Product | People | Potential – our chat with Robotical Ltd
Robotical is a robotics start-up. ‘Marty’, a real programmable robot with character, made for the classroom environment, is their first product. Marty helps kids to learn about programming, robotics and electronics. Made for kids, educators and makers.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Heather @ ADLIB: Can you introduce yourself, what your business does, what stage you are at currently, and what makes your business offering unique?
Myles: My name is Myles Bax and I work in business development for Robotical Ltd. We’re an Ed-Tech start-up based in Edinburgh and we were founded in 2016.
I came on as one of the first full-time employees to help commercialise the business. I’ve been very privileged to have joined a start-up at that stage, as it really was from the ground up.
We’ve had a really interesting and fulfilling journey over the last few years. To the extent that we’ve now sold over 6000 units of robots to customers in over 50 countries around the world.
Heather @ ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of your business and service/product?
Myles: Robotical was founded by a real roboticist, Dr Sandy Enoch, who did a PhD in robotics from the University of Edinburgh. Whilst he was doing his PhD, he wanted to get his niece a Christmas present that reflected the type of work he was doing, and was going to be inspiring her to think about robotics. But everything on the market at the time was either novelty remote-control style toy, or else very high end academic and expensive – not very accessible for kids. He set about creating a real humanoid robot called Marty The Robot – a walking, dancing, eyebrow wiggling, and educational robot for kids.
You can’t really predict what jobs are going to be in the future. But what we can do is equip kids with the know-how and understanding for how technology functions, rather than just being users of technology. That’s what we want Robotical to be associated with. A place where learning comes alive and kids can really look under the cover of their phones rather than just consume that technology.
Heather @ ADLIB: Speaking of people, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing, or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?
Myles: There are many challenges in growing a team. It’s difficult at the start, before structures are in place, you need a certain type of person, and then perhaps as things start to scale-up, and things start to change within the company as well, you need to hire people who are able to take the step up as well. There are challenges, but lots of opportunity. As an exciting EdTech company, it’s a good place to work. There’s a real mission, and within the team there’s a real sense of the importance of values – educational values as well.
It’s very attractive for people who want to get involved with something that’s relatively early stage and can really make a difference. So personally, that’s what’s been very fulfilling for me. That for everything you do, you see the end result the next day.
Heather @ ADLIB: Moving to product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit or sales cycles?
Myles: It’s been really interesting because it’s a product that there is global demand for. Something like Marty, the school systems and governments around the world want to inspire kids to think about STEM subjects, and many of the initiatives that they use are quite dry still. Having a walking, dancing, robot is very exciting for people. We’ve found that there is a real demand for this type of product. As a company, the challenge is focusing and making sure that we really understand the particular market, so we’re able to go deep into that market. We want to work with teachers and create a product that is going to help them in the classroom. But to do that you need to understand the local curriculum very well. Local norms and practices, and teaching styles. You need to get under the surface in order to develop great relationships with pupils, teachers, school districts, administrators, etc. That is a key challenge for the company as well.
Heather @ ADLIB: And then potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a product/service offering with potential?
Myles: With everything going on, schools are closed. We had implemented a model that’s been successful for us, whereby we have some business development reps who are available and on hand to help school teachers with a free trial with Marty the robot. We operated a system that worked well for us where we would meet teachers at trade shows, or online, and offer a no-obligation free trial to use robots in the classroom. We had a great take up of this. We were finding that around 50% of teachers who tried Marty in the classroom ended up purchasing our Robot. When school systems closed, it certainly was a tricky time for us, with a lot resource and focus on the school market. Over the past few weeks we’ve been pivoting in the short term, and switching our focus to understand what parents want during this time. Many have a difficult task of working whilst simultaneously home-schooling. We would love to help them in whatever small way we can.
Heather @ ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups and scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share about best approach?
Myles: I think it’s really important that entrepreneurs or the early team can work constructively with people who are putting money into the business, it’s vital that there’s a good fit on both sides.
You will be seeing a lot of your investors, so it’s important you each understand the goals of the other party, and that there’s an alignment of those goals. Investors offer real value to entrepreneurs and I’ve seen people maybe being a bit hesitant in taking on investment. However, I do think it’s an important part of growing a company quickly if you are in the tech world. So my advice would be to go for it.
Our experience has been really positive. Be mindful of the potential pitfalls because there are many there as well, but don’t allow that fear to hold you back. At Robotical we continue to work with our investors and advisory board to gear up for future financial rounds and develop our growth mindset.
Thank You for sharing!