“Be prepared for everything to take so much longer than you had

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					When Nils Roeder quit his research position in order to gain more
industry experience, he joined forces with Joe Halliwell, another
Artificial Intelligence entrepreneur, and the two have never looked
back.

Edinburgh Robotics is a software developer for robotics and
intelligent systems. Their aim is that the finished product will be
the platform software for all robotics in every industry. Currently in
talks with major consumer electronics companies and car
manufacturers, the company intends to supply platform software
for robotics, from artificial intelligence in-car entertainment and
satellite navigation systems, to vacuum cleaners and Robotic toys.


For further information on Edinburgh Robotics Ltd
Telephone: (0)131 472 4741
Email: nils.roeder@edinburghrobotics.com
Website: www.edinburghrobotics.com

For further information about LAUNCH.ed
Telephone: 0131 472 4755
Email : enquiries@launch.ed.ac.uk
Website: www.launch.ed.ac.uk


“Be prepared for everything to take so
much longer than you had anticipated. If
you anticipate something will take two
weeks to complete, give it four. It’s really
important to manage your customers’
expectations to not make promises you
can’t keep.”
Nils Roeder, Edinburgh Robotics Ltd.
What motivated you to start up a company?

Joe and I had always wanted to be self employed and working in IT
and there were a lot of opportunities to start up your own business in
the field. I had been working with a Joe on various projects and we
both had an idea for something that could become a product for a
company, so we decided to give it a go. The motivation behind us
having our own company was the freedom in deciding what work we
would do and how we would do it.

How did you go about it?

I was working for the university as a researcher and a professor
mentioned ERI, ETTC and the facilities there to help students start up
a company. So I contacted Grant Wheeler, the incubation manager,
who told me about the SMART award which myself and Joe applied
for. We were also put in contact with the Braveheart Investment
Group who matched the SMART award funding. Grant helped a lot
with filling out all the paperwork and with getting in contact with
Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Executive etc. He also gave us
information about the amount of help available from the University
and from ERI etc, and that was all we needed to start up Edinburgh
Robotics

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

One challenge we faced was where to get the funding from to start
up a business, and continued funding still remains a problem to us.
The way Braveheart and Business Venture Capital work is this, they
fund a company according to how much success they have had with
a particular business plan. So as long as we achieve our objectives,
we continue to be interesting to potential investors and increase our
chances of continuing investment. But there’s always a risk at the
end of the year that funding will stop so we are not in a situation
where they can guarantee to still be in business next year. A lot of
their potential customers look for that kind of stability in a supplier
and it’s not something we can offer and from our side we need the
funding to continue with our work. So continuing investment has to be
the biggest challenge.

How did you overcome these?

By working together with our investors to ensure our applications
were in on time and by knowing what to expect from them. They give
us the requirements needed to ensure we receive the funding and a
lot of effort goes into researching and applying for any grants
available. We received lots of support in our research and there’s lots
of support for development and innovative ideas.
What does your business do?
Edinburgh Robotics is a software company, who design software for
robots. Robots being loosely defined as anything that has any given
amount of computer driven sensors, for instance a vacuum cleaner
could be a robot or an automated fork-lift and they all require a
different piece of software to enable them to do the task they are
needed to do. Finding the correct shelf for a parcel for instance, or of
a vacuum cleaner, avoiding objects as it cleans a floor or sensing
when the floor is clean. Or maybe intelligence for a vehicle’s in car
entertainment system or Sat Nav. Edinburgh Robotics provides a
common platform for all of these systems. So a programmer could
use our software as a basis to develop any other software for the
applications just mentioned without having to create a different path
for each. So all of the common elements of these applications are
extracted into one platform and they would have a head start without
having to start from scratch, without having to re-invent the wheel. So
it saves a lot of time re-writing software components. It would also
make it possible for third parties to develop applications on top of
theirs to then sell to other manufacturers. So Edinburgh Robotics is a
middleware software developer.

Who are your customers?
We have no customers as yet, but we have been talking with a range
of potential customers in the various sectors of robotics, from the
entertainment industry and manufacturers of robotic toys to
manufacturers in the light domestic industry and makers of vacuum
cleaners. Potential customers are also companies who produce
system guidance vehicles for warehouse automation and the
automotive industry.


What College are you from and at what stage in your
education did you decide to start a business?

I studied here at Edinburgh University in Informatics, Computer
Science and Artificial Intelligence. I did a Bachelors and afterwards
became a research associate for two years working in research labs.
I decided to start a company, rather than do a PhD because I was
more interested in some industry experience than in an academic
career.


How has your business grown and what are your
future plans?

We started up eighteen months ago when we received a
Smart:Scotland award and matching Braveheart funding. Six months
ago we hired four people to take us forward from the prototype to the
product and we’ll spend the next six months contacting the people we
think may be interested, gathering more market information and
hopefully at the end of the year we’ll have an outlook of how the
company can evolve, which markets are more suitable than others,
and what we need to change or to develop,


How did you fund your business?
We were given a Smart:Scotland award and matching Braveheart
funding. Braveheart gave us two rounds of funding, the second being
two hundred and fifty thousand which we are currently trying to match
up with money from the Spur Award for further development of the
product. We also had some funding from Investor Readiness and will
be able to apply to Braveheart again at the end of the year for the
third and final round. We have also applied for various grants but
have yet to hear the results of their applications.


How much have the ERI team helped with the
formation of your company?

ERI and particularly Grant have been incredibly helpful. He made the
Smart application possible by giving us all the information they
needed about writing the actual application even as far as assisting
with the actual writing. Without the Smart application we could never
have gone to Braveheart and got the money. So he helped initially
with the funding and provided us with the facility to have a proper
office thus enabling us to start up the company.

What advice in particular did you find invaluable and
would pass on to other entrepreneurs?
Focus is very important when staring up in business. It’s easy as an
entrepreneur to initially excite people about your product or idea,
someone will always sound interested and encourage you to go
forward with it. Our problem is that we have a relatively generic
product. For people to put money down for something, it has to be
something specifically they need. It has to save them money or
improve their quality of life before they would invest in buying it. That
make much easier to explain to someone the benefits of your
product, and people are more likely to be interested and would be all
the more likely to put money down for it.

Nils Roder, Edinburgh Robotics, August 2007.

				
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