’t execute. A lot of the other companies were marketing plays focused on traditional websites. The idea that we were going to build robots was just crazy.”
For more on Romotive and how the robot works, read: Meet Romotive: An Ambitious Startup That Blew Our Minds >
Here’s a video of what Romo 3 looks like (you can also pre-order one on Kickstarter):
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